Choosing the Right SHRM Certification

Individuals who perform HR duties or students who wish to verify, validate, enhance and expand their HR capabilities are likely candidates for SHRM-CP or SHRM-SCP certification.

SHRM Certified Professional (SHRM-CP) logo

SHRM Certified Professional

For individuals performing HR or HR-related duties or pursuing a career in Human Resources (basic working knowledge in HR is recommended).

Your current or most recent work in HR is operational in nature (i.e., implements policy, serves as HR day-to-day point person, etc.)

Your duties tend to be specialized versus general.

SHRM Senior Certified Professional (SHRM-SCP) logo

SHRM Senior Certified Professional

For individuals with a work history of at least three years performing strategic level HR or HR-related duties; or for SHRM-CP credential holders who have held the credential for at least three years and are working in, or are in the process of transitioning to, a strategic level role.

Your current or most recent work in HR is strategic in nature (i.e., develop HR policies, execute all integrated HR operations, direct the entire HR enterprise, or lead the alignment of HR strategies to organizational goals).

Selecting the Right Credential

​After you decide to pursue HR certification with SHRM, the logical next question is "Which exam should I take?" 

SHRM's eligibility criteria shows how HR professionals' combined educational background and years of HR experience determine the appropriate credential they might pursue.

But selecting the right exam is more nuanced than a simple focus on eligibility rules. The SHRM certification levels are targeted toward different types of HR professionals based on their work roles:

  • The SHRM-CP is designed for an HR professional who engages primarily in an operational role (such as implementing policies, serving as the HR point of contact for staff and stakeholders, or performing day-to-day HR functions).
  • The SHRM-SCP is designed for a senior-level HR professional who operates primarily in a strategic role (such as developing policies and strategies, overseeing the execution of completely integrated HR operations, analyzing performance metrics, or leading the alignment of HR strategies to organizational goals).

Certification Self-Assessment Tool

SHRM can help you make a more thoughtful decision that will set you up for success. The enhanced self-assessment tool below allows HR professionals to measure both eligibility and type of HR experience.

The self-assessment tool asks a series of questions about your career level, educational background and HR experience. It then presents a series of paired statements and asks you to select the statement that most closely describes your current or recent job.

Based on your responses to all of the questions, the tool will recommend the best exam for you: the SHRM-CP or the SHRM-SCP (or, for those who are not yet eligible for SHRM certification, a SHRM Specialty Credential).

Eligibility vs. Experience

What should you do if you are eligible to take the SHRM-SCP exam according to the eligibility criteria but the self-assessment tool recommends the SHRM-CP exam because you have limited experience working in a strategic role? You face a tricky decision.

Over the years, a number of HR professionals with non-strategic backgrounds have decided to take the SHRM-SCP exam but have not passed. That's why SHRM recommends that individuals with this background start at the SHRM-CP level.

The SHRM-CP certification's operational focus is a better fit with your career history. Plus, by taking the SHRM-CP exam first, you will become familiar with the structure of the exams, the format of the questions and the overall testing experience. What's more, you can better refine your study techniques.

Pursuing the SHRM-CP first can be particularly helpful if you experience test anxiety or have been out of school for a while. And it can increase your confidence when you take the SHRM-SCP exam in the future.

Our Recommendation, Your Decision

Remember that the self-assessment tool only provides a recommendation. If you are eligible to take the SHRM-SCP exam, you can still decide to do so, whatever the nature of your work experience. In this case, we recommend that you spend a significant amount of time studying strategic HR as you prepare for the exam.

Another approach to selecting the right exam is to read the SHRM Body of Applied Skills and Knowledge™ (SHRM BASK™) and assess which proficiency statements best represent the work you perform on a daily basis. If your daily work most resembles the proficiency statements listed for advanced professionals, then we suggest applying for the SHRM-SCP exam. If your daily work most resembles the proficiency statements listed for all professionals, then you are elligible to take the SHRM-CP exam.

International applicants also choose between the SHRM-CP or SHRM-SCP based on the credential most relevant to them. Please note that international exams may ask about universal employment law concepts rather than the employment laws of any particular country or region.

For additional information e-mail

Ready to find out which is the best SHRM certification exam for you? Use the certification self-assessment tool and then register for the exam.

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