10 Best Online PhD in Human Resources

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Updated: February 29, 2024, Reading time: 21 minutes

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The backbone of every business and organization is the workforce that helps realize its goals. At the core of a company’s success lies the Human Resources management and staff and how they maximize the human capital.

They are critical in ensuring that businesses are hiring the right employees for the right positions. It is also part of their jobs to look out for employees’ well-being by making them feel safe, valued and supported.

Best Online PhD in Human Resources - fact

The evolving landscape of human resource management, however, requires that the Human Resources departments adapt to the changes!

Currently, human resources specialists have an annual median pay of $64,240. If they want to grow in their chosen career, they can aim for the position of human resources manager. This will give them an annual median pay of $130,000. A doctorate in human resources can also open a wealth of opportunities in other specializations and positions, such as getting a post as a university professor.


For working HR professionals, completing their Ph.D. in human resources online is possible. This offers them a flexible and convenient learning setup, allowing them to juggle their responsibilities at home and work along with their pursuit of advanced education. Online degree programs in human resources follow the same curriculum taught by the same faculty as their on-campus counterparts.

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Professionals in the field of human resources may want to consider earning a doctorate degree that will enhance their credentials, equip them with advanced knowledge and skills in managing human capital, improve their chances of promotion, and qualify for better compensation.

We rounded up the best online Ph.D. in Human Resources based on these parameters that make each of the programs stand out:

Find out more about our ranking process. Visit our Methodology page.

Grad School Center 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.

The Advantages and Disadvantages of Online Programs

There are a number of advantages to enrolling in degree programs, but we should not forget to mention what many may see as one of their major drawbacks, which is the lack of face-to-face interaction.

In traditional on-campus classes, students are together with their peers in their cohort and their instructor. The quality of interaction and communication that comes from this learning environment is still unmatched by the current technologies used in online degrees.

Some online degrees also follow a self-paced model. While universities often offer coaching and guidance services for their online students, some may find self-paced learning challenging, as they have to practice time management on their own. With the right mindset, though, self-paced online learning can become a rewarding experience.

The main advantage of online education, especially with doctoral degree programs, is their flexibility, as they are designed to fit into the prior commitments of their students, who are often working professionals. While students have to make time for their coursework, online doctorate degree programs have coursework that students can pick up at their most convenient times.

Online learning also cuts down on some costs, such as having to regularly travel to campus in the case of on-campus degree programs or in some cases, moving into a new city where a certain university is based. Online programs can conceivably be accessed anywhere by the student, and though some online programs still have necessary on-campus/in-person components, these are minimal.

Lastly, many still think of online degrees as being of less quality, but this is becoming less and less the case, especially if degrees are offered by reputable universities and especially if they are accredited. Online degrees tend to be held to the same standards for quality education as traditional on-campus degree programs, are taught by the same faculty, and have the same coursework and curriculum design.

Some Common Courses in Doctorate in Human Resources Online Programs

Understandably, not all degrees are designed the same. Universities can give emphasis to certain aspects, skillsets, and emphasis areas, and this is reflected in their curriculum design for a degree program.

These programs also have stated learning outcomes, and the curriculums fit these goals. Members of a university’s faculty will also have their own field/s expertise, which they can also include in the program’s curriculum.

Despite these differences, human resources online programs more or less have parallel goals and revolve around the same thematic areas, so they will have courses that, while they may differ slightly in name, will contain the same topics and content. Let’s look at some of these.

Management Theories

With the exception of a few education-related degree programs, most doctorates in human resources degree programs are primarily business degrees or are offered as HR emphasis areas for Business Management/Business Administration doctorate degrees. Human resource degree programs typically include a course/courses on management theories that underpin human resource practice as part of their set of fundamental/core courses.

Human Resource Theory and Practice Foundations

As a discipline, Human Resource development also has its own fundamentals and theoretical bases, and these are covered in most degree programs, also as part of the set of fundamental courses.

Qualitative or Quantitative Research Techniques

A lot of human resources doctoral degree programs are offered as Ph.D. programs that have a dissertation as their final requirement, which has a strong emphasis on scholarly research that results in new knowledge. Even for programs that have a choice of a doctoral capstone project instead of a dissertation, these degree programs involve a significant amount of research work. These degree programs include courses on research techniques, sometimes dedicating separate courses for research design.

Some degree programs also offer separate courses on qualitative and quantitative research techniques, as these two lines of inquiry have their own unique uses and have different methodologies.

Recruitment & Retention

Part of normal human resource practice involves attracting and recruiting talent and ensuring their retention. This is a crucial specialized skill set that is often taught separately as its own course.

Ethics & Leadership

True to any aspect of business practice, and in keeping with the overall theme of business-related degree programs, human resource degree programs often have courses dedicated to business ethics, as well as effective leadership and, most especially, practices that are based on an ethical human resource development process.

