PHR Exam – Evolution of the Insignia of Proficiency
Professional in Human Resources, or popularly PHR, is a much sought-after recognition in the Human Resources industry today. A PHR certification is a symbol of expertise in human resource management. As a professional with a PHR certification, you provide your employers with the advantage of expert domain knowledge and the ability to define high organizational standards. A PHR-certified staff empowers an organization with up-to-date HR policies enabling it to stay competitive on a global arena. PHR certification is an accreditation by the HR Certification Institute (HRCI).
PHR Exam – The Past
The professional accreditation program of HRCI for human resource professionals commenced way back in 1976. The idea of a nationally-recognized certification program is more than half-century old though. Joint conferences in 1967 by Cornell University and ASPA (American Society of Personnel Administration, currently the Society for Human Resource Management) are considered to have laid the foundation for developing certification programs for HR professionals.
Based on the definition of a profession provided by the Cornell conferences, the ASPA focused efforts on creating criteria that would elevate Human Resources Management to the status of a profession. As part of these efforts, ASPA organized a special Task Force for HR accreditation. Based on the recommendations by the Task Force, the ASPA Accreditation Program came into being in September 1973. The ASPA Accreditation Institute (AAI, now the HR Certification Institute (HRCI)) was founded in June 1975 to create the accreditation program structure.
The Program structure initially had four-category designations, catering to both generalists and specialists. The senior-level designations were Accredited Personnel Diplomate for specialists and Accredited Executive in Personnel for generalists. The corresponding basic-level designations were Accredited Personnel Specialist and Accredited Personnel Manager. But in the ensuing years, it was found that a majority of the applicants preferred the generalist exam. As a result, specialist certification was discontinued in 1988. The exam system was also amended, and Professional in Human Resources (PHR) and Senior Professional in Human Resources (SHPR) came into existence.
Structure of the PHR Exam
PHR exam content is designed on the basis of knowledge and experience. There is a designated group of HR practitioners that conducts extensive and meticulous research about HR operations and the knowledge required to execute these operations. These HR operations and the necessary knowledge are segmented on the basis of functional areas. The final content (called the Body of Knowledge) that results from this process is used by exam question developers and study material producers. The functional areas of the PHR Body of Knowledge include:
- Strategic Management
- Workforce Planning and Employment
- Human Resource Development
- Total Rewards
- Employee and Labor Relations
- Risk Management
The exam is given in a multiple choice format where candidates will be required to work on a total of 225 questions in a time span of four hours. Questions are framed to test candidates’ abilities to interpret a concept, apply concepts to real-life problems, and develop accurate concept combinations through logical judgments.
PHR exam is conducted twice each year. Candidates can take it either during the period from May 1 through June 30, or during December 1 through January 31.
Recertification is essential to maintain PHR certification. Candidates passing the exam need to undergo continuing education and recertify after every 3 years. This ensures that they keep abreast of the changes in Human Resources industry.
PHR Exam – Sources of Review Materials
There are a number of HRCI-approved study materials available. You can also make use of the many exam preparation guides provided by the Society for Human Resource Management. PHR certification preparation courses are offered by several colleges and universities. There are also a number of blogs, forums, and government websites online to help candidates. Study books by Robert L. Mathis and Anne Bogardus and the SHRM Learning System are great review materials.
Preparing for your PHR Exam
HRCI statistics show a pass rate of just 59% for 2009. A candidate needs to invest substantial time and effort for PHR certification. Few tips that can help:
- Assess yourself with a PHR practice test, available on the HRCI website. Such practice tests get you familiar with the real exam environment and help you improve your content abilities.
- Prepare a realistic study plan and adhere to it. Practice to stay focused without burning out.
- Review diverse study resources (e.g., journals, books, magazines) for extensive knowledge of PHR exam content.
The Lesser-Known Facts
- Herbert Heneman, Jr., was the first HR professional to receive an accreditation from the Institute, on exemption basis. It was on February 18, 1976.
- The first HR accreditation exams were administered in 1976, on April 24. There were only 4 people who registered for the exam. The exam was postponed to a later date of the year.
- HRCI introduced computer-based testing for PHR as well as other HRCI certification exams in 2004. As a result, candidates were able to take exams from across the world at designated testing facilities.
- Practice analysis studies for PHR and other certification exams are carried out every 5 years, to maintain the profession’s body of knowledge up-to-date.
PHR Exam – The Significance Today
PHR-certified professionals are empowered with recognition of competence that is accepted across the world. A PHR certification is equally beneficial for HR professionals, employers, and student aspirants, assisting them in attaining their objectives.
In the current global scenario human resource aspects such as payroll, benefits, employee relations, and risk management play a major role in defining the success of an organization. As such, employers are keener than ever to have the most qualified professionals with expert knowledge of best HR management practices, on their team. HR certifications are being increasingly preferred on job applications.
PHR certification offers HR professionals splendid opportunities to further their career as they make preferred contenders for top HR positions. For students looking to carve a successful niche in human resources management, a PHR certification gives an edge in the job market and provides solid foundation.
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