January 28, 2008

Assessment and Certification for HR Professional

In the development and training of personnel practitioners, the assessment and certification of learning plays an important role in the recognition of the professional experience, skills and knowledge of individuals. Certification can form the criteria of association membership, and can demonstrate an individual’s adherence to standards and a commitment to staying abreast of new developments in the HR field. It is also a visual statement of professional status and as such is a useful tool in career advancement
In devising a scheme of certification it is important that the scheme allows individuals to demonstrate that their knowledge, skills and experience in a generalist or specialist role in HRM and/or HRD are sufficient to meet the criteria for professional competence. This can entail the demonstration of professional experience and/or the passing of a written comprehensive examination to meet pre-set requirements.


As with training and development events, the majority of Associations runs its own certified courses of study or recognizes courses run by other institutions. Such courses are different to the training programs offered, as they often involve a number of modules, and have an assessment process that can result in the award of a certificate.

The various assessment mechanisms range from the practical to the more theoretical. For example, skills can be measured through a competency portfolio assessment, whereby an assessor is appointed to judge a person’s work. An alternative mechanism and one which is more widely used, is a written examination of knowledge which can take the form of multiple-choice or essay questions. These courses are assessed against standards at national or association level (Wiley 1999).

Case Example

In this section three examples of well-established systems of certification are presented, each one having been designed according to a different mechanism.

Human Resource Certification Institute (HRCI) - USA

In the USA, the HR credentialing body (HRCI) is separate from the HR association (the
Society for Human Resource Management - SHRM). This means that the HRCI runs a
voluntary programs, and is not accredited by anyone, nor does it accredit any programs that use its body of knowledge content outline. Equally there is no membership scheme and it does not run any courses: it purely assesses and certifies the knowledge of HR practitioners. This certification scheme has been in place since 1976.

Complementary to the work of the HRCI, SHRM provides certification preparation courses of study, and these have been running since 1988. These courses are available in different modes of study, primarily on a part-time or in-company basis.

The certification scheme is intended for those currently working in the HR field. There are two possible designations: Professional in HR and Senior Professional in HR. The assessment structure is based on having achieved the prerequisite HR experience (a minimum of two years in a position involving HR at least 51% of the time) and passing a written examination. This examination is based on the technical and operational aspects of HR at the Professional level, and on strategic and policy issues in HR at Senior Professional level. There is no prior requirement to have a university degree. The examinations themselves are based on 250 multiple-choice questions tested over a period of four hours. For the certificate to be awarded, candidates must agree to abide by the SHRM Code of Ethics and the HRCI Model of Professional Excellence. Re-certification is possible but not mandatory after one year, either through evidence of continuing education and experience or through retesting. Each year, around 7,500 individuals follow the certification preparation courses, with an average examination success rate of approximately 50%. Currently, some 33,000 individuals hold the HRCI certification, of which 17,000 are members of SHRM.

Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) – UK

In the UK, the CIPD is the professional association as well as the certifying and awarding
body. It is accredited by the National Council for Vocational Qualifications and the Open
University. The CIPD has its own professional standards that have been developed through multiple stakeholders, and which have been mapped against the UK national standards. The certified courses of study run by the CIPD have been in place for 30 years.
Certification is awarded based on either experience and/or examination. The following list shows the different routes to CIPD certification:

Professional education
Approved centers offer a variety of courses including flexible learning courses and assessment via essay style examination, assignments and a management report.

Competence assessment against national standards
Individuals can gain both a National Vocational Qualification as well as the CIPD certification. This route is measured by the development of a professional portfolio that is assessed by a qualified assessor.

Professional assessment against CIPD standards
Again, this route is based on experience via portfolio development and assessment through an approved centre.

Assessment of prior certified learning
Relevant academic or professional qualifications previously gained are assessed against CIPD standards for certification to be awarded. These courses and assessment centers are either accredited centers which run internally assessed programs, or approved centers that prepare students for assessment by CIPD national examinations. Courses are run using a range of modes of study, with the part-time option being the most popular. Each year, around 12,000 individuals are successful in passing the certified courses of study, with approximately 76,000 individuals currently holding certification, but over 95,000 either certified or working towards certification. The average pass rate for the examinations is 55%. There is a requirement to be a member of the CIPD in order to sit the CIPD examinations. Agreement to comply with the standards of professional conduct is also required of CIPD members.

Each of the certification routes described above has a different certification level, which in turn results in a different grade of membership:

Certificate in Personnel Practice – Associate member
Certificate in Training Practice – Associate member
Professional Qualification Scheme – Licentiate member (after partial completion),
Graduate member (upon completion of the whole programs).

There is no re-certification requirement but Continuing Professional Development records are required for upgrading membership.

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