What is the SHRM-SCP?

What Is the SHRM-SCP?

HR professionals are not required to have formal certifications the same way that doctors, lawyers, accountants or teachers are. However, many employers do prefer to hire certified human resource officers.

In the past, that just meant earning your PHR or SPHR, but that’s no longer the case. Those certifications, offered by HRCI, are still the gold standard for HR certifications.

However, a few years ago, the Society for Human Resources Management decided to end its partnership with HRCI to begin offering its own certification for HR professionals. The SHRM-CP and SHRM-SCP have been positioned as equivalent to the PHR and SPHR. 

But are they really? Here’s what you need to know about the SHRM-SCP.


What Does SHRM-SCP Stand for?

SHRM offers two different exams — SHRM-Certified Professional (SHRM-CP) and the SHRM-Senior Certified Professional (SHRM-SCP). The most significant difference between SHRM certifications is experience level. 

Specifically, the SHRM-SCP is for those who hold a senior role focusing on strategic matters. For example, if you adjust HR strategies to align with the organizational goals, manage other HR staff, or develop policies based on performance metrics. The SHRM-SCP might be for you.

If you are still primarily working in day-to-day HR operations, SHRM-CP is likely a better fit. It’s similar to the PHR certification offered by HRCI.


What Is the Difference Between SPHR and SHRM-SCP?

We all seek professional growth and recognition. And while you might not need a certification for your position, that external validation can feel great. 

The Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR) certification is the more widely known certification. HRCI reserves the SPHR certification for senior HR professionals that demonstrate mastery in strategy and policymaking. The SPHR encompasses everything HR-related impact employees and companies inside and outside the United States. It’s a challenging exam, covering labor law as well as best practices, and you’ll be expected to establish eligibility based on your education experience to even sit for the test.

I could say plenty about HRCI certification vs SHRM certification, but that could be a whole blog post on its own. 

The SHRM-SCP also combines your education and experience in human resources when deciding eligibility. However, the exam content differs from HRCI’s exam. The SHRM-SCP focuses on situation-based questions and claims to highlight competency. 


SPHR Eligibility Requirements

∙ At least four years of professional HR experience plus a Master’s Degree or higher

∙ At least five years of professional HR experience plus a Bachelor’s Degree

∙ Or, at least seven years of professional HR experience


SHRM-SCP Eligibility Requirements

∙ At least three years of HR experience plus an HR-related Bachelor’s Degree (in progress)

∙ At least four years of HR experience plus a non-related HR Bachelor’s Degree (in progress)

∙ At least one year of HR experience plus an HR-related Bachelor’s Degree (completed)

∙ At least two years of HR experience plus a non-related HR Bachelor’s Degree (completed)

∙ Currently working in HR plus an HR-related Master’s Degree or higher 

∙ At least one year in an HR role and a non-related HR degree

As you can see, it’s easier to qualify to take the SHRM-SCP exam. If you’re eager to get those letters behind your name quickly, it may be the better route for you.  


Is SHRM or HRCI Certification Preferred?

Over one-third of HR professionals have a certification, while over half of those in director positions do. But they are not the same certifications, and they certainly do not come in a specific order.

Both the SHRM and HRCI offer junior and senior certifications but now have different requirements, fees, and exams. The HRCI certifications are tougher to earn, but they are also more widely recognized and respected inside and outside the profession.

Either way, ask your employer to pay for them. Those study guides aren’t cheap!


How Do I Study for the SHRM-SCP?

Speaking of studying … it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to pop in and pass these exams without preparation. 

If you’re considering going for the SHRM-SCP certification, start by taking the practice questions as a baseline. SHRM has released a few retired exam questions for both the SHRM-CP and SHRM-SCP to give you an idea of what to expect. 

The 10 sample test questions for the SHRM-SCP will give you a basic roadmap for the exams. They are designed to assess both HR knowledge and judgment in HR situations and include:

  • Two situational judgment scenarios with two questions each.
  • Six knowledge-based questions

Be wary of random websites offering sample tests and practice exams. They are likely not even close.

After you take the practice tests, get to reading! SHRM uses the SHRM Body of Competency and Knowledge (SHRM BoCK) as the basis of its SHRM certification exam. You can either study on your own, sign for a formal instructor-led course or prepare as a team.

For some people in the HR field, it’s hard to prioritize their own learning. You may find it helpful to find a study buddy to stay motivated and fill in each other’s knowledge gaps. Join a SHRM local chapter study group.


  1. I agree 100%. Had it not been free I’d have felt like the SHRM certification was a waste of $. Time will tell if it carries the clout of the HRCI certification.

  2. I think there are benefits to the certs in that they provide a more well rounded view of HR. This is particularly true of those who remain active in local chapters.

    For those of us that live in only one realm of the HR world the cert (and more importantly the requirements to maintain the cert) are one of the few things I can do to not lose sight of the big picture.

    So there is some value- the amount of value is very debatable, though, I agree.

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