Making the choice between a HR certification and a HR degree

For an HR professional, the choice between getting certified or doing a graduate degree depends on a number of considerations, with significant merits attached to either option.

In any field of work, there are typically two ways to move up in your career:

• Pick up a number of years of experience in the field

• Earn specialized academic qualifications

The first of these is by definition time-dependent, and you cannot speed it up, much as you may wish to; the second, you can do at any time, giving due consideration of course to relevant factors such as timing and costs. A bachelor’s degree is generally more than enough to begin a career as a HR professional. To move ahead, though, the choice often is one between getting certified or enrolling for a graduate degree. Both options are useful for career advancement, but due thought must be given to the time and money requirements each entails. A decision to pick from the best HR certifications is usually voluntary, and the said certification is often awarded only after the completion of a certain number of years of experience.

Why is an additional qualification needed?

An additional qualification may not be mandatory in the HR field, but HR professionals still do look for one. Their domain is complicated and getting more so, and getting a hang of the evolving requirements and skills necessitates some form of continuing education or professional development. Competition tends to be strong, and additional qualifications could be key differentiators.

Types of certifications

There are a number of professional organizations offering certifications for HR. The main choices are listed below:

Talent Management Institute

Considered a world leader in talent management certifications, the Talent Management Institute (TMI) offers credentials in 183 countries across the globe, seeking to assist HR professionals in taking the next step upward in their careers. TMI certifications aid the transformation of conventional HR into a more strategic and agile function. TMI offers the following certifications:

• Talent Management Practitioner (TMP): for young professionals and recent graduates in human resources

• Senior Talent Management Practitioner (STMP): for mid-career professionals looking to move upwards into talent management roles

• Global Talent Management Leader (GTML): for the accelerated rise of mid-career professionals in talent management and HR; includes learning materials from the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania

• TMI-Wharton Programs: the Associate Fellow Program in Talent Management and the Global Fellow Program in Talent Management involve multiple stages of blended learning and masterclasses at the Wharton School.

Society for Human Resource Management

With the establishment of the Human Resource Curriculum Guidebook and Templates for Undergraduate and Graduate Programs to its credit, the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) is another institution offering some of the best HR certifications. SHRM offers two certifications:

• SHRM Certified Professional (SHRM-CP): for professionals with 1-2 years of work experience

• SHRM Senior Certified Professional (SHRM-SCP): for professionals with 3-7 years of work experience

Other institutions

In addition to TMI and SHRM, the HR Certification Institute (HRCI),and World at Work are among the options for those seeking talent management certifications.

Graduate programs

Studying human resources as part of a graduation program involves advanced courses, which incorporate skills intrinsic to management roles. The takeaways for a HR professional include:

• Problem-solving and collaboration through leadership strategies

• Relationship-building with stakeholders that is professional and productive

• Building and training the workforce and measuring its performance

• Practical sessions in managing difficult conversations

• Concept-driven courses in HR and strategic HR management

Certification or graduate degree – making a choice

The choice between the two depends on how much time and money can be invested. A graduate degree is certainly more prestigious, with a weighty addition to your resumé and your skill set. There is, however, a substantial commitment of both time and money, along with considerably more effort.

Choosing to get certified also has its advantages. Certification is a proof of professional abilities along with work experience and other education. Regular recertification requires completion of continuing education, and a certification demonstrates a desire to work towards achieving excellence on a daily basis.


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