HR Certification vs Certificate – What’s the Difference?

By Sally Alkazin

What is the difference between HR certification and an educational certificate in human resource management?

Human resources certificate programs, such as Linfield’s, award certificates based on courses of study that have been completed and do not require previous work experience. They are also offered by educational institutions, like Linfield College. Certifications, on the other hand, require prior experience in the HR field and are overseen by industry associations or institutes.  For instance, the Professional in Human Resources (PHR) certification requires a minimum of two years of professional HR experience and is overseen by the HR Certification Institute. HR certifications also require candidates to sit for a certification exam.

Additionally, most certifications require that the individual go through a recertification process after a period of time. For instance, the PHR and the Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR) credentials require recertification every three years by accumulating 60 educational hours through continuing education, instruction, research, publishing and other related activities.  Another option to meet the continuing education requirements is to retake the HR Certification Institute exam.  This insures that anyone with those credentials has continued to stay up to date in their field of study.  This could be compared to the continuing education that is required for Certified Public Accountants or Registered Nurses.

Additional certification programs provided by the HR Certification Institute are the GPHR (Global Professional in Human Resources) and the PHR-CA and SPHR-CA (PHR with certification with a specialization in California state issues and SPHR with certification with a specialization in California state issues). Additional certification programs are run by the American Society for Training and Development (ASTD), International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans, and WorldatWork Society of Certified Professionals.

Linfield offers an online Human Resource Management certificate where all four HR courses are offered online, making access to an HR education easier than ever.

Sally Alkazin has been teaching HR courses for Linfield College’s Division of Continuing Education for 13 years. She is a member of the Society of Human Resource Management and the American Society for Training and Development.