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The best online doctorate in training and development programs prepare students for successful careers in training and development among individuals, groups, and organizations.
Indeed, at the heart of these post-graduate training and development programs is human resources development, where individuals are provided with the best opportunities to increase their knowledge and develop their skills. These online programs combine contemporary principles and practices in human resource development, organizational leadership, and adult learning, among other topics.
Since individuals are the beating heart of a wide range of organizations, from government agencies, business corporations, and nonprofit organizations to higher education institutions, there’s a huge demand for the best training and development professionals. The best, of course, possess excellent professional credentials – and that includes a doctorate degree in training and development!
- Best Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) Graduate Schools
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- Best Doctor of Statistics Graduate Schools
Quick audio summary:
Most, if not all, of the best doctorate in training and development programs, are designed for working professionals who want flexibility, convenience, and quality in online education. Many students are already established training and development professionals, too, but aspire for career advancement opportunities that a doctorate degree will attract.
Students in these training and development programs engage in educational and organizational research related to their specialization, such as human resource development, adult learning, or global training and development. Their skill sets upon completion of their respective program include the creation, implementation and adaptation, and evaluation of training programs for individuals, groups, and organizations.
We selected these online training and development programs based on the following factors:
- Students learn via online courses delivered through an effective, efficient, and user-friendly learning management system (e.g., Canvas or Blackboard). Many of the programs have in-person, on-campus requirements, too, but are generally considered low-residency online programs (i.e., hybrid or blended)
- Online students benefit from the same academic quality of the curriculum and instruction as on-campus students. Their professors possess excellent professional credentials that enable them to pass on their knowledge to students.
- Students are provided with abundant opportunities to develop and demonstrate their educational research and/or organizational research knowledge and skills through didactic and dissertation courses resulting in a doctoral thesis.
- Students develop their hard and soft skills vital for their success as training and development professionals in diverse settings.
- Most importantly, these doctoral programs in training and development are offered by accredited and/or recognized colleges and universities.
Check out our Methodology section for more details.
Best Online Doctorate in Training & Development Programs
Students have a minimum of three years in leadership roles to thrive in Vanderbilt’s EdD in Leadership and Learning in Organizations online program. The emphasis is on the practical applications of organizational learning and leadership amidst change across diverse industries. Graduates possess the skill sets vital in pushing for systemic change in their organizations and, thus, in society.
The program consists of 54 credit hours with 3-4 years time-to-completion. Students must attend all weekly online classes and three on-campus convenings as well as complete their capstone project. The weekly online classes include guided learning and class discussions while the on-campus convenings allow students to demonstrate their subject mastery and leadership skills.
Online courses include:
- Leadership and Organizational Development
- Data and Analytics
- Learning and Design
George Washington University
Students in the EdD in Human and Organizational Learning prepare to become productive scholars-practitioners in the training and development field. The program is intended for working professionals with leadership experience, usually in mid- to senior-level roles, and who come from diverse backgrounds.
Students learn from each other, thus, enabling them to make better decisions in their workplaces. Graduates benefit from the extensive network and career support services, too.
There are 60 credit hours in the program with featured courses in:
- Foundations of Human and Organizational Learning
- Theory, Research, and Practice in Adult Learning and Development
- Creating and Planning Doctoral Research
There are practicum and three on-campus residency requirements, too. The hybrid format combined with the curated coursework contributes to positive learning experiences among students.
University of Arizona Global Campus
Students in the online PhD in Organizational Development develop the professional ability to assess organizations and their unique needs for organizational development initiatives. There’s an emphasis on the use of objective research and evidence combined with critical thinking for this purpose.
The curriculum features accelerated 6-week to 9-week online courses but students take one course at a time. There are 17 core, elective research and specialization courses in total along with a capstone seminar. Students can transfer up to 30 credits, usually related to the core courses.
The coursework covers topics in performance management, employee motivation, and organizational change management. Students must complete a doctoral dissertation.
Graduates can demonstrate exceptional skills in finding solutions for contemporary challenges in organizational development and leadership using state-of-the-art tools and techniques.
