Could An Early Career Certification Be Right For Your Association?

The HR Certification Institute just launched a new early career certification that helps the organization serve the entire lifespan of HR professionals.

Research shows that credentials are valuable to associations.

A survey of 228 association leaders and credentialing representatives found, for example, that roughly 95 percent reported that a credential provides some benefit to their organizations when it comes to reinforcing its values. The study from the ASAE Foundation and North Carolina State University’s Institute for Nonprofits also found that additional benefits of a credential can include promotion of ethical conduct, safeguarding the public, and increased prestige and a competitive advantage for credential holders, depending on the industry.

For the HR Certification Institute, that last benefit is a big reason behind its decision to launch a new certification for early-career human resource professionals.

“We really exist to advance the HR profession overall, and part of being able to do that is being sure that we’re able to serve all levels of HR professionals with the ability to validate their knowledge and their mastery throughout their career,” said Kerry Morgan, HRCI chief marketing officer. “And we have felt that there has been a void in the early career option.”

Announced last week, the new certification—the Associate Professional in Human Resources (aPHR)—joins a host of professional certifications that HRCI offers, including the relatively new Global Professional in Human Resources (GPHR). It also comes on the heels of new partnership with the global certification group Top Employers Institute that expands both organization’s ability to certify U.S. employers in HR best practices.

“We wanted to be sure that we were completing the whole life cycle of an HR professional,” Morgan said.

It makes sense to offer a career life cycle’s worth of certifications for an organization that exists to credential professionals, but could an early-career credential make sense for other organizations as well? The answer most likely depends on a wide variety of variables, but taking at look at some of the benefits HRCI sees in its new offering may provide fodder for consideration.

For example, the aPHR is not only aimed at those just starting out in new careers, but it also offers a unique opportunity for college students and recent grads trying to break into the field to showcase their knowledge to potential employers. It can be really hard to show an employer that you know what you’re talking about, Morgan said, “and we wanted to help that professional at the very start.”

That’s not to say that those who are already in HR jobs but still relatively new to the field won’t also find a benefit to the certification.

“We actually have quite a few people who every month apply for the Professional in Human Resources (PHR) certification, and we have to let them know that they’re not eligible because you have to have at least two years of practice under your belt,” Morgan said. The aPHR, thus, offers an alternative.

HRCI is also working with branches of the military to promote the certification as an option for veterans who are transitioning into civilian careers. In fact, HRCI currently has someone on staff who is “on loan” from the U.S. Army, Morgan said, to help the organization reach out to HR professionals in the Army and beyond to promote the aPHR.

Ultimately, HRCI hopes the new certification will encourage more people who are excited about HR to enter the field, including those who may be switching into HR from other industries, Morgan said. And an early-career certification may make it easier for those just getting started.

Morgan advised other organizations that may be considering offering new certifications to look for holes in career life cycles where professionals may not yet be being served.

“This just seemed like the biggest single gap that we had, so I would encourage any organization to always step back and look at your mission and think about whether there is any piece of the mission that you haven’t touched on that could help bring it full circle.”

Does your association offer an early-career certification? Please share in the comments.


Katie Bascuas

By Katie Bascuas

Katie Bascuas is associate editor of Associations Now. MORE

Got an article tip for us? Contact us and let us know!