HR Career Advancement: MBA, Certification, or Neither?

What’s the Best Choice? It Depends.

Should an HR professional seeking to gain a higher salary invest time and money into earning an MBA, a Professional in Human Resources (PHR) or Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR) certification, or just working hard on the job? According to new research by PayScale, the answer depends on your job role. For HR specialists, senior HR managers and HR directors, earning either a certification or MBA is usually better than not, but one is often better than the other.

Pros and Cons of Each
MBA programs take a long time and can be expensive, but they tend to have relatively high pass rates.  PHR and SPHR certifications, on the other hand, take a few months of study, require less expense, but involve difficult tests. In the most recent SPHR exam, less than half of test takers passed. These complicating factors aside, there are real differences in HR professional earnings depending on which path they take.

HR Directors: Get Certified
While the MBA provides a considerable boost to an HR director’s salary, holding a certification is more valuable still. MBA grads earn two percent less than certification holders, but even they earn six percent more than those with neither.

Senior HR Managers: Choose the MBA

The MBA is the clear choice for senior HR managers, as it gives them a higher median pay than HR directors. MBA degree holders earn an impressive twelve percent more than both those with certifications and those that hold neither.

HR Specialists: Pick Certification
Unlike the director or senior manager roles, the MBA is not a good choice for HR specialists. The median pay for MBA degree earners is less than that of those who have neither the certification or the MBA. Those with MBA degrees earn seven percent less than those with a certification and three percent less than those with neither.

To learn more, see PayScale’s MBA infographic which details what the degree means for HR professionals, and also take a look at PayScale’s infographic on the impact of the PHR and SPHR on HR careers.

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