PHR Test

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The Professional in Human Resources (PHR) test is a challenging and comprehensive assessment for men and women looking to enter this exciting and rapidly growing field of business management. The exam is developed by the Human Resources Certification Institute in consultation with an expert team of test administrators.

The test consists of 225 multiple-choice questions and takes four hours to complete. To be eligible for the exam, candidates must have at least two years of professional human resources experience. The passing score for the test is set by a team of experts.

The content of the PHR test is divided into six areas:

  1. The strategic management area (12 percent of the exam) requires knowledge of an organizations mission, values, objectives, plans, and processes; legislative and regulatory processes; the strategic planning process and implementation; management functions, including planning, organizing, directing, and controlling; techniques to promote creativity and innovation; and corporate governance procedure and compliance.
  2. The PHR test section on workforce planning and employment (26 percent) covers issues such as recruitment strategy, quantitative analysis, planning techniques, staffing alternatives, and interviewing techniques.
  3. The human resource development area (17 percent) addresses topics such as federal, state, and local laws related to HR development activities; OD theories and applications; task/process analysis; e-learning; and mentoring and executive coaching.
  4. The content area on total rewards (16 percent) reviews topics that include job pricing and pay structure; job evaluation methods; total rewards strategies; and federal, state, and local compensation, benefits, and tax laws.
  5. The employee and labor relations section (22 percent) addresses issues like employee involvement strategies, unfair labor practices, positive employee relations strategies, and individual employment rights.
  6. The sixth area of the PHR test, risk management (7 percent), covers topics such as occupational injury and illness, workplace safety, internal investigations, workplace security risks, and general health and safety practices.

PHR Test Practice Questions

1. Eamon is a human resources professional for a large firm of attorneys, and he has been assigned the responsibility of developing an instructional method that is most suitable for the support staff at the firm. The support staff has been struggling with problem-solving issues, and Eamon has been instructed to utilize a training method that will allow the staff members to discuss problems and potential resolutions under the supervision of a third party expert. Which of the following instructional methods will be most effective for this situation?

a. Vestibule
b. Facilitation
c. Demonstration
d. Conference
e. One-on-one

2. What is the purpose of a total rewards strategy?

a. To plan for establishing salaries among employees
b. To represent the employee brand as effectively as possible
c. To assist in creating teamwork among employees
d. To use budget for rewards in order to retain employees
e. To recognize organizational changes as they occur

3. Which of the following is not a major factor in establishing compensation within an organization?

a. IRS rules
b. Employee salary history
c. Conditions in the labor market
d. Current economic situation
e. Competition from other companies

4. All of the following are part of the Fair Labor Standards Act except:

a. Minimum wage
b. Exemption conditions for employees
c. Work conditions for children under 18
d. Overtime
e. Federal service contracts

5. Which of the following best expresses the definition of benchmark positions?

a. Common jobs within all organizations
b. Evaluation of current jobs
c. Review of market conditions for salaries
d. Change in significant jobs in a company
e. Review of value in positions within an organization


1. B: Facilitation is an instructional method that enables employees to work together on problem-solving techniques while under the guidance of a facilitator, or third-party expert in helping different groups interact effectively. Answer choice A is incorrect because the vestibule instructional method is a type of simulation, in which the employees receive hands-on experience on the equipment they will be using. A demonstration is largely just a presentation of information in a lecture-style setting, so that would be inappropriate for this situation, making answer choice C incorrect. Similarly, a conference style of instructional method is primarily focused on presenting information without employee interaction, so answer choice D is also incorrect. And the one-on-one method would be instruction given from one person to another. This is hardly useful in the situation with which Eamon is presented, so answer choice E is incorrect.

