SHRM Initiative Speeds HR Students Toward Certification

Promote your degree and credential at the same time, says Colorado professor who heads enhanced program

By Rena Gorlin September 7, 2017
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SHRM Initiative Speeds HR Students Toward Certification

Dean Gualco, SHRM-SCP

​This fall, HR students may be able to obtain SHRM certification sooner, better positioning them for the jobs and promotions they want. The new SHRM Academic Eligibility Program, launched in time for the winter testing window (Dec. 1, 2017 - Feb. 15, 2018), allows students in a bachelor's or master's degree program in good standing at academically aligned schools to apply for and take the SHRM-CP exam. They must be in their final year of an approved HR educational program and have a minimum of 500 hours of relevant HR experience. 

An approved college or university HR program is one that SHRM's Academic Initiatives Department confirms is in alignment with SHRM's curriculum guidelines for a broad and deep HR education. Relevant HR experience includes HR-related internships, work-study assignments, directed work or research projects, supervised independent study, or part-time or full-time work in HR. 

Information and tools for taking advantage of the academic eligibility program include:

  • Instructions for students on how to apply for the exam and properly document their hours of experience.
  • A program guide for schools aligned to SHRM's curriculum guidelines.
  • A webcast for faculty members or administrators outlining the program and describing its requirements in detail. 

Boost Students' Value 

One enthusiastic supporter of the new program is Dean Gualco, SHRM-SCP, a member of the faculty of the School of Management, Human Resource Programs, at Colorado State University (CSU)-Global Campus. "CSU-Global is the first independent, fully accredited online state university," he said. He holds master's degrees in public administration and in business as well as a doctorate in education, and has taught for 20 years on such topics as employee and labor relations, employment law and compensation, and leadership and organizational behavior. 

Gualco set up and is implementing the SHRM academic eligibility program at CSU-Global. "Our main goal is to help our graduates be as marketable as possible so they can get the roles they desire. This is an outstanding opportunity for HR students to obtain their SHRM credentials before they graduate. It makes them stronger job candidates who will be more valuable in the workplace," he said. "At the same time they're promoting their B.A., they can also be promoting their SHRM-CP." 

Financial Subsidies Add Up 

"CSU-Global is 100 percent committed to students becoming certified," Gualco said, "because it considers SHRM certification such a critical component of being an HR professional." The school has enhanced the SHRM program with financial subsidies and other assistance, he added. "CSU-Global will also help students with their spreadsheets delineating their 500 hours of experience." 

Gualco is confident that these enhancements will spur more people to take the exam. "I don't know of another school offering financial subsidies. Six B.A. students have taken the SHRM-CP exam over the past year and a half. Under the new program, we expect a greater number of students to apply for the winter testing window. We'll know in October." 

University Supports Certification 

Citing feedback from students, professors, HR professionals and employers, Gualco said that response to the SHRM academic eligibility program as implemented at CSU-Global has been "extremely positive. SHRM certification is an enhancement to our HR students' education.  In offering graduates who are already SHRM-certified to potential employers, we present more qualified candidates to employers." 

The SHRM student chapter on campus, Gualco said, believes that certification will give its members "a huge advantage over other HR graduates. In marketing, you try to distinguish yourself—this will do it." Gualco's faculty colleagues consider the SHRM program "an absolute winner," he said. "It is universally supported. We are in favor of anything that makes our students more marketable." 

Speaking as an HR professional, Gualco said he wants "more people to be SHRM-certified because it attests to their level of competence. SHRM certification can only benefit the HR community as a whole. Being more competent in our roles raises the image of the profession, which is part of SHRM's strategic vision." And with many HR jobs advertised now requiring or desiring SHRM certification, especially at higher levels, Gualco's students at CSU-Global, along with others participating in SHRM's academic eligibility program, will be ready. 

For more information:

  • Contact AcademicEligibility@shrm.org with questions about the initiative.
  • Approved HR degree programs are listed at shrm.org/academics/programdirectory.
  • Students: For details on certification exam application process, contact your educational institution's HR degree program director or administrator.
  • Administrators and professors: To determine whether your HR degree program aligns with SHRM's curriculum guidelines, contact alignment@shrm.org for an analysis and to submit documentation. 

Rena Gorlin, J.D., is an independent writer and editor in Washington, D.C. 

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