I’ve been asked two questions about HR certifications, this week. Here is the first one.

I’ve seen you post a few times about worthwhile/non-worthwhile HR credentialing. I’m not credentialed at all, but I’d like to be so that I don’t look like an uneducated asshole. Which one would you recommend for someone who has been practicing Human Resources for about 3 years and has been winging it with the help of the Chamber of Commerce and a vendor’s help desk?

The other version.

Should I get my PHR or what?

I became a “certified” HR professional back in 2001 because my boss promoted me to the role of Regional HR Manager. She thought studying for a test might teach me something about human resources.

She was right. I learned a lot.

She also insisted I take the SPHR exam instead of the PHR exam because, quite honestly, why mess around? If you’re going to do it, do it right.

But then I started working with seasoned executives who laughed when I added SPHR to my email signatures. One of those guys told me, “Take that off, kiddo. Makes you look green.”

He was right. I learned a lot from him, too. You don’t flaunt your HR certification credentials. That’s like saying, “I don’t have goals in life. I sat for an HR test instead of going to graduate school.”

So the short answer is that continuing education of any kind is important; however, HR credentials only matter to human resources professionals who are credentialed themselves. And today’s HR certification options look a lot like Scientology and Amway. Once you’re in, they keep asking you to spend more money to make it to the next level.

If you do feel pressured to get your HR certification, go with HRCI.

SHRM is developing something, but they named it and marketed it before they validated that the program can, indeed, measure a person’s ability to be a decent HR professional. And what they serve up with probably look a lot like the HRCI’s certification program. If it doesn’t look like HRCI, it is probably because they intentionally told the designer to create a program that doesn’t look like its competitors.

But here is my real answer: if you have budget or time, skip the HR certification process and get your MBA.