PhD Human Resources Programs

While earning a PhD in human resources management degree, you could analyzes the key concepts, theories, and current research of effective organizational behavior, onboarding, and compensation and benefits. Many doctorate in human resources programs look to develop critical analysis and leadership skills so that you may contribute your own findings to the field of HRM. Plus, you could choose from three different learning formats to earn your PhD Human Resources degree: (1) online, (2) on-campus, and (3) hybrid, which is a combination of both.

How to earn a phd in human resources management

Did You Know?

New hires that go through a structured on-boarding program are 58% more likely to be with the company after three years.

PhD in Human Resources Management: Basics

PhD Human Resources programs focus on teaching how employment relationships affect organizations, workers, and society. Students engage in multidisciplinary analyses of human resources management (HRM) and labor relations issues.

Usually, this is through courses heavily focused on research, critical analysis, and developing leadership skills in industrial relations and HR. This type of study allows PhD in Human Resources programs to prepare students to apply current theory to manage all aspects of the employee relationship, and add their own contributions to the field .

Admissions Requirements for PhD Human Resources Programs

PhD in Human Resources degrees are a terminal degree in the field, or the highest degree you can earn. For this reason, Doctorate in Human Resources programs may have stricter admissions requirements than other degree levels.

For instance, admissions requirements for PhD in Human Resources Management programs may include the following.

  • Masters Degree
  • Transcripts from Graduate and Undergraduate Programs
  • CV or Resume
  • Letters of Recommendation
  • Interview
  • Writing Sample  

Remember, every HRM school has different requirements and some may have more stringent rules for admission. For instance, some schools ask that you take the GRE or GMAT exams, while other schools don’t. Check with a few options to find the perfect match for you.

PhD in Human Resources Degree Requirements

While pursuing your Doctorate in Human Resources degree, many programs ask that you complete a number of core courses. Normally, these courses focus on specific components of human resources management and analyze modern issues in the field. They also may take a historical perspective of strategies that have worked in the past.

Upon completing all required courses, most PhD in Human Resources Management programs require students to propose, write, present, and defend a dissertation to a board of faculty members. Additional graduation requirements may include:

  • Comprehensive exam
  • 3.0 GPA
  • Annual review

When it comes to graduation requirements, every school has its own design. Therefore, it's best to check with a few Human Resources PhD programs to find the specific requirements of each.

How Long Does It Take to Earn a PhD in Human Resources Management Degree?

Most full-time students earn their PhD in Human Resources degree in four to five years. This includes completing all required courses, defending a dissertation, and fulfilling any other requirements that a school may offer. While PhD Human Resources programs are typicaly designed for full-time students, there are some schools that offer part-time options. However, it wil likely take longer for part-time students to earn their PhD.

However, every school is different and has different requirements. For instance, some schools ask that students teach a course while researching your dissertation. Others may start students on their dissertation work right way. Therefore, some programs may take more or less time to complete.

Different PhD in Human Resources Program Formats

While performing research on various human resources doctorate programs, you will normally find three different learning formats to earn your degree. Each of the following formats appeal to different students and learning styles, and provide various benefits.

  1. PhD in Human Resources Online Programs
  2. On-Campus PhD in Human Resources Management Programs
  3. Hybrid Human Resources Management PhD Programs

Online PhD in Human Resources programs may offer the freedom and flexibility to perform coursework around your professional and personal responsibilities. On the other hand, traditional, on-campus programs may provide more structure and offer more active alumni groups, which could help jump-start your career search upon graduation.

"Hybrid" PhD Human Resources programs combine both online and on-campus formats. Some hybrid programs have courses that have both online and on-campus coursework, while others may have some classes that are entirely online or entirely on-campus. Review your options to find the learning format and type of PhD Human Resources program that matches your goals.

What Is Human Resources Management About?

Human resources management is a term used to descirbe the systems used to manage people within an organization. The scope of human resources continues to expand inside of organizations, and many companies expect human resources to be a part of strategic decisions. This includes ongoing employee training, performance management, as well as effectively contributing to the overall direction of an organization and accomplishment of a company’s goals and objectives.

HRM responsibilibies fall into three primary categories: 1) staffing, 2) compensation and benefits and 3) defining and designing work. Some specific HR responsibilities are listed below.

  • Finding, screening, recruiting, and training job applicants
  • Plan and oversee employee benefits programs
  • Handle staffing issues, such as mediating disputes and directing disciplinary actionsi

Just like every PhD in human resources management program is different, every organization has a unique design. Therefore, specific responsibilities may vary depending on each company. These may be influenced by aspects such as size, industry and structure of the business.

What Is the Purpose of Human Resources?

Human resources began as the “personnel department” designed to protect women and girls in industrial environments. Now, it has evolved to take on more responsibilities. In some companies, the HR department has become a core business partner in defining and aligning an organization’s purpose and supporting company culture.

An HR department may be concerned with recuriting talent, putting employees in a position to succeed, and accurately measuring employee performance and satisfaction. These aspects may help contribute towards and measure an organization’s progress to achieving their mission.

PhD in Human Resources Management courses focus on researching and analyzing the theories and concepts behind each of these functions. This may prepare graduates to contribute in each of these roles.