Workforce Development

Part of human resource practice involves constantly developing one’s workforce, as it directly translates to businesses having a competitive edge. Also true with human resource development programs that are based on the field of education rather than business management, courses are dedicated to the methods and practices surrounding capacity building.

Organizational Learning

The process of gaining experience and knowledge is not just for individuals. The learning process of organizations and collectives is itself a separate topic that has its own dynamics and realities. Some human resources online programs offer courses on this process as well, in order for human resources managers and leaders to gain a better understanding of it.

Change Management

Change constantly accompanies organizations and businesses, whether in terms of keeping up with their operational landscape to keep up or for human resource leaders’ better understanding of the process of change and how to better implement it within organizations.

Common Specializations for Doctorate in Human Resources

Many Ph.D. programs in human resources offer different specializations that let online students customize their learning tracks and align their education with their career goals. From compensation management to human resource development programs, online students have a wealth of options.

Choosing the right specialization will allow prospective students to learn specific skills and expertise that potential employers prefer, which gives them a greater chance to stand out from the competition.

Here are some specializations commonly offered by Ph.D. programs in human resources to help one weigh their options.


One of the primary responsibilities of human resource professionals is seeking out talent to fill a position in the organization. The recruiting specialization focuses on equipping one with skills that help them source quality job seekers, create and update current job descriptions, and make recommendations to the human resources department.

Organizational Leadership

In this specialization, students will learn how to be strategic in helping an organization reach its goals. They can expect to tackle the best practices to become effective human resource leaders. This means they will cover some of the evolving human resources concepts, including workplace diversity and inclusion, strategic leadership, corporate social responsibility, and globalization.

Financial Management

The HR department often has a budget that they need to see to. This specialization ensures that a human resource professional is capable of planning the budget and making recommendations to the higher management with regard to the expansion or reduction of the budget depending on the needs of the department and company.

It is also part of the curriculum to ensure financial managers in the human resources field know how to compensate employees fairly while staying within the budget guidelines and allocating resources for professional development.

Training and Development

It is integral for employees to constantly learn and better themselves, which can also greatly benefit the organization they belong to. The training and development specialization ensures that an HR professional is knowledgeable of training methodologies that will help them train the new hires and provide ongoing education and professional development to existing employees.

This specialization can lead to the position of training and development manager. Some of the courses in this specialization may include professional orientation, human relations, instructional systems design, and many more.

Compensation and Benefits

This specialization equips students with the necessary skills and knowledge to determine the right compensation and benefits for specific company positions. They will be taught how to design company compensation and benefits programs, evaluate current compensation plans, and inform employees about changes in compensation and benefits.

Most Rewarding Human Resources Careers for Ph.D. Graduates

Many doctorates in human resources online programs lead to rewarding and lucrative job positions in the field. Prospective students who want insight into the possible career paths after earning their online doctorate degree may want to consider the following options:

Human Resource Consultant

Often called in by an organization to bring in some organizational changes, an HR consultant provides some needed services in terms of formulating incentives and rewards programs for employees, mergers and acquisitions, retirement plans, and employee benefits.

They assist the HR department and the upper management in assessing the company’s current status and how they can best meet their goals. The beauty of this career path is the flexibility it affords, allowing one to work when and where they prefer and how much they should be compensated.

Human Resource Manager

The obvious choice for many graduates of online Ph.D. in human resources, the position of a human resource manager is important in every successful organization. They are expected to be experts and well-trained in overseeing the organization and its workforce.

They often work with the HR staff to coordinate activities, develop benefits programs, interview potential employees, and deal with labor disputes. They also perform administrative duties.

Human Resource Executive

In a position that is also referred to as the Vice President of HR, human resource executives are tasked with developing a good human resource strategy for the organization. Their job involves ensuring a seamless strategy is in place in terms of policies, systems, and overall goals of the company. They make sure that the important aspects of the human resource department are seen through, including recruiting and training employees.

University Professor

The world of the academe is also open to Ph.D. graduates in the human resources field. As a university professor, one is expected to develop lesson plans and teach students. They will also need to evaluate the progress of their students. Most professors in human resources online programs have specializations. They may focus on compensation, recruitment, or training and development.

Top 10 Best Online Doctorate in Human Resources

Regent University

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Ph.D. in Organizational Leadership – Human Resource Development

Aiming to prepare students to influence organizations globally, the Ph.D. in Organizational Leadership with a Human Resource Development concentration is an ideal choice for human resources professionals who want to grow in their current career path. This degree program provides them with knowledge and skills in the dynamics that help the growth of an organization’s human resources department.

This research-based program requires the completion of 60 credit hours and can be completed fully online. Students are expected to gain a better understanding of diverse perspectives and help them navigate global workforce issues while considering diverse demographics and cultural differences. They must be able to create strategic initiatives that incorporate human resource management’s multidisciplinary aspects.

