5 Best Online Ph.D. in Human Services Programs

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Updated: March 13, 2024, Reading time: 15 minutes

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One of the biggest reasons people choose to earn their Ph.D. in human services online is flexibility. Current human and social services professionals ought to be busy, almost having no time to fit education alongside their responsibilities.

However, because of their passion for helping people and dedication to the field, most professionals want to enroll in an advanced human services degree program to obtain more knowledge to help the community better. 

By earning an online human services degree, doctoral students can support their clients and the community while discovering new ways to make a difference.

An online doctor of human services program delivers coursework digitally and allows students to access them anytime and anywhere. Coursework for an online doctoral program, however, may vary. 

Quick audio summary:


Learning more effective ways to assist individuals is ultimately the goal of completing a Ph.D. in human services. Although there are many different Ph.D. programs in human services, they all typically share the same key characteristics — equipping doctoral students with the abilities necessary to run human services organizations. Some doctoral programs, however, prepare students from a broader industry viewpoint.


Ph.D. programs in Human Services feature concentrations on the academic aspect of human services, which can entail participating in studies looking for the most efficient ways to assist individuals and communities. Whatever your objectives are in the human services field, obtaining an online Ph.D. can be the way to get there.

We picked the best features to consider when choosing a Ph.D. in Human Services program:

Learn more on how the Online Ph.D. in Human Services ranking process works! Read our Methodology.

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 5 Best Online Ph.D. in Human Services Programs

The University of Arizona Global Campus

The University of Arizona Global Campus

Online Ph.D. in Human Services

The University of Arizona’s Global Campus is an online school that offers one of the very few Ph.D. degrees in Human Services. This online doctoral program is designed to provide students with the advanced human services research and scholarly skills necessary to advance their knowledge and careers with the help of their world-renowned faculty. Online students will receive full guidance in completing coursework, including eleven core courses, one specialization, one elective research course, and a capstone seminar. 

Applicants for the online human services doctorate must have a master’s degree with an average GPA minimum of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale from an accredited institution. Additionally, prospective online students must meet the school’s technical requirements. Students can transfer credits of up to 30 graduate-level semesters from their previous accredited education. 

This DHS is intended to expand students’ knowledge as human services professionals in their chosen area of concentration. After earning the doctoral degree through the Standard Program of Study, graduates will be qualified to analyze and give opinions about social justice issues in human services organizations and design research methods for the field.

Additionally, human services graduates can create a plan based on best practices to deal with the complexity of the human services systems.

Walden University

Walden University

Online Ph.D. in Human Services

Walden University’s online Ph.D. in Human Services is a 54 credit hours degree that includes doctoral writing assessment, foundation course, core courses, elective courses, research courses, doctoral dissertation, advanced program evaluation, and four residency requirements.

This online doctoral program has a non-licensure curriculum that aims to provide students with a flexible skill set that will help them succeed and is in accordance with CSHSE criteria. Students focus on testing new theories, challenging old ones, and building a foundation for new information to drive human service delivery and practice advancement.

Interested applicants with a master’s degree from accredited institutions are preferred. However, those yet to earn their master’s degree can enroll in the program and earn one along the way. Students will be qualified for an MS in Human Services or a Master of Philosophy (MPhil) after completing the master’s degree program requirements and before completing their dissertation or doctoral study.

One of the key features of Walden University is its hands-on and personalized curriculum. The university provides various online resources, such as the Doctoral Degree Coach, that aid students in getting ready and receiving support when needed so they can complete the increasingly challenging tasks of doctoral work.

Additionally, the school’s faculty will require doctoral students to create shared access to dashboards, allowing the faculty to monitor a student’s goals and timelines closely. 

Albizu University

Albizu University

Online Doctor of Philosophy in Human Services

Albizu University in Miami offers an online Ph.D. in Human Services that helps students explore cutting-edge research findings and obtain a firm foundation in leadership and nonprofit organization administration to impact current laws and regulations regulating the human services industry.

The program has 64 credit hours, which most students complete in four years, and requires students to submit an article to be published in a scientific journal before graduation.

Applicants must hold a bachelor’s and master’s degree in fields related to human services, such as education, social work, sociology, mental health administration, counseling, and public health, among others. Prospective students must have a minimum of a 3.0 GPA on a 4.0 scale on their master’s degree transcript. 

The faculty of the online doctoral program in human services at Albizu University are doctorate holders who teach on-campus courses. Human services graduates will have both theoretical and practical experiences during their doctoral journey to become proficient in nonprofit organizations and human resource management, conflict resolution, and executive leadership. 

