Online Doctorate in Human Resources

Updated January 26, 2023 · 5 Min Read

Graduates can also pursue government positions. Public agencies need qualified human resources professionals to help them attract and retain talented. is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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Senior leaders in human resources need exceptional decision-making, organizational, and interpersonal skills. Students who plan to conduct research or teach in this field must develop strong analytical, critical-thinking, and communication skills.

Earning a Ph.D. in human resources can help learners develop either of these skill sets and prepares candidates to fill a variety of professional roles. This guide provides an overview of online doctoral programs in human resources, including information about admissions requirements, curricula, and potential career paths for graduates. The guide also explains the importance of earning a human resource management degree from an accredited program.

Should I Earn an Online Doctorate in Human Resources?

Students pursuing a Ph.D. in human resources online can deepen their knowledge in areas such as the creation of innovative workplaces, the nature of 21st century organizations, or methods for attracting and retaining talent. As the highest degree available, a doctorate demonstrates expertise in the field.

Earning a Ph.D. can help current professionals advance their career. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), some leadership roles in human resources require an advanced degree. While master's degree holders may qualify for these positions, a doctorate can give candidates a competitive edge. Earning a doctorate may also allow professionals to negotiate a higher salary in their current position.

Doctoral studies can also help individuals hone their research skills. Especially in programs that require a dissertation, students take extensive coursework in quantitative research techniques, applied research methods, and program evaluation. Students may work closely with a faculty adviser to shape and strengthen their research.

Many Ph.D. candidates aspire to train the next generation of human resources leaders and researchers. Most colleges and universities require teaching candidates to hold doctoral degrees.

What Can I Do With an Online Doctorate in Human Resources?

An online doctorate in human resources can lead to a variety of careers. Many students earn a doctorate to qualify for leadership roles in the private sector, such as director of human resources at a large company. Some learners specialize in an area of personnel management, such as talent development or recruitment. Ph.D. holders may also apply their human resources expertise to broad leadership positions, such as chief operating officer.

Graduates may also pursue government positions. Public agencies need qualified human resources professionals to help them attract and retain talented public servants. According to the BLS, about 10% of all human resources managers work for local, state, or federal governments.A doctorate also qualifies candidates for teaching and research roles in academia. Roughly

104,000 postsecondary business teachers work at colleges and universities across the country, instructing students on subjects such as human resources theories and strategic management practices. Additionally, some graduates of online Ph.D. programs serve as consultants, who may work independently or for a consulting firm.

Career Profiles

Human Resources Managers

Human resources managers plan and direct an organization's administrative functions. They may hire and onboard new staff, create professional development programs, or mediate employee disputes. Managers at larger organizations often supervise a team of specialists.

Compensation and Benefits Managers

Compensation and benefits managers oversee an organization's pay structure, work with outside vendors and service providers, and ensure that salaries and benefits comply with government regulations. These professionals may specialize in areas such as initial salary negotiation.

Training and Development Managers

Training and development managers help an organization's employees enhance their skills and knowledge. They assess professional development needs, design appropriate training programs, and conduct employee evaluations.

Chief Operating Officers

Chief operating officers manage the administrative functions within an organization. They often oversee multiple departments and must possess a deep understanding of the principles of effective personnel and organizational management.

Postsecondary Teachers, Business

Postsecondary teachers at colleges and universities instruct students and conduct research. They may advise doctoral students working on their dissertations and perform various administrative duties, such as screening candidates for open faculty positions. is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Featured Online PhD HR Programs

Find a program that meets your affordability, flexibility, and education needs through an accredited, online school.

Human Resources Ph.D. Program Overview

Requirements for an online Ph.D. in human resources vary by program. For example, more practice-oriented programs may require a capstone project in lieu of a dissertation. Some programs require applicants to submit scores from an entrance exam, such as the Graduate Management Admission Test, and some programs feature concentrations or particular courses not available at other institutions. Learners should choose a program that fits their interests and needs.

Types of Doctorate Degrees in Human Resources

Learners can pursue many types of doctoral degrees in human resources. For example, students aspiring to careers in academia often pursue a Ph.D. in human resources. Ph.D. students complete rigorous coursework and write a dissertation to prepare for roles in higher education, such as research associate or assistant professor.

