The First Three Steps of SHRM Certification

All the guidance (and links!) you need to bring your SHRM-CP or SHRM-SCP within reach

By Nancy A. Woolever, SHRM-SCP, Liz Lacey and Susie Davis September 15, 2022
The First Three Steps of SHRM Certification

"Cause the Effect" is more than a motto—it encourages HR professionals to boldly bring about the changes we want to see in the world of work. It's also the title of a three-part series of articles published earlier this year: Part I presented SHRM's People Manager Qualification; Part II discussed the value of SHRM Specialty Credentials; and Part III introduced the five steps of certification. These are the components of a simple formula for success on your journey toward earning your SHRM-CP or SHRM-SCP credential.

It's back-to-school time, so today we'll drill down into those five steps, starting with the first three: sign up, schedule and study. (Next month, we'll explore the last two steps: sit and sustain.) Get ready for some wide-ranging, easy-to-follow advice, complete with all the links you need to cause some big effects in your professional development.

Sign Up

It takes only a few minutes to sign up for the SHRM-CP or the SHRM-SCP exam. To choose the exam that's right for you, first check the eligibility criteria. Which description of the two levels best matches the work you do on a daily basis?

More than 75 percent of candidates for SHRM certification start with the SHRM-CP exam, then take the SHRM-SCP exam later on. Even if you're already eligible for the SHRM-SCP, you can still decide to take the SHRM-CP exam first.

A quick guidance tool, Which Credential Is Right for You?, can also help you choose. In less than a minute, your answers to a series of questions will point you toward the most suitable exam. To get a better idea of what you'll actually be tested on, have a trial run with a few online practice questions.

All set? Visit the SHRM Certification home page. Click the Apply tab to see the dates of the testing windows and the exam fees. (If you're a SHRM member, log in to the website first. This will be used to establish your certification record, which will be helpful for sending and receiving important information after you earn your credential.)

Review the application process, then click the Apply Now button, which will take you to the SHRMStore and application forms. Select your exam and fill in the appropriate form. One of the entries is for your testing preference—in person at a test center or remotely proctored at a location of your choice. Before you make that choice, review SHRM's Remote Proctoring FAQs to see what's involved with each option. (You'll select a final test date during the schedule phase.)

Complete the form, add to your cart and pay the fee. Once your application is verified, you will receive an Authorization to Test (ATT) letter from SHRM via e-mail. Now you can schedule your appointment to take the exam.


Follow the instructions in your ATT letter to make your appointment with Prometric, SHRM's assessment services provider. Schedule a date as soon as possible—if you wait too long, space may be limited or even gone. That's because most candidates take their exams during the last few weeks of each testing window.

Prometric's SHRM-dedicated webpage has essential information about both in-person and remotely proctored exams, including locations, how to schedule or reschedule appointments, and what to expect on test day. There's also a tutorial for navigating the ProProctor™ testing platform and a comprehensive FAQ. For further details on test day do's and don'ts, consult the SHRM Certification Handbook section on Testing Identification Requirements and Rules.

Your testing preference—in person or remote—can make a big difference in your exam experience.

If your preference is to take a remotely proctored exam at the location of your choice, you must provide a computer (not a tablet, smartphone or other mobile device, all of which are prohibited) with a camera, microphone and Internet connection. Prior to scheduling, perform a system readiness check to confirm that your computer will accommodate the testing platform. PC and Mac users have different system requirements. Read the ProProctor User Guide to ensure that your computer is set up to allow the platform to launch properly on test day.

If your preference is to take the exam in person, find the location of a Prometric test center. On test day, you will need to follow various protocols regarding security, personal items, breaks and more.

The bottom line is that if you can handle, troubleshoot and resolve your own computer issues, then remote testing may be good for you. Otherwise, SHRM recommends that you take the exam in person at a test center.

After you schedule your exam, you will receive an appointment confirmation from Prometric via e-mail—be sure to hold on to it for test day. Your next step to get ready for that day is to study.


Now that you've made the commitment to invest in your future by becoming SHRM-certified, give yourself the best chance for success with solid preparation. Prepare by using proven study methods that thoroughly cover the material you are likely to encounter on your exam. SHRM is committed to supporting you with a variety of resources.

The SHRM-CP and SHRM-SCP exams are based on the SHRM Body of Applied Skills and Knowledge (SHRM BASK), the product of a careful analysis of the HR profession. It describes the core set of behavioral competencies, functions, principles and definitions required of all HR professionals, and it is available for free.

The SHRM Learning System is a comprehensive, interactive study aid that helps you develop HR knowledge and competencies and apply them to real-life situations. Designed for adult learners, its content is presented in bite-sized pieces for studying anytime, anywhere. The Learning System is available for separate purchase and includes the e-book version of the official SHRM study guide, Ace Your SHRM Certification Exam.

SHRM research shows that candidates who use the SHRM Learning System, especially in combination with the SHRM BASK, consistently outperform their counterparts, passing their certification exams at higher rates than those who do not use either preparation method to study.

Another consideration is whether you learn better on your own or under the guidance of an instructor. Self-study is ideal if you want to maximize your time and readiness while retaining flexibility when your schedule is busy and unpredictable. Instructor-led programs (with options for classroom, virtual or hybrid settings) are optimal if you or your team learn best under the tutelage of a SHRM-certified subject matter expert, for a more personal boost.

To put the finishing touches on your exam preparation, sit in on one of SHRM's webinars or live webcasts to discover tried-and-true best practices that have helped thousands of SHRM-CP and SHRM-SCP examinees.

Practice exams give you greater exposure to the types of items you'll see on the real-life exams, plus feedback about correct and incorrect responses. Two workbooks, Preparing for the SHRM-CP Exam and Preparing for the SHRM-SCP Exam, feature sets of practice questions from recently administered exams. These supplements to the Ace Your SHRM Certification Exam guidebook are available for purchase from the SHRMStore. Subscribers to the SHRM Learning System can take practice exams on that platform.

Choose your path toward SHRM certification by following these first three steps, and next month, we'll continue the process with a close look at the final two steps, sit and sustain.

For questions and information, e-mail or call 1-800-283-7476 Option 3 (or 1-703-548-3440 Option 3).

Nancy Woolever, SHRM-SCP, is vice president of SHRM certification. Liz Lacey is director of SHRM educational programs. Susie Davis is director of SHRM education products.



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