Concordia University Chicago

Concordia University Chicago

Online Ph.D. in Leadership, Health & Human Performance

A busy human services professional can enroll in the 100% online Ph.D. in Leadership, Health, and Human Performance at Concordia University Chicago. This online doctoral program is a 66 to 67-credit-hour program that aims to develop outstanding scholars and researchers who produce and disseminate new knowledge about problems arising in physical activity, health promotion, and human performance.

Upon completion, graduates can break down barriers and promote collaboration and connectivity throughout departments and even organizations as empowered human services executives.

If you’re interested in applying to this online human services degree program, you must have a master’s degree from an accredited institution in fields related to health science and exercise science. Prospective online students can transfer credit hours to lessen the doctoral program’s coursework and cost. 

A program graduate will have sufficient knowledge to work as a community health educator and aid in expanding access to education and health services. Students in the program will be trained and equipped with the skills necessary to undertake research and enlighten community members to avoid health problems and promote well-being. Other job options for this degree include biomechanics specialist and research scientist. 

University of Colorado Denver

University of Colorado Denver

Doctor of Philosophy in Education & Human Development

The University of Colorado at Denver’s online Ph.D. in Education and Human Development is a 75-credit multi-disciplinary program designed to prepare students for what it takes to become a human services professional in research, assessment, and evaluation.

Students must complete foundation courses/experiences, research methods, concentration, and dissertations. This program combines an intense research-based course of study with a topic area specialization to prepare doctoral students for academic positions in higher education institutions or research-based organizations. 

Applicants must have master’s degrees in related fields from accredited institutions and a GPA of at least 3.0. Successful candidates will be matched with a faculty mentor who will include the student in professional activities such as service, development, research, and others.

Online students can engage in teaching and research activities during the doctoral program. Additionally, students can take advantage of opportunities to present, write, and publish with their professors by creating their dossier. 

Online Ph.D. in Human Services Common Courses

The knowledge you could obtain in your lectures is the main reason you might desire to pursue an online Ph.D. in human services. Depending on the school, human services specialization, and curriculum, these and other courses may differ. Individual courses may also differ in their methodology and substance. 

Here are the most common doctoral courses in human services you might encounter.

Research Theory & Design

Human services workers with doctorates are most likely to conduct significant research and impact numerous programs’ success and the entire human services sector. This course gives students an overview of scientific inquiry, examples of various research designs, a discussion of data management techniques, and an introduction to research theories.

Classes may examine many approaches to study design, execution, and analysis. Even ethical issues could come up in doctoral classes.

Quantitative Reasoning and Analysis

Understanding and utilizing data is crucial to effective human services administration and nonprofit management. Quantitative reasoning and analysis investigate how we can take research data, comprehend it, and transform it into knowledge that can be used.

Leadership and Personnel Management

Human services experts might guide various professionals to success in human services or nonprofit organizations. Because of this, online programs equip students with the leadership skills necessary to keep a team motivated.

Grant Writing

Finding a way to finance your study is a significant leadership duty in the human services sector. Because of this, some online programs in human services cover and put grant writing to use. The identification of potential financing sources may be covered in courses. 

Additionally, they might practice creating a budget, determining needs, and creating a solid grant submission.

Program Evaluation

Human services workers can be requested to examine programs and offer suggestions for improvement in their capacity as an expert. Human services online program evaluation courses may cover various program effectiveness evaluation techniques. They could also practice making evaluation strategies and guaranteeing the validity of the evaluations.

Most Common Human Services Doctoral Specializations

Each human services worker has different goals and experiences. Most candidates for doctoral degrees decide on a specialization closely related to their interests and experiences. Fortunately, human services doctoral programs offer various specializations — each student can find something for them. 

Each human services program may offer a different set of alternatives. These specializations frequently correspond to specific jobs or categories of human services organizations.

Here are a few examples of the concentrations you might find in various Ph.D. programs in human services:

Community Development & Leadership

Individual needs are a major focus of many human services professionals. However, some take a more comprehensive approach and work to better the community. 

This concentration focuses on achieving community development and leadership and could involve researching topics like infrastructure, economic growth, and social transformation. The course may also cover social psychology, politics, project management, and other subjects.

Criminal Justice

Law enforcement, rehabilitation, and even initiatives to deter criminal activity could fall under this category.

This concentration studies the overall criminal justice system, including reasons why people use it in the first place. This human services concentration could include the social and economic factors contributing to criminal behavior, how the law is applied, and the motivations behind repetition. 

Disaster Relief & Crisis Intervention

This concentration takes a close look at how a neighborhood handles a crisis. This concentration focuses on organizational tactics to guarantee effective emergency services. This concentration also considers both individual and family-level intervention techniques and the psychology of how individuals and groups react to crises.