2. D: The purpose of a total rewards strategy is one of reviewing the budget and finding out how much of the budget is available for establishing rewards that will retain employees. (Additionally, the total rewards strategy contributes to drawing potential employees and motivating them in their employment activities.) Answer choice A is incorrect. While a total rewards program might cover salaries, the total rewards strategy is larger than basic salary. Answer choice B is incorrect because the total rewards strategy is unrelated to employer brand. Answer choice C is incorrect because the total rewards strategy is unconnected to creating teamwork among employees. And answer choice E is incorrect because the total rewards strategy is unrelated to the recognition of organizational changes.

3. B: When establishing employee compensation within an organization, considering employee salary history might be a part of the larger process, but it is not a major factor in the process. Answer choices A, C, D, and E – IRS rules, conditions in the labor market, current economic situations, and competition from other companies – all play a major role in establishing employee compensation.

4. E: The McNamara-O’Hara Service Contract Act (1965) covers federal service contracts, but the Fair Labor Standards Act does not. The Fair Labor Standards Act does, however, cover minimum wage requirements, exemption conditions for employees, work conditions for children under 18, and overtime. As a result, answer choices A, B, C, and D are all incorrect.

5. A: Benchmark positions are simply the types of positions that are common within all organizations, such as administrative assistants. Benchmark positions do not, however, relate to an evaluation of current jobs (answer choice B), a review of market conditions for salaries (answer choice C), a change in significant jobs in a company (answer choice D), and a review of the value of various positions within an organization (answer choice E).

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Human Resources Salary

Professionals who enjoy working with people and want to develop a company's culture by creating and enforcing company procedures and policies should consider careers in human resources. A career in human resources may involve working in many facets of an organization, such as recruitment, employee and labor relations, benefits administration, payroll, or training and development. The human resource person plays a very important role in the organization by managing human capital and enhancing overall operations and employee performance.

When most people think of a human resource function, they think of hiring and benefits. As this field has progressed, other specialties developed. Specialties, such as contract negotiations for unions, organizational development, and human resource management systems have emerged. Two terms that are used to describe career options within human resources are specialist and generalist. The specialist is someone who focuses his or her efforts in one area of expertise within an organization. The generalist, on the other hand, handles a number of responsibilities, such as recruitment and retention. The larger the organization, the more specialists you might have. For example, some very large multinational firms may have recruitment departments within the human resource function with many recruiters. There may also be dedicated units to handle employee relations. One thing is for sure; the opportunities in this profession are varied and plentiful, and the human resources salary can also be lucrative.

Most individuals enter the profession in a generalist role, usually a recruiter. These entry-level positions are where most people decide if they are interested in pursuing a specialized role or staying within the career path. Many people work their way up into senior-level positions, which become challenging with the additional responsibilities. There really is not one correct way to progress within a firm; it depends upon a person's personal interests. According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), job opportunities in this field will continue to grow in the coming years. The BLS considers this a well-paying job with lots of opportunity. As far as the amount of education needed for this job, it varies by function. A human resource clerk or human resource assistant may only need a certificate in human resources. A recruiter, payroll, human resource specialist, or training and development professional should have a least a bachelor's degree that provides a foundation in human resource laws and practices. Manager, director, and vice president roles usually require master's degrees in human resources, with most people also having their Society of Human Resource Management (SPHR) certifications. The SPHR is a credential that certifies a person's knowledge and dedication to the profession. Years of human service work and a passing score on a very challenging test are required to receive the SPHR designation.

It is not surprising that the human resources salary increases with experience, education, expertise, and certifications. The highest salaries go to people with master's degrees in business administration and in human resource management. According to, the national salary average for a human resource professional is between $38,000 and $87,000 a year. These are usually pretty secure jobs within an organization with little turnover. Bonuses and profit sharing are not uncommon benefits included in compensation packages. Up to 82 percent of people working in the profession are women, with most jobs for human resource managers found in larger states, like Texas, New York, California and Illinois. Retail, health care, information systems, manufacturing and distribution, and hotel and hospitality management are the most popular industries paying the highest salaries. It is not uncommon for managers, directors, and vice presidents to earn well over $100,000, with a vice president of human resources making more than $270,000.

By Lindsay Downs

Last Updated: 04/12/2014

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