Clemson’s online PhD in Learning Sciences is among the best online PhD programs for ambitious individuals with aspirations for leadership positions as faculty members, instructional designers and developers, and research scientists.
Students learn advanced principles and practices in the learning sciences from credentialed professors whose expertise lies in its various aspects. Due to their exceptional skill sets, graduates can work in diverse industries from business and education to digital media.
Students must complete 61 credit hours and attend two doctoral seminars in learning sciences. Courses include:
- Sociocultural Theories of Learning
- Bioecological Perspectives on Development and Learning
- Theoretical Bases of Instruction
The program offers students, most of whom are working professionals in leadership positions, the flexibility to attend synchronous online classes from anywhere.
University of Rochester
Students in the online PhD in Human Development possess a professional master’s degree in diverse fields, such as education, psychology, and human development, among others. The diversity of the online classes contributes to engaging discussions and excellent student outcomes. No wonder its graduates are successful professionals in higher education, social work, and even business!
The training and development online degree program offers students the choice between part-time and full-time enrolment as well as full and partial assistantships. The flexibility and affordability combined with the quality of instruction are part of the huge popularity of Rochester’s PhD online program. Note that Rochester also offers an EdD in Human Development program.
Students complete 90 credits to earn the doctoral degree but can transfer up to 30 credits into the PhD program. There are productive research apprenticeship opportunities, a mandatory one-year, full-time residency, and a wide range of electives to customize your degree.
University of Arkansas
Students in U of A’s EdD in Human Resource and Workforce Development Education program have an extensive background in many related areas including organizational behavior, psychology or sociology, and occupational counseling. Their diversity of work experience strengthens the interdisciplinary curriculum and contributes to impactful applications.
The program features a 96-semester hour curriculum with courses divided into Human Resource and Workforce Development Education Core, Organizational Pillar, Research and Statistics, and Training and Development Pillar. Specific courses cover educational statistics, the history and foundation of human resource and workforce development, and organization development.
Students also complete a practicum experience, a candidacy exam, and a dissertation.
Kansas State University
Known for its affordable online doctorate programs, KSU offers an online PhD in Adult Learning and Leadership for working professionals on the career advancement path. Students benefit from the human-centered curriculum that allows for customized learning experiences through electives. There are also choices in specializations in leadership, teaching and learning, workforce development, or community development.
Students must complete 90 credit hours with 8-week to 14-week courses delivered online and two on-campus residences. Courses include:
- Introduction to Adult Education
- Social Foundations of Adult Education
- Experimental Design in Educational Research
Students also learn the foundations, program planning, and organization and administration of adult education programs. There’s an emphasis on scholarly writing, research methodologies, and quantitative and qualitative analysis, too.
Aside from offering one of the best online PhD programs, KSU also offers an EdD in Adult Learning and Leadership program with an internship requirement.
Northwestern State University
Northwestern State University offers an affordable online EdD in Adult Learning and Development program for aspiring community college leaders and practitioners whose career paths are in workforce development and/or who work with adult learners. With its intensive curriculum, graduates are among the best candidates for community college leadership, adult learning and development, and workforce development.
Students gain advanced competencies in curriculum and instructional design, teaching and learning, and adult development, among other areas. Students may also choose the Community College Leadership track for more specialist skills in this area.
Baylor’s EdD in Learning and Organizational Change is known for its emphasis on innovation, social justice and inclusivity, as well as for the diversity of its student and faculty body.
Students engage in live online sessions, group sessions, and asynchronous coursework that enable them to balance their personal and professional obligations. Baylor actively creates a community of scholars, too, which students and graduates can tap into for their own learning purposes.
The program prepares students for the cross-functional and interdisciplinary challenges of organizational learning, change and development across diverse settings. Students are also able to identify growth opportunities and propose appropriate measures in these areas.
Students must complete 54 credit hours with the time-to-completion set at 36 months. There are two immersions led by faculty members and designed as transformative experiences. Courses are divided into learning foundations, organizational change, and research method courses followed by the Problem of Practice dissertation.
