HR Leads Business

Jan 17, 2017 | Barry Lawrence, MBA, HRCI Staff Writer

HRCI: Still the HR Profession's Only Accredited HR Certification Programs

HR Certification Institute® (HRCI®) has received many inquiries about accreditation, such as how it differs from certification and the benefits that third-party validation provides to the HRCI community.

Here are detailed answers to the most frequently asked questions about accreditation:

What is an accreditation vs a certification?

A certification, like the credentials that HR professionals earn from HRCI, is a voluntary process ― much like earning a license ― by which a non-governmental entity grants a time-limited recognition and use of a credential to a professional who can verify that they have met predetermined and standardized criteria. (Read more about certifications vs. certificates.) To earn an HRCI professional credential, for example, candidates and must demonstrate experience, education and pass an exam that measures knowledge and practice-based experience.

Accreditation standards ensure that a credentialing body, such as HRCI, demonstrate it has met the stringent standards of the credentialing community to represent the competencies of a profession.  Such third-party oversight provides the certification with impartial credibility and legitimacy. (Read more about accreditation.)

The National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA), the accreditation body of the Institute of Credentialing Excellence (ICE), is a top standard for the accreditation of professional certifications, including the monitoring of programs to enforce continuous compliance.

NCCA is an independent non-governmental agency that accredits more than 300 certification programs (see the NCCA directory. In addition to rigorous review of test and program fairness, NCCA and its 12-member commission puts stringent standards in place to ensure the health, safety and welfare of the general public.

Are there other program-wide accreditations?

In addition to NCCA, ISO 17024 is a well-known international standard for accreditation. Many people are familiar with ISO (International Organization for Standardization) as part of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). ISO has more than 21,000 standards covering almost all aspects of technology and business.

ICE now allows organizations to apply for dual accreditationunder NCCA and ISO 17024. HRCI is seeking both accreditations for its newest international credentials, the PHRi™ and SPHRi™.

Which HRCI credentials are accredited?

Just like market-leading HRCI certifications, NCCA and ISO 17024 accreditations are earned, not given. The rigorous review and accreditation process takes time and commitment. Credential programs must also be market mature to apply for accreditation. Of the HRCI suite of seven credentials, four are now accredited by NCCA: the PHR®PHRca®SPHR® and GPHR®. As mentioned above, HRCI hopes to meet all requirements and achieve certification for the PHRi and SPHRi in 2017. 

The new aPHR™, a certification, which demonstrates foundational knowledge for those who are just starting out in HR, was introduced in 2016. HRCI plans to submit the aPHR for NCCA accreditation in 2017.

How do credentialed HR professionals benefit from having their credentials accredited?

Accreditation is an important investment. Meeting the most rigorous accreditation standards is difficult, but highly rewarding for the entire HRCI community. Accreditation directly benefits HRCI credential holders, who can be certain they possess the most trusted and recognized HR credentials in the world.

Again, keep in mind that NCCA and ISO 17024 accredits the entire program, not just the test. This program-wide accreditation assures that a credential is not only valid, but trustworthy across all cases (i.e., Does a credential earned in one country demonstrate the same knowledge and/or practice-based experience for the same credential earned in another country?).

What are the benefits of accreditation to businesses?

Organizations turn to accredited certifications to gain confidence when hiring, promoting and making other personnel decisions. Accredited certifications provide third-party certainty that credentialed professionals have the competencies necessary to perform the essential functions of a job.

When an entire certification program is accredited, companies have a way to answer the question: “Who reviewed the certification program?” This is a question, according to ICE, that is often posed by professionals, employers and sometimes the courts.

How can I be sure a certification program is backed by a reputable accreditation body?

Whatever certification or continuous learning program you consider, look past the glitzy marketing and advertising claims. It’s vital to know whether the program has received the backing of a reputable, third-party accreditation standards known for its rigor and excellence.

What to look for:

  • Is the accreditation body recognized by peers, employers and other professions as a standard of rigor and excellence?
  • Have there been complaints about the accreditation organization?
  • How many organizations have received the accreditation, both in your industry or profession and outside of it?
  • Do you recognize the names of these organizations?
  • Does the organization award accreditation to programs that require very little work?
  • Has the organization been around for a long time?

How does the SHRM accreditation of its HR credentials differ?

The entire suite of HRCI certification programs, not just the tests, are designed to meet the rigorous accreditation standards – from NCCA or ISO 17024. The comprehensive accreditation standards that HRCI strives to meet are an important reason why HRCI credentials have earned the most respect, trust and recognition among HR practitioners and the organizations they serve.