The Regent University online Ph.D. in Organizational Leadership requires students to complete core courses in its curriculum, such as Exegetical Research Methods, Quantitative Analysis Methods, Advanced Analysis, Organizational Behavior, and Organization Theory & Design, among others.

University of Texas at Tyler

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Ph.D. in Human Resource Development

The University of Texas at Tyler offers an online Ph.D. program in Human Resource Development to help students advance their profession and attain key roles in government, industry, and even higher education. This specialization will help students build a strategic management perspective in organizational development and change.

The program is designed in a hybrid learning format. While the majority of the coursework can be completed online, students are required to meet for on-site classes five times every semester. The program culminates into a dissertation based on original research that contributes to the body of Human Resource Development knowledge. This program can be completed in as little as two years.

For admission into the program, prospective students must have a master’s degree in HRD or a related field from an institution with regional accreditation. They must also comply with the 3.0 GPA on all previous coursework. Other requirements include letters of recommendation, resumes, admission essays, and test scores.

Bellevue University

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Ph.D. in Human Capital Management

Bellevue University has a Ph.D. in Human Capital Management on offer for students who want to solidify their authority as a leader in the field. They will be able to gain knowledge and practical skills that can influence the culture and leadership of an organization in relation to their goals, along with the ability to assess human capital effectiveness.

The human capital management Bellevue program allows students to hone their quantitative and qualitative research skills, which is integral in affecting key stakeholders and defending their stance as thought leaders in human capital management.

In this Ph.D. in human capital management program at Bellevue University, students will move through four curriculum modules, each designed to build upon the last. They will develop relevant career skills that are readily applicable in the workplace.

National University

Ph.D. in Human Resource Management

The Ph.D. in Human Resource Management offered at National University is a research-based program designed for modern HR professionals who seek to grow in the field. They are helped to prepare for leadership roles in complex environments through a well-rounded human resource education.

In this program, students will gain a deeper understanding of human resource theories and practices. They will also develop their critical thinking and research skills in the process. Some of the subjects they will explore include extrinsic and intrinsic compensation concepts, improving organizational effectiveness, and motivating diverse workforces.

Plus, students will be able to earn the degree completely online. Students are not required to submit GMAT/GRE test scores either.

Sullivan University

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Ph.D. in Management – Human Resource Leadership concentration

At Sullivan University, students may choose to pursue a Ph.D. in Management with a Human Resource Leadership concentration. This program helps students develop their research and application skills that are integral in many leadership roles within the field of business and human resources.

Taught by experienced faculty, the program features a curriculum that maximizes students’ potential as a leader within their organization. They can choose to specialize in Human Resource Leadership, which can enhance their career credibility in the field.

Other specializations include Strategic Management, Conflict Management, and Information Technology Management.

Capella University

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Ph.D. in Business Management, Human Resource Management

Capella University’s online Ph.D. in Business Management degree program with an emphasis on Human Resource Management prepares students for leadership roles in a diverse set of business settings and teaches them skillsets for problem-solving, evaluating technology trends, and human capital development and empowerment. The curriculum also emphasizes ethics, research, and practice, as well as focusing on diverse perspectives and emerging trends.

This doctoral program contains 75 credit hours and is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP). As a Ph.D. program, this program concludes with a dissertation, and students can transfer in a maximum of 12 credits upon enrolment.

Old Dominion University

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Ph.D. in Education, Occupational and Technical Studies: Human Resource – Training

Old Dominion University offers a Ph.D. program on Education – Occupational and Technical Studies Concentration, with an Emphasis on Human Resources – Training.

As a doctoral degree in education, this program is designed to equip students with the skillsets and expertise in designing, delivering, and continually assessing the training and instruction of organizations, crucial in making sure they keep their competitive edge in their industry.

Graduates of the program can potentially occupy careers related to human resource training and instructional design, as well as leadership/administrative and teaching roles.

This doctoral program contains a minimum of 60 credit hours and contains core courses in research and occupational and technical studies, on top of electives and emphasis courses on human resource training. Being a Ph.D., this program ends with the completion of a dissertation. The program is delivered online. However, there are two 2-week on-campus appearances that are required.

Walden University

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Ph.D. in Management, Human Resource Management Online

Walden University’s Ph.D. in Management, Human Resource Management is an ABCSP—accredited degree offered online, containing a minimum of 64 credit hours, with the option of students transferring in up to 42 credit hours. As a Management degree, students adopt an interdisciplinary approach to management, taking a look at how it influences the development of individuals and society.

Students get to conduct original research on a specific area of interest regarding management research problems, with interest areas that may include individual and team behavior, strategic human capital management, collaboration and performance, labor relations, and ethics and regulation. Being a Ph.D. program, this degree concludes with the completion of a dissertation.

