Clock ticking on CHRP degree requirement

But market moving faster than 2011 deadline as many HR jobs require undergraduate degree

HR professionals who want to move up the corporate ladder need to have a degree, according to the president of Alberta’s HR association.

While HR candidates can get away with a diploma or a certificate for some entry-level jobs, if they want to advance most employers will expect them to have an undergraduate degree as the bare minimum of education, said David Knudson of the Calgary-based Human Resources Institute of Alberta.

“To move into a management or director-type role, an MBA is more the prerequisite than just a degree,” he said.

This new reality explains why the degree requirement for the Certified Human Resources Professional (CHRP) designation is necessary for the designation to remain relevant, said Lynn Palmer, the chief executive officer of the Canadian Council of Human Resources Associations in Ottawa.

“Business is being more demanding of its HR practitioners than it’s ever been in the past. We want to apply more and more rigour to the designation to reflect the new realities in the workforce,” said Palmer.

However, the degree requirement doesn’t take effect until Jan. 1, 2011, so HR practitioners who don’t want a degree but still want the professional designation still have time to attain the CHRP.

However, with the nine extra academic requirements in Ontario, CHRP candidates in that province are under more of a time crunch and students without degrees entering three-year HR-focused college programs in Ontario could miss their chance to qualify for the CHRP if they don’t act fast.

But if they plan it right, full-time students should still have plenty of time, said Claude Balthazard, director, HR excellence at the Human Resources Professionals Association of Ontario (HRPAO) in Toronto.

Students don’t have to complete the entire college program by the deadline, only the nine required academic courses and then pass the National Knowledge Exam (NKE). In Ontario, those who have passed the NKE by the deadline are exempt from the degree requirement as long as they pass the National Professional Practice Assessment within five years.

“No need to panic just yet, but you’re just starting to be in that zone where you have to think about it,” said Balthazard.

However, if a CHRP candidate is working full time and only taking one course per term, she won’t complete all nine in time unless she writes several “challenge” exams in place of the actual course, said Balthazard.

Because the degree requirement doesn’t dictate that the CHRP candidate must have a business or HR-focused degree, the HRPAO has no plans of getting rid of the extra academic requirements, despite outside pressure to do so, said Balthazard. (For more information on the HRPAO’s position on the academic requirements, see related link below.)

“The more senior or established designations all have formal training requirements,” he said. “Can you imagine lawyers without law school or doctors without medical school?”

In 2003, the HRPAO was the first association to vote to change the CHRP requirements to include a degree requirement, with the remaining eight associations voting in favour of it in 2004.

HRPAO’s decision caused a lot of friction in the academic and HR communities, said Balthazard.

“It was really polarizing in Ontario and even to this day it still generates some heat,” he said. “At the root of all that were different visions of what people think the HR profession is or should be about.”

Some people saw HR as being transactional, with practitioners only handling the basics, in which case a diploma would suffice. However, others saw HR professionals becoming true business partners on the same level as other executives, such as the chief financial officer, said Balthazard.

“If you want people to be able to participate at that level, you’re talking about degree people,” he said.

Back in 2003, the Ontario college lobby called the requirement “academic elitism” and questioned whether a non-specific university degree could really be more valuable to an HR professional than a three-year diploma in HR. However, Balthazard said he felt colleges objected to the degree requirement because they didn’t want to lose business generated by the HRPAO academic requirements.

Five years on, the climate has cooled as colleges have created applied degree programs that will satisfy the CHRP degree requirement.

In September, Toronto’s Humber College is launching a four-year Bachelor of Applied Business. After a two-year business course load, students can choose one of several areas of specialization, including HR, said Graeme Simpson, program co-ordinator of Humber’s HR post-graduate program.

The applied degrees give students the best of both academic worlds and they’re a bonus from an employer’s point of view, said Simpson.

“It combines the practical aspects of college diplomas with the theoretical aspects of university degrees,” he said.

While a degree requirement was contentious in Ontario in 2003, other provinces haven’t faced the same push-back.

“I’ve been in this desk for three-and-a-half years and I have not had one person give any negative comment whatsoever,” said Simon Evans, CEO of the British Columbia Human Resources Management Association in Vancouver.

People see the degree requirement as a natural progression of the designation and the HR profession, said Evans.

“There are many other professional designations that require a university benchmark. I look at it, personally, as a continued positive step in the maturation of the HR professional designation,” he said.

In Alberta, Knudson doesn’t expect there to be much opposition to the requirement. “Most of the individuals who are applying to write the (CHRP) exams are degree holders,” he said.

Latest stories