Louisiana State University
LSU Shreveport offers an EdD in Leadership Studies for ambitious working professionals keen on expanding their knowledge and skills in leadership theory and practices.
Students in the Leadership Studies concentration engage in in-depth explorations of the strategies behind leadership in organizations and the practical approaches vital in leading them amidst change.
The accelerated coursework of the 63-credit curriculum includes:
- Power, Politics, and Influence in Organizations
- Adult Learning and Development
- Dark Side of Leadership
- Gender Issues in Leadership
Students are provided with opportunities to participate in faculty-driven research projects, too. The application-to-graduation student support services contribute to the high completion rate while the flexible format contributes to a good work-life balance among students.
Old Dominion University
ODU’s online PhD in Education Occupational and Technical Studies with a Human Resource Training concentration trains students in advanced instructional design, delivery and evaluation.
Graduates are known for their above-par expertise with applications across industries including business and education. The doctoral degree is the basis for the development of the International Society for Performance Improvement Standards and the Association for Talent Development Standards.
Students complete at least 60 credit hours consisting of core courses in occupational and technical studies and research, as well as electives and a dissertation. The online courses are based on ODU’s regular academic calendar and are based on regular schedules. There are two mandatory 2-week on-campus residencies.
University of West Florida
With a curriculum designed according to the Carnegie Project on the Education Doctorate Framework, UWF’s EdD in Instructional and Performance Technology program delivers rigorous training for aspiring high-level leaders. The online program encourages students to apply theories and research toward job improvement programs, thanks to its applied research approach.
The program has a 54-credit curriculum that covers instructional and performance technology core courses and research and analysis courses. Students must also complete a doctoral seminar with a capstone requirement and a series of courses on dissertations in practice. There are three mandatory residences that strengthen the student learning experiences and community.
University of Central Florida
The interdisciplinary PhD in Teaching, Learning and Development (TLD) program at UCF emphasizes research skills development among working professionals interested in these areas. Students must complete the academic requirements for 63 credit hours, minimum, consisting of PhD in Education core courses, TLD core courses, and specialization courses.
The program offers specializations in:
- Early Childhood Education
- Elementary Education
- Interdisciplinary Education
- Science Education/STEM
- Reading Education
- Social Sciences Education
Students must pass the candidacy examination and dissertation requirements. Courses include qualitative and quantitative educational research, statistics and issues in research, and professional grant and scholarship writing in TLD.
Students in Rivier University’s EdD in Leadership and Learning program can earn the degree in three years of full-time studies. Rigor and quality, however, aren’t affected by the short time to completion with students tackling a comprehensive curriculum with courses on:
- Qualitative and quantitative methods
- Qualitative and quantitative analysis
- Change leadership
- Positive learning environment
The 51-credit program requires students to complete a doctoral dissertation on their chosen topic. Their dissertation work can start as early as their first year in the program. Students must also participate in three on-campus visits that become networking and learning opportunities. This is a cohort-based program where students take the courses according to a prescribed sequence.
William Woods University
The training and development of adult learners is at the core of William Woods’ EdD in Adult Learning program. Students develop their knowledge and skills in the theories, principles and practices of adult learning, from planning to implementation and evaluation. Students hone their managerial and organizational skills, too, resulting in their capacity to make dynamic changes to adult learning programs in their current and future workplaces.
Instead of the traditional dissertation, students complete a 16-week applied doctoral project that demonstrates their mastery of the subject and their capacity for finding solutions to adult learning issues. Students learn from world-class faculty members with relevant doctoral degrees, too.
- Adult learning theory, practice and methods
- Development and evaluation of adult learning programs
- Organizational learning
Lesley’s PhD in Educational Studies with a concentration in Human Development and Learning program explores the wide range of factors that influence human development and learning across one’s lifespan. Students must tackle the interdisciplinary program with an eye toward gaining useful insights into the changes that individuals undergo over their lifetime and their impact on their capacity for learning.
Students are encouraged not just to explore the current body of knowledge in the field but to create new knowledge through original and independent research projects. The emphasis is on the use of evidence in adding new knowledge and, thus, promoting the field of human development and learning.