Family Studies

A Family Studies concentration is ideal for students seeking knowledge of support for actual families in their neighborhood. Ph.D. programs may examine the requirements of various families of all types and sizes. 

Courses may touch on treatment and intervention. They might also go over how to modify various strategies to fit the requirements of various family types.


This human service specialization studies how a community handles the elderly, including what programs are offered. The sociological component of aging may be the main topic of several programs. Others may concentrate more on running initiatives, businesses, and services that assist the elderly daily.

Mental Health

These programs examine the administrative side of providing mental health treatment. Ph.D. in human services programs cover a variety of mental health issues as well as available treatments. Additionally, they examine services that can be used to aid with those problems. 

This human services concentration also includes the difficulties of running mental health initiatives. They also talk about how to get over them and assist as many people as possible.

Nonprofit Administration

Human services and nonprofit management programs examine how to lead successfully in various environments. This might entail being knowledgeable about law and policy. Course topics could include personnel management, program funding, or even program development from scratch.

Social Policy

Want to apply your legal knowledge to benefit your neighborhood? A Ph.D. in human services focusing on social policy might be appropriate.

Students in this concentration will study how legislation influences society and how societal values affect the law. Additionally, it might discuss how you could apply that knowledge to make organizational decisions or shape policy.

Best Online PhD in Human Services - fact

Online Doctorate in Human Services Careers

Human service positions are increasingly in demand due to the rise in low-income households. Here are three of the top careers for a Ph.D. in human services careers.

Postsecondary Teachers

Several Ph.D. graduates become professors in colleges and universities. These professionals prepare the next round of human service workers. Teaching educational theory and helpful teaching methods to students is one of their primary responsibilities. 

According to BLS, the field of postsecondary teachers is expected to grow 8% from 2021-2031

Researcher for for-profit, nonprofit, or government agencies

Through evaluation and study, human service researchers aim to assist individuals, groups, and organizations in improving the caliber of human services initiatives and close the gap between what we can alter and what we can do. These professionals oversee programs that ensure their finger is on the pulse of their data for better goal attainment, program improvement, needs assessment, and outcome documentation.

More importantly, human service researchers teach others how to use knowledge to advance the welfare of those living in our communities.

According to BLS, this field is expected to grow 7% from 2022-2032. 

Human Service or Community Service Director / Social and Community Service Managers

These professionals are tasked to plan, assign and direct a human service program or project activities. They are also responsible for developing work plans, allocating resources, and developing schedules to accomplish program goals. Other job duties include forecasting personnel and funding requirements and developing new programs/projects to respond to human service needs.

According to BLS, Social and Community Service Managers will grow 9% from 2022-2032.

What characteristics make a successful Human Services Professional?

Frequently Asked Questions

What characteristics make a successful Human Services Professional?

A human service career is one of the most challenging careers. Human service employees strive to raise the standard of living in the neighborhood. They emphasize preventing and resolving present problems and offering support to those who require individual help. 

To become a successful human service professional, you should have excellent attention to detail, strong interpersonal abilities, emotional and mental stamina, leadership and research skills, and a passion for helping others have better lives.

Where do Human Services Professionals work?

Aspiring human services workers can find work at numerous organizations in the three primary sectors: public, private, and nonprofit. There are many different types of organizations present in each of these industries.

Human services employees have many prospective employers, including hospitals, governmental departments, private practice mental health firms, schools, and local nonprofits.

Do online Ph.D. programs in Human Services offer financial aid?

Ph.D. programs can be expensive. The good news is that candidates seeking doctoral degrees online have access to financial aid. As long as they can complete the degree program successfully, many choices don’t demand repayment from the student.

Online students can qualify for federal financial aid upon completion of the FAFSA.

What are the differences between a Doctor of Philosophy in Human Services and a Doctor of Human Services?

Ph.D. in human services trains students to create original and independent research, while DHS prepares students to use current research to address practical, professional issues in the human services field. A Ph.D. in human services may be worth considering if you are currently employed in the human services field and want to advance.

What educational background do most students obtaining a degree in Human Services have?

Professionals with various educational backgrounds would find the human services field appealing because of its diversity. A Ph.D. in human services might appeal to students with backgrounds in fields related to taking care of the community, such as psychology, social work, counseling, sociology, criminology, public health, and nonprofit management.

Key Takeaways

Online Ph.D. in Human Services programs train students to create original research to determine trends and find solutions for crises-facing communities.

Depending on specialization and program curriculum, PhDs in human services include topics that involve research methods, grant writing, and courses that boost a student’s analytical and leadership skills.

The Human Services industry is one of America’s fastest-growing industries. However, it’s also one of the most challenging career paths.

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