Students can also pursue a practice-oriented degree, such as a doctorate of education in human resources and workforce development. Rather than requiring a dissertation, these programs provide opportunities for students to develop skills and apply knowledge in practical contexts. Professionals with an Ed.D. in human resources and workforce development often secure leader positions in the public and private sectors, such as director of personnel management.

Learners earning a doctorate in business may specialize in human resources. In addition to classes in career planning and performance improvement, students in these programs complete general business coursework in areas such as finance, economics, and organizational development. Graduates often pursue top executive roles, such as chief operating officer or chief human resources officer.

Full-time students generally complete practice-oriented programs in about three years, including a capstone project. Learners pursuing a Ph.D. or another research-focused doctorate often need up to seven years to complete program requirements, including a dissertation.

Application Requirements and Admission Criteria

Applicants to doctorate in human resource management programs must typically hold an advanced degree in a related field. Some programs, however, allow students to earn their master's as they work toward a Ph.D.

Most programs require applicants to meet certain academic standards, such as a minimum 3.0 master's GPA. Other schools require applicants to submit results from an entrance exam, like the GRE or GMAT.

Doctoral applicants must typically submit a professional resume, a brief essay outlining their qualifications and professional goals, and up to three letters of recommendation. Applicants may also participate in an interview with admission officers or faculty members. These interviews help schools make admissions decisions and pair each admitted student with an appropriate faculty adviser.


Doctoral programs in human resources typically begin with advanced coursework in areas such as organizational development, global economics, and strategic management. Students can take elective classes in topics such as human resources analytics and employment law.

In addition to developing content knowledge, students complete a series of courses to prepare for their dissertation. These courses cover topics such as designing a research question, applying quantitative and qualitative research methods, and writing academically.

After completing required coursework, students must pass a comprehensive doctoral examination. After passing this exam, students can formally begin work on their dissertation. At many schools, students who fail the comprehensive examination twice can no longer seek a Ph.D.

Doctoral students work closely with faculty advisers to choose a research topic, collect data, and write their dissertation. To graduate, students must successfully defend their completed dissertation's methods and conclusions before a faculty committee. The dissertation process typically takes 1-3 years.

Students in practice-oriented doctoral programs complete a capstone project rather than a dissertation. Generally, these programs do not require a comprehensive examination.

Leading and Managing Workplace Learning
This course prepares students to design, implement, and evaluate professional development programs, with an emphasis on organizational return on investment. The course also explores topics including career and succession planning.
Talent Acquisition and Workforce Planning
Students learn to forecast staffing needs, create a large and diverse pool of candidates, and select the most talented individuals for open positions. The course also examines the impact of law and technology on staffing.
Employment Law
This course prepares aspiring human resources professionals through a historical overview of labor law in the United States and practical instruction in modern compliance.
Research Paradigms in Human Resource Management
This course introduces key research approaches and methodologies in business and the social sciences. Learners gain the skills necessary to begin designing a research question for their dissertation.
Advanced Qualitative Research
This course equips students with the skills to collect data for their dissertation. Learners examine qualitative data, including information drawn from interviews, case studies, and non-numerical surveys.

Program Outcomes

Students in these programs develop a variety of skills and competencies. They learn how to assess employees' professional development needs through interviews and surveys and prepare to design appropriate training programs.

Students also learn how to resolve disputes among employees and those between an employee and management. Learners gain an understanding of relevant laws and regulations and the ability to manage difficult conversations.

Doctoral students also develop a strategic mindset, which provides context for their work of hiring and training employees and helps them counsel organizational leaders on staffing-related matters.

Students pursuing a Ph.D. in human resources online receive in-depth training in collecting and analyzing data. These research skills can improve their effectiveness in professional settings and can qualify them for roles in academia.

Accreditation for Online Human Resources Doctorate Programs

Learners should choose an accredited online doctoral program in human resources. The accreditation process ensures that schools meet set academic standards and adequately prepare students for careers. Prospective employers may not recognize a degree from an unaccredited school.

Three kinds of accreditation exist: regional, national, and programmatic. Most nonprofit and public universities hold regional accreditation. For-profit and vocational institutions often hold national accreditation. Programmatic accreditation agencies evaluate programs within a particular discipline. For example, online Ph.D. in human resources programs often receive programmatic accreditation from the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP).

To confirm a program holds regional, national, or ACBSP accreditation, check the online directory from the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.

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