Aside from online courses, the 45-credit program also requires students to participate in three nine-day, on-campus residences. The dissertation phase starts during the third year.
The exceptional ability for leadership and inspiration is at the heart of Wilmington’s EdD in Organizational Leadership, Learning and Innovation program. Students in the online interdisciplinary program learn practical strategies for maintaining excellent organizational operations by promoting a strong culture of organizational learning.
There are choices in concentrations, too:
- Workplace Learning and Talent Development
- Strategic Leadership
Students can also tailor their learning experiences through electives. Their professors are praised for being experts in their fields while also providing insights that students can use in their own workplaces. Students must also complete a 120-hour internship and a capstone project/applied research dissertation project.
The 54-credit program takes three years of full-time study.
This is a competency-based EdD in Organizational Leadership program, meaning students can complete the academic requirements of every course as soon as they can demonstrate mastery of the required competencies. Students take assessment tests for this purpose. But it’s also acceptable for students to spend more time on courses that are more challenging for them.
Aside from the Organizational Leadership concentration, students can also choose the concentrations in Adult Learning and Development, Higher Education Leadership, Teaching and Learning (K-12 Education), and the non-licensure Educational Leadership tracks.
There are 10 courses including the doctoral dissertation in the 90-quarter-hour program, which has a three-year time-to-completion although full-time students can earn the degree in two years.
The 48-credit EdD in Global Training and Development program can be completed in 40 months. There are 16 courses in the interdisciplinary specialization that enable students to apply their knowledge and skills in international organizations.
Students praise the weekly course starts, and there are no group assignments and scheduled lecture hours. Such flexibility is matched by the rigor and quality of the coursework under the guidance of faculty members with doctoral degrees.
Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership and Management with a Human Resource Development Concentration
Students in Drexel University’s EdD in Educational Leadership and Management with a Human Resource Development Concentration program prepare to teach professional development at the organizational level. This is among the best online programs not least because of its alignment with the standards set by the Carnegie Project on the Education Doctorate (CPED) Program.
The time-to-completion ranges from three to five years, and working professionals can choose between part-time and full-time matriculation. This is a 100% online program without in-person residency requirements, too.
Students learn as part of a cohort, meaning they progress through the program as a group and establish networking opportunities.
Admission to Graduation: What You Need to Know About Doctoral Programs in Training and Development
Every online program in training and development has its specific admission and graduation requirements – and it’s vital to read the fine print of these requirements before making your final decision.
Factors Determining Your Suitability
But here’s an all-important question: Are you a suitable candidate? You will likely thrive in one of these programs if and when you check these boxes, so to speak:
Career Advancement Aspirations
You want to take advantage of career advancement opportunities in the training and development field including human resources development, instructional design, and organizational leadership, among other related fields. You’re already in a position where you’re able to practice training and development in your organization but want to climb the career ladder even higher with the terminal degree.
Personal and Professional Passion
You possess a deep and strong passion for teaching, coaching and mentoring people in their personal and professional growth.
Commitment to Lifelong Learning
You have an abiding interest in organizational learning, organizational development, and/or organizational leadership as well as adult learning and other aspects of human resources development. You’re willing to learn new things and contribute new knowledge to the field, too.
Abiding Interest in Research
You’re keen on conducting educational research and/or organizational research in pursuit of adding to the body of knowledge and/or contributing to the best practices in training and development.
Sufficient Time and Willingness to Learn
You have the discipline and determination to earn the doctoral degree even in the face of academic, monetary and other challenges that come with balancing personal and professional obligations with advanced studies.
Check out the specific admission requirements for the doctoral program you’re interested in before making your decision. Some programs require GRE/GMAT scores while others don’t; some programs require completion of prerequisite courses before admission while others don’t.
The most common admission requirements, nonetheless, include:
- A master’s degree in human resource development, human resource management, adult learning, organizational leadership, sociology, psychology, education, public health, counseling, social work, or other disciplines related to the training and development field.
- Official transcripts of records with minimum GPA for undergraduate and/or graduate degrees.