Important Topics in Human Resources Management

The responsibilities and functions of human resources continues to grow. Therefore, PhD Human Resources programs may cover a wide range of topics, from compensation and benefits to discipline.

Students in PhD in Human Resources programs may have the opportunity to participate in the activities below.

  • Analyze concepts and tools that provide the basis for management decision-making
  • Evaluate the evolution of organizational and social systems
  • Assess and identify gaps in the current research literature in the field of management
  • Master research methodologies and statistical methods

There may be a number of other topics that schools may look at and analyze. As a result, look at a few different schools and compare course lists to find a perfect match for you.

PhD Human Resources Curriculum

PhD in Human Resources courses strive to teach a complete understanding of the key issues in human resources management. Typically, this is by analyzing the theories and concepts behind compensation, organizational behavior, dispute resolution, training and development, and a number of other subjects.

Some of the courses you may take while earning your Doctorate in Human Resources are listed below.

  • Research Methods for Industrial Relations and Human Resources
  • Organizational Theory
  • Foundations of Human Resources Management
  • Leadership in Organizations
  • Social Capital: Theory and Applications
  • Psychological and Sociological Foundations of Research in Management
  • Seminar in Corporate Strategy
  • Seminar in Emotions in Organizations
  • Institutions and Multinational Management
  • Economic Foundations of Research in Management

Many programs also teach various statistical techniques and software packages used in human resources research. This may help you perform your own research for your dissertation and specific courses. However, remember that each school has a different design and curriculum. Therefore, courses may vary from school to school.

What Is Training and Development in Human Resources Management?

As the workplace continues to change, organizations need a skilled, knowledgeable workforce that consists of adaptive and flexible employees. As such, training and development is a key component of human resources management, and PhD Human Resources programs.

As a result of training and development, employees may:

  • Develop core competencies ito become excellent leaders
  • Master necessary job skills
  • Participate in professional development that may indirectly improve job performance.

Training and development are part of an overall philosophy of continuous learning in the modern workplace. While pursuing your PhD in human resources management, these aspects may be studied to prepare you to help create a more engaged workforce and support company goals.

What’s the Difference Between Onboarding and Training and Development?

Onboarding and training occur at different times of employement. Onboarding occurs when an employee is first hired but has a bigger focus than simply training. It also plays a role in building a bond between employee and company. On the other hand, training and development is focused on the skills and functions of a specific job throughout the entire time an employee spends with a company.

Onboarding, which can also be called a probationary period or introductory period, is focused on immersing the new hire in the company culture, values, and mission. Training and development are all about the specifics. Typically, training is focused on the responsibilities of a specific job during the first 90 days. However, it should continue as a main focus of management to provide employees the skills required to succeed in the company in the future. Without proper training, employees are left to figure out tasks on their own, which may not align with the organization’s goals.

Common Careers in Human Resources Management

Upon earning a PhD in human resources management, some students choose to pursue a career in education as a postsecondary teacher. In order to become a postsecondary teacher in human resources, many schools ask that you have earned a PhD in the field.ii

The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expects the number of postsecondary teachers to increase 13% during the 10 years from 2014 to 2024.iii In 2016, the media annual salary was $75,430.iv

Another career for those that have earned a doctorates in human resources is a human resources manager. While some companies only require a bachelors degree, many look for candidates who have a masters degree.v In 2016, the median annual salary for human resources managers was $106,910.vi

Additional Licenses and Certifications in Human Resources

There are a number of additional licenses or certifications that you may pursue before, during, or after you’ve earned your PhD in human resources management. However, all of them are completely optional and are not required as part of any doctorate program or many employment opportunities. Keep in mind though that many candidates choose to pursue one or more additional certifications in order to show professional expertise and credibility. It may also have the added benefit of enhancing advancement opportunities. In fact, some positions may require certification, so be sure to read job listings carefully.

Some of the professional associations that offer a variety of certifications in human resources include those listed below.

  • Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM)
  • Human Resource Certification Institute
  • WorldatWork
  • International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans

Keep in mind that this is just a list of some of the most common organizations. There may be many others that offer a variety of human resources certifications.v  

What Is SHRM?

The Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) is a professional HR society that represents more than 285,000 members around the world. Their goal is to serve the needs of human resources professionals by providing a number of resources and training to advance the practice of human resource management.

SHRM has two different certifications available, which are:

  • SHRM-CP (Certified Professional)
  • SHRM-SCP (Senior Certified Professional)

Each of these certification exams are computer-based with 160 questions. They are designed for different human resources professionals who have different experience and educational requirements. Therefore, research both exams, as well as other certifications, to find one that matches your goals.

Earn Your PhD in HRM

Take the next step to earning your PhD in Human Resources by reviewing the programs on this page. Click on any of the sponsored listings to read program description and contact schools directly.

You can also further refine your search by using the menu bars above. Search for online PhD Human Resources programs or for schools in your state. Then start narrowing down your options to find a great doctorate program for you!


[i] bls.gov/ooh/management/human-resources-managers.htm#tab-2 [ii] bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/postsecondary-teachers.htm#tab-4 [iii] bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/postsecondary-teachers.htm#tab-6 [iv] bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/postsecondary-teachers.htm#tab-5 [v] bls.gov/ooh/management/human-resources-managers.htm#tab-4 [vi] bls.gov/ooh/management/human-resources-managers.htm#tab-5

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