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Graduate Programs for
Human Resources Management

Is a graduate degree right for you?

Deciding whether and when to attend graduate school is a personal choice that must be made based on your individual situation and needs. Human resources professionals have a variety of backgrounds so there is no "one right path." Most students choose either an MBA or an MS in Human resources or Industrial Relations. Another popular choice is to attain a law degree.

To help you make some decisions about life after you undergraduate degree, the National SHRM provides useful information on HR Careers, including links to graduate schools and insight from HR professionals and academics with regard to graduate degree choices.

PHR Certification

What is the PHR Certification?

The PRH Certification is a professional certification in human resources. The PHR Certification is administered by the Human Resource Certification Institute (HRCI), an affiliate of the National SHRM. According to the National SHRM, "Taking the exam demonstrates to potential employers that you are motivated and committed to the HR profession. When you write "passed PHR exam" on your resume, it shows that you have mastered the HR body of knowledge and are ready to begin work in the field." The PHR can be an important signal to employers that you have the drive to advance in your profession. While most organizations do not consider the PHR essential to hiring HR majors, most would consider it a "plus" and as more and more recognize the value of a professional HR function.

What benefits do I get from taking the PHR Certification test?
Taking the PHR Certification test helps you to stay informed of new developments in the HR field through the recertification process. It can improve your career advancement opportunities. The PHR is a signal to peers, coworkers, and supervisors that you have demonstrated significant professional achievement. You receive a certificate that can be displayed and, after fulfilling the work requirements for th PHR designation, you can use the acronym after your name on business cards and correspondence, and other communications. This sets you apart from those who do not have the certification. Finally, the PHR represents a personal professional goal--a way to test your knowledge and measure it against your peers.

If I pass the PHR Certification test, can I put PHR or SPHR after my name (i.e., am I a certified Professional Human Resources)?
No,, passing the PHR Certification test is only part of what it takes to claim the PHR or SPHR. Both designations also require some professional experience.
What is on the PHR Certification test?

The PHR Certification test has 200 scored multiple-choice questions plus 25 pre-test questions (which are not scored and used for test development purposes). You have four hours to complete the test which is administered by computer and in English only. Some sample questions:

Question 1: In a matrix organizational structure
a.) Employees have three or more supervisors
b.) Two organizational structures exist at the same level
c.) Productivity is enhanced because of strict functional accountability
d.) Line authority is strengthened

(Answer: B. With a matrix organization structure, two organizational structures exist at the same time: conventional functional organization and a project team organization. Employees join a project team but retain their positions in the conventional organization. Matrix structures are often prevalent in new product development.)

·Question 2: When a union is attempting to organize within a company, which of the following is a permissible management statement?
a.) “If you join the union, we may have to cut your wages.”
b.) “If the union organizes here, we may have to shut down.”
c.) “If a union organizes here, you are going to have to foot the bill by paying union dues.”
d.) “If the union gets turned down, we may all get a raise.”

(Answer: C. Management may legitimately educate employees regarding unions as long as it does not threaten, promise, or coerce employees. During an organizing campaign, the TIPS rule should be kept in mind. It is an unfair labor practice for an employer to Threaten, Interrogate, Promise, or Spy on employees.)

Question 3: Which of the following positions is considered an HR Specialist?
a.) Industrial Relations Director
b.) Human Resource Manager
c.) Personnel Administrator
d.) Human Resource Team Leader

(Answer: A. Industrial Relations Director is responsible for only labor relations and safety functions. The other positions are responsible for all major HR functions.)

How do I study for the PHR Certification test?

Study materials for the PHR Exam include:

1) The HRCI Certification Guide which features test specifications based on the HR body of knowledge, exam review methods, sample test questions and rationales, a bibliography organized by functional area, and answers to frequently asked questions.

2) The SHRM® Learning System which is a computer-based/workbook program based on the HRCI test specifications and which covers the six functional areas of HR. For more information, contact the Holmes Corporation at (800) 444-5006 option 2 or visit the SHRM homepage at

3) Textbooks, particularly the one by Mathis & Jackson because it mirrors the major subject areas. The battery of multiple choice questions provides great opportunities for drill and practice. Bob Mathis has been actively involved in developing the exam.

Who is eligible to take the PHR Certification test?
Students and recent graduates are eligible to take the PHR test. You have five years from the date of passing the test to obtain the required two years of exemp-level (professional) HR work experience that allows you to claim the PHR designation. Professionals can take the test whenever they choose to do so.
If you take the test as a students or recent grade, you must take it no earlier than 12 months before your graduation date and no later than 12 months after graduation from a bachelor's or graduate degree program.
Students are not eligible to take the SPHR Certification test.
Is it a good idea to take the PHR Certification Test while I am still in school even if I can't claim the PHR designation?

Yes! The pass rate among HR students is higher than the pass rate among the general population of HR professionals. Taking the test now takes advantage of your test-taking skills, skills that will be lost the longer you are out of school. In addition, while you may not feel you have a lot of practical experience, you do have considerable textbook knowledge and the PHR is largely a test of HR theory rather than a test of applied knowledge. Finally, taking the test now is cheaper than taking it when you are no longer a student. You have five years after taking the test to fulfill the other professional requirements for the PHR designation.

To learn more about the PHR Certification Test, the National SHRM provides useful information on the PHR for students and the HRCI provides more details regarding the PHR testing and certification procedure and the benefits of becoming a certified HR professional.

How much does it cost to take the PHR Certification Test and how do I find out when it is offered?

To find out the current fee structure and schedule for test administration, the PHR for students and the HRCI provides details.

How do I apply to take the PHR Certification Test?

To apply online, go to

1) Complete the application form.

2) Confirm that the information entered is correct.

3) Print the summary page.

4) Receive e-mail confirmation.

5) Mail supporting documentation if needed.

Your application will be reviewed by Professional Examination Service (PES) for eligibility. Authorization to test or notice of ineligibility will then be sent to you in a letter. Once you are authorized to test, schedule your exam at or call (800) 467-9582.

Alternatively, you can complete the scannable application and mail your payment and supporting documentation to: PES, 1800 Due St., Alexandria, VA 22314. PES asks that you do NOT fold the application materials. You will receive an e-mail confirmation as above.

**Thanks to AAmanda Apkarian, Janie Keesler, and Debbie Sarauer for compiling much of the information on PHR Certification Testing.**

Finding Jobs

How can I find out about jobs in Human Resources Management?

There are many ways to find out about internships and full-time job opportunities in HR:

1. UWO SHRM sends out email announcements to its members whenever we hear of a new job opening.

2. The University of Wisconsin Oshkosh Career Services is also an excellent source for information on jobs. Visit Career Services and:

  • Click on “Students/Alumni” on the left side of the webpage.
  • Log on to Titan Gold
  • Click “Job Search” on the top of the page.
  • Select the criteria and hit search or Click on “Student/Alumni” on the left side of the web page.
  • Click “Job Banks” in the second column (Jobs/Internships)This provides you with links to look for jobs around the state.

3.Visit the National SHRM site to find useful information about HR Careers and conducting a job search.

4.Take a look at Dr. Rau's quick tip sheet for planning your job search strategy.

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Last updated on February 28, 2008
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