For Selfish Reasons

Earlier this year, I made the decision to upgrade my “functional credential” to the Global Professional in Human Resources, and upgrade / supplement my PMP with PMI-ACP.  I passed the GPHR exam yesterday, and in a couple of weeks, the HR Certification Institute will be sending me something to frame.  I’ll start wading through Mike Griffith’s book, “PMI-ACP Exam Prep,” after I catch up on my sleep.  But before I do, I wanted to capture some thoughts about why I’m doing this.

Last month, I wrote about the GPHR exam prep class I attended in Seattle.  As I noted at the time, I was in a room with two dozen heavy hitters.  We spent three days preparing for the exam by reviewing everything from financial models for expatriate compensation, to sociological models of cultures, to workforce development models, to relevant legislation in the US, Canada, Mexico, the UK, the EU, India, China, and Brazil.  We considered multiple models for building and managing businesses across borders, and went into details on a dozen or so organizations from the WTO to the ILO that lead thinking and practice in that space.  We even looked at key aspects of project management, risk management, team building, and collaboration in multicultural groups.  As someone mentioned in class, it felt like a three day MBA program.

The HR Certification Institute reports that there were 2,888 GPHR credential holders as of August, 2012, out of a population of 127,439 HR credential holders.  As you might expect from the range of subject matter, the exam is extraordinarily difficult.  HRCI offers the exam in two windows, spring and fall.  The average pass rate in the last four exam cycles has been 55%.  When I took the exam yesterday, even after 100+ hours of preparation and well over a decade of professional experience in this specialty, they still stumped me on a few questions.  It was the intellectual equivalent of an Iron Man Triathlon, and I survived.  And then went home and slept for four hours.

Earlier this week, Mike Griffiths did a “state of the credential” review of the PMI-ACP.  He notes that there are now around 2,600 credential holders, out of a PMI credential total of half a million or so.  The number of credentialed Agile practitioners is growing at a much faster rate than earlier PMI credentials exhibited at their introduction, with lots more room to grow; Mike explores some of the market drivers in his article.  But because the PMI-ACP is based on material from eleven primary sources, and covers elements of all of the major Agile frameworks and methods, it’s not an easy exam to prepare for.  I imagine the actual exam will be a bear.  I doubt the credential numbers will ever approach that of the PMP.

So, why go through all of this?  Certainly not for career advancement. is a job board aggregator, so any keyword search results you see are likely to include a lot of duplicates.  The 157 hits I got for GPHR probably equates to around 40 actual jobs; the 125 hits for PMI-ACP might be a little over 30.  But these aren’t credentials you pursue to qualify for a job; Hell, you have to be well established in your career to even sit for them.  No, these credentials are career capstones.  We pursue them for selfish reasons; for our own gratification.  We put them on our business cards, not because people will be impressed, but because we can.  Like getting a tattoo after through-hiking the Appalachian Trail, it’s about marking the way the incredibly long, expensive journey has changed you.  Selfish?  You bet.  My wife says she’ll at least confirm that much.  But she’s smiling when she says it.