HR Mavericks

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Associate Professional in Human Resources (aPHR)
Have you ever thought about getting an HR certification? Which certification is right for you, and how would you go about studying for this important exam?

What Is the Associate Professional in Human Resources (aPHR) Certification?

aPHR is the entry level certification for HR professionals. It is available through the Human Resources Certification Institute (HRCI). The aPHR covers the most basic and fundamental knowledge in the field of HR, including federal laws and best practices. The exam is broken down into different categories, which are listed below with the percentage of questions that are on the exam for each topic.
The exam is made up of multiple choice questions, fill-in-the-blanks, and matching definitions to terms. The aPHR is a knowledge-based credential. If you are just starting out in HR after college, or switching careers, you can apply and take the exam without any HR experience. All the other HR certifications require a certain number of years of HR experience. For more general information about HR certifications, see our article here.

HRCI Certifications vs SHRM Certifications

When it comes to HR certification, there are two sources of certification you can pursue, each of which have their own offerings.

Why Consider Getting the aPHR Certification?

There are many reasons why an aPHR certification will benefit you and your career. From having a standard of knowledge to making yourself more employable, this certification gives you the foundational knowledge you need to become a well-rounded HR professional and add value to your HR skills.

Standard of Knowledge

No matter where you go or what company you work at, the aPHR certification will be known and valued wherever you go. It is a standard of knowledge for HR professionals. Some companies may require the certification when interviewing for and starting a new job, but most list it as a preferred qualification. It gives you immediate value. The certification letters and logo can be put after your name on resumes, Linkedin, and your email signature line. HRCI will provide an HR certification badge that you can post as well.

Shows Your Commitment

Becoming certified shows your level of commitment to the field of HR and that you are a continuous learner. The certification will look good on your resume because it demonstrates your level of commitment to the field of human resources. It is proof that you are dedicated to learning and growing in your career as well as staying up to date with knowledge and best practices in the field.

Makes You More Marketable

Certifications help you stand out among other job candidates. The certification adds value to your work and is an accomplishment that you can list on your resume. In a job search, it’s essential to stand out because there is so much competition in the job market. You want to show an employer that you have something of value that they need in order to successfully run and build a great organization.

Continuous Learning Through Recertification

HR certifications expire and must be renewed with a certain number of credits every so often (see below for aPHR specifics). Earning recertification credits is a great opportunity for professional development. You will continue to learn about the changing field of HR and keep up with current trends.

Things to Consider When Deciding Whether to Become aPHR Certified

Besides the benefits of obtaining aPHR certification, there are other factors to consider. These factors include time, effort, cost and recertification.

Time and Effort

Obtaining certification takes a significant amount of time and effort. Make sure to plan enough time to study and get comfortable with the material before taking the exam—typically between three and six months.

Recertification

Once you have passed the exam, you need to start to build up recertification credits so you can recertify when your HR certification expires after three years. To recertify with HRCI for the aPHR requires 45 credits, including one ethics credit. There are many HR organizations, events, SHRM chapters, books and materials through which you earn recertification credits. Some are free and some cost money. Here are a few resources that offer information about recertification and recertification credits.
You will record your recertification credits on the HRCI website (www.hrci.org). Once you have met the requirement for credits, you will fill out a recertification application on the HRCI website, record your recertification credit, and pay a fee. Once your application is approved, you will then be recertified for another three years.

Cost of Study Materials, Classes and Exam Fees

As of April 2023, the exam fee to take the aPHR is $300 plus a $100 application fee for the exam itself. Study materials range in cost depending on the amount and type of resources you purchase. Some companies may pay for the certification, but that will depend on your manager and the training and development benefits your company offers. Do your own research to find out which study materials and classes might be best for you. Talk to a few HR professionals who have already taken the exam and ask them what resources worked best for them. Create a study plan that includes a combination of different resources along with practice questions and practice tests.

Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act

If you are unemployed, you can apply for a grant that covers training and fees related to HR certification.

The Risk of Failure

Not everyone passes the first time they take the exam. HRCI provides second chance insurance so that if you don't pass, you can take the exam over at no additional cost.

Study Resources for the aPHR Exam

You will not know any of the exact questions that will be on the exam, so you need to study everything that is covered in the summary of topics above. The HRCI website has an even more detailed breakdown of the specific HR topics that will be covered. Use study materials that work best for you and your learning style. There are prep classes, HR textbooks, practice questions and tests, flashcards, and aPHR YouTube videos. HCRI has a more complete list of possible resources. Some of them are for other certifications, but they are still good to study for the aPHR because a lot of the material for the PHR is also on the aPHR exam. Here are a few primary resources.

Books

  • aPHR Associate Professional in Human Resources Certification Practice Exams, by Tresha Moreland, Gabriella Parente-Neubert and Joanne Simon-Walters
  • PHR and SPHR Professional in Human Resources Complete Practice Tests – 2018 Exams, by Sandra Reed
  • All in One PHR / SPHR Professional in Human Resources Certification Exam Guide, by William Truesdell, Christina Nishiyama and Dory Willer

Classes

Tips for Taking the aPHR Exam

There are some things to keep in mind when taking the exam that will help you to perform at your best.

Tip 1: Plan Ahead

Check out the dates and locations the exam is offered. It may be available to take virtually as well as at in-person testing centers. There are specific days and times that you can take it, and you want to make sure that you can plan according to your studying schedule. Give yourself enough time to study for the exam. Make sure to read over the rules of the testing centers or virtual testing so you understand what is required before and during the exam. If you take the virtual exam, you will be checked in on by a testing administrator and will not be allowed to leave your computer during the test. This is an important consideration when deciding where to take the exam.

Tip 2: Get Your Rest

Get a good night’s rest the day before the exam. You want to feel good and at your best to perform well.

Tip 3: Take Your Time

Take your time in understanding each question and the possible answers. Don't let nervousness make you rush.

Tip 4: Review Tough Questions

Flag the questions you are unsure about, even if you answer them. If you have time left over at the end of the exam, go back and review the questions you are unsure about. Reread them and make sure you understand them correctly. Use all the time given to you to review your answers.
Topics
Danielle Sikorski, MHRM, aPHR

Danielle Sikorski, MHRM, aPHR

Danielle is a Human Resource Professional with 4 years of HR experience. Most of her experience is in HR Operations, HR Service Center, Auditing and working with HRIS systems. Currently, she is working at a Fortune 500 financial services company on a HR Administrative Project where they are scanning their employee files and uploading them into an electronic storage system. She has education in Human Resources including a Masters degree in human resources and the aPHR certification from HRCI. She is a continuous learner and she is always looking to improve professionally.
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Frequently asked questions
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