The CHRP as a catch 22

Starting 2011, those who wish to take the NPPA portion of the CHRP must have an undergraduate degree in order to write the exam.  According to an HRVoice.org article, “the number of people writing the exams for the designation increased by more than 50 per cent in the past year.”  That was comparing the October 2009 session with the May 2010 sitting; I can’t wait to hear the numbers from the October 2010 exam.

A number of exam writers were likely HR professionals who graduated from 2-year programs and were attempting to avoid the need to complete a four year program.  However, one pronounced group that I’m willing to bet will be easily visible come exam day is the new face of the CHRP – students and the new graduates.

Although the CCHRA and its affiliate provincial HR associations suggest that exam writers gain at least two years of experience working in human resources before they write the exam, there will be a number of professionally young writers in the exam room.  While they realize that a CHRP is not a requirement to practice human resources, many are writing in order to stay competitive with those entry-level and intermediate-level professionals who have already written the exam successfully.  Students and recent grads have already been achieving their CHRPs, and hopefully there will be more to come (as the deadline to register for the October 2010 session is closed).  I certainly wish all writers the very best of luck.

This catch 22 is one that’s most felt by those who are at the beginning of their careers.  Despite whatever optimistic statements are made regarding employment in B.C., entry-level opportunities in human resources are limited.  One writes the CHRP in order to differentiate oneself from other professionals, and other job applicants.  Although the full designation is never demanded of an entry-level applicant, I’ve heard so many young professionals express their decision to write the exam because of today’s competitive job market.  They’re simply more willing to take the gamble that their education will be able to carry them through the experience-based exam, rather than lose out on an employment opportunity for not having written it at all.

This is the entry-level HR professional’s dilemma: on the one hand, it seems silly to write the exam so early in one`s career, but on the other hand, it seems to be a necessity to keep running with the bulls.  It’s a catch 22.


Geraldine Sangalang is an HR pro working at the Robson Square Courthouse.  She volunteers as a BC HRMA GV CAN Networking Co-Chair, as well as a recruiter for Meaningful Volunteer.  On her private time, Geraldine loves scrapbooking, hiking, kayaking, and dining out with friends.

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5 Responses

  1. You bring up an excellent point, Geraldine, and something that I know for a fact is on the minds of many budding HR professionals.

    I know the motivation for many recent graduates lies not so much in the current value of the designation, it actually lies in the potential future value. It is kind of along the lines of, “well, I don’t want to be at a disadvantage later”.

    Also, I’ve seen experienced HR professionals struggle with studying and exam writing skills, even though they are more than qualified and competent enough to pass the exam. I think a lot of recent graduates see the exams as easier to take when they are not too far away from that “student mindset” of studying and exam taking. It almost makes it seem like studying and exam writing skills are as important as the content itself.

    Just my observations.

    • You’re definitely right. I remember meeting a few people at the NKE exam a couple of years ago who had more than 10 years experience, and were phenomenally stressed because it had been years since they had written an exam of any kind. But like you said, they were more than competent to write the exam successfully, and they did.

      And yes, I know a number of grads who wrote the NPPA right after graduation for fear of getting too far from that “student mindset” later on. It’s just such a time commitment to study for an exam, and to psychologically prepare to write one.

  2. I also think that there is a group of hr professionals who are years into their career and have much more experience than recent grads who are missing out on the designation.

    I think that there should be some real-life leeway with the process.

    How is it that someone holding a non-business or HR-related degree, and no experience, is able to pursue the designation over someone with many years of practical experience, without a degree?

    • Yes Stephanie, that’s exactly it. Great question. I find it so ironic that the NPPA exam itself is built around scenarios, so that HR experience becomes a ‘requirement’ to successfully write the exam, but yet we’ve recently seen how writers with no experience can pass the exam, while professionals with years of experience can struggle.

      There definitely needs to be some changes to the exam-writing process.

  3. I am stuck in the entry-level HR “catch 22”. I can’t find an entry-level position, and I’ve had my degree too long to take the PHR exam. I haven’t even thought of the CHRP at this point because of my lack of practical experience. Hopefully as the economy gets better, there will be more opportunities out there. I’m determined to keep a positive outlook!

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