HR Administration

HR Certification: Preferred or Unnecessary?

By Rita Pyrillis

Sep. 16, 2011

Some jobs require certification, though other companies say they want nothing to do with an HR practitioner with an acronym after their name.

HR Certification Institute officials say that while certification has long been preferred, it is now a requirement for some jobs, thus fueling demand for the credentials.

“I spoke with a headhunter in HR and finance,” says Amy Dufrane, HRCI’s chief operating officer. “He said that he got three jobs in the past several weeks that are requiring certification. We were really excited to hear that. It further validates how important certification is.”

But not everyone is sold.

“In today’s environment that won’t distinguish anybody in the job market,” says Patrick Wright, a professor of strategic human resources at Cornell University’s ILR School. “If you have an SPHR and you’re competing against someone with a master’s degree in HR, the master’s will weigh more heavily, especially with the larger companies,” he says, referring to a Senior Professional in Human Resources designation. “Ten years of experience in HR with a brand-name company trumps any certification.”

For many professionals with advanced degrees, pursuing HR credentials is a waste of time, he says. More valuable in the HR world, “is the ability to stand in the face of a line executive and challenge their thinking.”

Netflix Inc., the video subscription service giant, couldn’t agree more. A job posting on the company’s website outlines the qualifications for an HR director. Especially interesting is what they’re not looking for: “A Change Agent, an OD Practitioner, a SHRM Certificate, a People Person, a policy or guideline writer.”

What’s the problem with certified HR professionals?

“That would indicate somebody who is well-learned in the traditional field of HR, which we don’t practice at Netflix,” says Steve Swasey, spokesman for the Los Gatos, California-based company. “We don’t value that.”

While the value of HR certification is in the eye of the beholder, an error in the Netflix job posting illustrates the confusing state of who does the credentialing: HRCI, not SHRM, issues the certificates.

Rita Pyrillis is a writer based in the Chicago area.

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