- Letters of recommendation
- Professional resume
- Personal statement and/or letter of intent
Specializations or Concentrations
Not every training and development degree online program offers specializations or concentrations. Instead, most offer programs in the specific specialization.
Adult Learning and Development
Students learn about the theories, principles and practices of adult education for business organizations, schools, and nonprofit organizations.
Global Training and Development
Students develop advanced knowledge and skills that enable them to work in diverse cultures, languages and perspectives, a must in an increasingly globalized world.
Human Resources Development
Students acquire the knowledge and skills in training, coaching and motivating employees toward optimum job performance as well as their personal and professional development.
Students in organizational development programs aren’t just engaged in human resource development but also in the overall management of the entire organization.
Students in organizational leadership programs develop their knowledge and skills in change management, an interdisciplinary field that spans the social sciences.
Curriculum and Courses
Students in training and development degree programs tackle core, research and dissertation courses. However, the courses and their sequence, requirements, and descriptions differ.
Job Performance Management
The course explores the theories and applications of job performance management, such as employee engagement, performance feedback, and leadership development.
Ethics in Organizational Leadership
The course examines the ethical issues common in organizational leadership situations that students will strive to find solutions for.
Assessment Methods in Organizational Leadership
The course encourages students to understand the theories, principles and practices of objective assessment in organizational development and leadership.
Topics in Organizational Development and Leadership
The course covers topics on contemporary styles in organizational development and leadership including inclusion, diversity and equity.
The topic can be comprehensive in its depth and breadth and, thus, can be covered in a series of courses, such as theories and principles, research methodologies, and practical applications.
Organizational Learning and System Change
This course focuses on the change processes, the individual and organizational behaviors to change, and the leadership approaches to respond.
The course provides the advanced knowledge and skills to perform quantitative analysis for research purposes.
The course is an introduction to the advanced methods used in qualitative research including data and data sources, research questions, and the design and analysis process.
The course covers the research methodologies including the tools and techniques in the conduct of educational research and organizational research.
The series of courses covers the entire dissertation cycle from planning to presentation and publication.
Capstone and/or Dissertation Aspects
Many programs also require a capstone course and/or capstone project along with a doctoral dissertation. The capstone project in a training and development degree program demonstrates the student’s knowledge and skills in human resources development, among other areas of the field. The doctoral dissertation is an original independent research study intended to contribute to the body of knowledge in the field of training and development.
Most online training and development degree programs require the completion of at least 60 credits or its equivalent. Full-time students can earn the doctorate degree in 3-5 years while part-time students can take a longer period. Be mindful of the maximum time-to-completion stated upon admission, usually 7-8 years.
Online Learning Experiences
Online learning takes many forms including the ones described below.
Students attend online classes at set times and, thus, participate in live lectures and classroom discussions. There are individual and group assignments, weekly readings, and instructor-led discussions that contribute to productive sessions.
Students access their online courses on their own schedule but must submit individual and group assignments within a set deadline. Recorded lectures, reference materials, and assignments with immediate feedback are among the notable features of asynchronous learning.
Student Support Services
The best training and development degree programs provide students with exceptional student support services that improve their online learning experiences and academic success, even promoting their career development.
Students benefit from the relevant information provided by admissions specialists on matters regarding admissions, applications, costs and financial aid, among other matters relevant to prospective and current students.
Students will benefit from the guidance of academic advisors in choosing their specialization, mapping out their degree path, and maintaining steady progress.
Academic Support Services
Students can set SMART learning goals through academic advising services and can meet these goals through academic support services.
Financial Aid Advising
Students in online doctoral programs must look into their state and federal financial aid options, as well as institutional scholarships, grants and assistantships.
Students tackling online courses can run into issues and this is where the technical support/help desk comes in.
Students in online programs can access on-campus and online libraries, too, for their studies and research activities.
Personal Support Services
Students benefit from a wide range of personal support services, too, including mental health counseling, legal advice, and financial management advice.
Networking Events and Programs
Students, even working professionals, look forward to networking events and programs because these are rich in opportunities to make yourself known among fellow professionals and in professional organizations.
