Examination Levels

Professional in Human Resources (PHR) Exam vs. Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR) Exam

Choosing the Right Examination Level

An honest assessment of your skills, knowledge and responsibilities within the HR function is critical when deciding whether to seek certification at the PHR or SPHR level. The following profiles of typical PHR and SPHR candidates may help in assessing which examination is appropriate for you.

PHR Candidate

  • Has tactical/logistical orientation.
  • Focuses on program implementation.
  • Has accountability to another HR professional within the organization.
  • Has 2-4 years of exempt-level generalist HR work experience, but because of career length, may lack the breadth and depth of a more senior level generalist.
  • Has not had progressive HR work experience by virtue of career length.
  • Impact on the organization is focused within the HR department, rather than organization-wide.
  • Commands respect through the credibility of knowledge and the use of policies and guidelines to make decisions.

SPHR Candidate

  • Focuses on the "big picture."
  • Designs and plans rather than implements.
  • Has ultimate accountability in the HR department.
  • Has 6-8 years of progressive HR experience.
  • Has breadth and depth of HR generalist knowledge.
  • Uses judgment obtained with time and application of knowledge.
  • Is not specialized; has generalist role within organization.
  • Understands the level of impact one's decisions make within and outside of the organization.
  • Understands the business, not just the HR function.
  • Manages relationships; has influence within overall organization.
  • Commands credibility within organization, community and field by experience.
  • Possesses excellent negotiation skills.
  • Operates invisibly.

For Exam Schedules, Fees and Deadlines consult the websites of SHRM or HRCI.

The Office of Continuing Studies at Villanova is the nation's oldest and  largest provider of preparation courses to assist you in exam preparation. They are also an excellent resources.