Colorado State University

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Ph.D. in Organizational Learning, Performance, and Change

Colorado State University offers a Doctor of Philosophy in Education and Human Resource Studies with a specialization in Organizational Learning, Performance, and Change.

It is a program that helps students develop a deeper understanding of workplace dynamics and develops their research and practical expertise, as well as their ability to develop long-lasting solutions to management and human capital development issues. The program also aims to develop their skills in improving organizational effectiveness, as well as their decision-making and analytical skillsets.

This Colorado State University degree program contains 60 credit hours and is delivered in a hybrid format, with a mixture of online coursework and in-person classes (bi-weekly Saturday meetings), and is ideal for working executives, as well as researchers and academics.

The curriculum is grounded on the theories of change management and organizational development and strategies and uses a combination of sociological, psychological, economic, and systems approaches to performance improvement.

University of Arkansas

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EdD in Human Resource and Workforce Development Education

The Doctor of Education in Human Resource and Workforce Development Education degree program offered by the University of Arkansas is ideal for students who have a background in one or all of the following fields of study: Psychology, Organizational Behavior, Occupational Counseling, Skill Testing and Evaluation, Program Design, and Organizational Development. Being one of the country’s top public research universities, this degree program consistently ranks high among similar online programs.

The online Doctorate in Human Resource and Workforce program has a total of 96 credit hours, its coursework is delivered 100% online, and prospective students are required to have GRE scores to be considered for admission. Students have seven years to complete their degree, which ends with the completion of a dissertation.

Is a Ph.D. in Human Resources worth it?

Frequently Asked Questions

Is a Ph.D. in Human Resources worth it?

Interested students who want to improve their career prospects and get better compensation will want to pursue a Ph.D. in human resources program.

This doctorate degree can help them further develop their skills through research and dissertations, ensuring they have the capabilities and expertise preferred by successful companies. The courses within the Ph.D. in human resources curriculum prepare students for key leadership positions in the field. Most of these will be focused on methodology, research design, business ethics, innovation, and more.

Through an online doctor of human resources program, they will be able to enhance their professional credentials and grow their career.

What are the admission requirements to qualify for Ph.D. in Human Resources programs?

To get admitted into the program, students must be qualified by meeting the requirements set by the university or college of their choice. This means that the qualifications may vary depending on where one chooses to apply. However, there are certain general requirements that are more or less the same in every admission process. This includes the following:

What’s the timeline for completing a Doctorate in Human Resources?

Just like the admission requirements, the time it takes to earn a doctoral degree in human resources may vary from university to university. Some may be able to complete the online Ph.D. program in two to four years. Full-time students may finish it faster than those who are enrolled part-time.

The length of time they devote to their Ph.D. degree may also be impacted by policies like transfer credits and accelerated options. Most online Ph.D. in human resources allow students to complete the program at their own pace, especially since most of the online students are also working professionals.

Will my diploma say “online” on it?

Universities do not discriminate between their learning methods, especially for their degree programs that have on-campus and online equivalents.

With the exception of degrees earned in schools & universities that are known for being primarily online, diplomas tend not to indicate in their diplomas whether a degree was earned online or on-campus, and they often advertise this fact to prospective students. As said before, these two-degree paths follow the same curriculum design and are taught by the same faculty.

How much do online Doctorate in Human Resources programs cost?

Universities will have variance between them in terms of the total cost, as they tend to include other costs on top of the cost of tuition itself, such as costs that cover the operations of their online education facilities. Some states also have more expensive costs of living and education, and universities based in them will have total education costs that reflect this.

Nevertheless, a good starting point to get a base estimate of total costs is to take the number of credit hours multiplied by the cost per credit hour. Doctorate in human resources programs hovers at a little more or less than $1000 per credit hour, with some programs costing a bit less per credit hour.

As a whole, though, it is best to consult with the universities directly with regard to total education costs, as they will help you find ways to best finance your degree, and they offer ways to help reduce your costs, like scholarships and grants, aside from federal financial aid. Some universities also offer discounts to some special sectors, such as active duty and veteran members of the armed forces.

Key Takeaways

A doctorate degree in Human Resources equips students with advanced skillsets that help them more effectively manage, develop, capacitate, and bring out the full potential of the human capital in their respective workplaces and industries.

While Human Resources degree programs are primarily business degrees, there are some non-business degree programs that cater to the same goals and fit the same overall content theme but from a different approach and professional discipline, like Education.

Online learning might be challenging for some, and it still cannot replicate the much-loved learning environment that comes from in-person classes, but it offers a number of key advantages that suit working professionals, who are often the students of online Ph.D. programs.

We’re certain of one thing—your search for more information on picking the best graduate degree or school landed you here. Let our experts help guide your through the decision making process with thoughtful content written by experts.