Students who are active-duty military personnel and veterans appreciate the military-specific student support services provided by many online programs. These include information on military benefits and transfer of credits.
Career Support Services
Students who take advantage of career support services can enjoy better career advancement opportunities.
These include job and career assessments and planning guides, access to searchable databases, job fairs and job boards, and interview preparation.
Alumni Support Services
These services provide alumni the opportunity to stay connected with their alma mater, join professional organizations, and even assist current students.
Depending on the training and development program, there may or may not be residency requirements for online students to meet. For programs with a residency requirement, the common in-person events include a welcome orientation, on-campus colloquium, and in-person dissertation defense and presentation.
Tuition and Financial Aid
The tuition cost for doctoral degrees in training and development programs varies but the average cost ranges between $96,800 and $98,900 for the entire attendance. But there are affordable online training and development programs, too, usually in public colleges and universities. Even in low-cost online doctorate programs, students must look into their financial aid options.
Federal Financial Aid
Regardless of your current financial situation, be sure to file the FAFSA. You may be eligible for grants and loans (e.g., direct unsubsidized loans and Grad PLUS loans).
Employer Tuition Reimbursement
Ask your employer about the possibility of being reimbursed for part or all of your doctoral degree tuition and related fees.
Institutional Scholarships and Grants
Ask the college or university about institutional scholarships and grants for doctoral students, too.
Graduate assistants can be provided with a monthly stipend, health insurance, and/or remission for tuition. There are three types – teaching, project, and research assistantships that online students can be qualified for.
Popular Career Paths
Graduates of training and development programs have plenty of career advancement opportunities to look forward to.
Chief Learning Officers
Among the duties of chief learning officers are overseeing organizational learning and development among managers and employers. Their skills include leadership development, change management, and learning technologies.
Training and Development Specialists
As a training and development specialist, your primary duties are in human resource management including planning, implementing and evaluating training programs that improve employee job performance.
Training and Development Managers
As a training and development manager, you are part of an organization charged with human resource development. Your duties include overseeing training programs for managers and employees, creating training and development budgets, and teaching training methods.
Postsecondary Education Administrators
College and university deans, provosts and presidents are in charge of overseeing the wide range of academic programs, student services, and faculty research programs in their institutions.
Professors teach students a wide range of subjects, conduct research and publish their works including books and scholarly materials.
Human Resources Development Specialists
These training and development professionals are in charge of the recruitment, screening and interviewing, and placement of newly hired employees and the compensation, training and relations of existing employees.
Cognitive Performance Coaches
Among their duties are identifying the gaps between the jobs and the employees that perform them, and then designing and implementing appropriate training programs.
Human Capital Analysts
Their duties include the development and analysis of the programs, policies and procedures that support an organization’s human capital initiatives.
Graduates of online PhD programs are more likely to become education researchers who want to make meaningful contributions to the field of education and organizational learning.
By being in charge of instructional design, instructional coordinators ensure that the curriculum and instructional standards of schools are up to standards.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the main difference between PhD and EdD in Training and Development degrees?
Online PhD programs have a more research-centric focus while EdD in training and development programs have a more action-based approach. If you want a career in academia and think tanks, a PhD degree is a great choice; for practical applications, go for an EdD degree.
Will a doctoral degree in training and development be worth it?
Yes, and every training and development professional will attest to it! With an 8% job growth (2022-2032) and occupations with excellent pay, your return on investment will be high.
What’s next after earning your doctorate degree in training and development?
Many online PhD programs offer their graduates career options, such as pursuing postdoctoral fellowships in addition to occupations in the public or private sector. Whatever your career path as a training and development professional, you will find that a doctorate degree can be your golden ticket.
- Doctorate in training and development programs are the training grounds for the best in the field and the ticket for its students to career advancement opportunities.
- As a training and development specialist, you must possess hard and soft skills in educational research and/or organizational research, human resource development, and adult learning.
- Earning a doctoral degree in training and development isn’t a walk in the park but the rewards are excellent.