Human Resources Doctorate Degree

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

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

While pursuing a human resources doctorate degree, programs focus on teaching how employment relationships affect organizations, workers, and society. Normally, students engage in multidisciplinary analyses of human resources management and labor relations issues.

Usually, this is through courses heavily focused on research, critical analysis, and developing leadership skills in industrial relations and human resources. This type of study allows programs to teach how to create and add your own contributions to the field of managing all aspects of the employee relationship.

Admissions Requirements for PhD in Human Resources Management

As the terminal degree in the field, or the highest degree you can earn in human resources management, PhD programs may have stricter admissions requirements than other degree levels.

For instance, some of the admissions requirements for PhD in human resources management programs may include:

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

Remember, every 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 degree in human resources, 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 while taking a historical perspective of strategies that have worked in the past.

Upon completing all required courses, most PhD in human resources management programs ask you to propose, write, present, and defend a dissertation to a board of faculty members. In addition, some of the other graduation requirements for your doctorate degree may include:

  • Comprehensive exam
  • 3.0 GPA
  • Annual review

When it comes to graduation requirements, every school has its own design. Therefore, check with a number of options to find the specific requirements of each.

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

Typically, human resources PhD programs are designed for full-time students, though there are still some schools that accept part-time students. Most full-time students earn their PhD in four to five years. This includes completing all required courses, defending a dissertation, and fulfilling any other requirements that a school may offer. Usually, it takes longer for part-time students to earn their PhD.

However, every school is different and has different requirements. For instance, some schools ask that you teach a course while researching your dissertation. Therefore, some programs may take more or less time, depending on specific requirements.

Different PhD in Human Resources 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 appeal to different students and learning styles, and provide various benefits.

The three learning formats are:

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

Online programs 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 may jump-start your career search upon earning your degree.

"Hybrid" programs in human resources 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 human resources program that matches your goals.

What Is Human Resources Management About?

Human resources management is the management of all of the different aspects and responsibilities that make up the human resources department. 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.

Some of these responsibilities are:

  • 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 as well as aspects such as size 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. Some of these include being an actual business partner that defines and aligns an organization’s purpose.

Some of the other key topics of a HR department include:

  • Recruiting talent
  • Putting employees in a position to succeed
  • Accurately measuring the right data

These aspects may help the human resources department measure and track an organization’s progress to achieving their missions. Therefore, while earning a PhD in human resources management, courses focus on researching and analyzing the theories and concepts for each of these roles.

Important Topics in Human Resources Management

The responsibilities and functions of human resources continues to grow. Therefore, many of the key topics that human resources doctorate programs cover range from compensation and benefits to discipline, and many others.

Some of the other topics in human resources management that you may study include how to:

  • 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 to find the perfect match for you.

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. Training and development is a key component of human resources management because it encourages the growth and career development of employees.

Some of the benefits of training and development involve how to:

  • Develop core competencies in managers and supervisors to become excellent leaders
  • Job mastery skills that are necessary to perform one’s job
  • Professional development that may indirectly improve job performance

These roles of 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 of training and development focus on creating a more engaged workforce to help a company achieve its goals and missions.

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

Onboarding has a bigger focus than simply training a new employee, such as 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. Instead, 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 Courses While Pursuing a Human Resources PhD

While pursuing your doctorates degree in human resources management, many courses strive to teach a complete understanding of the key issues in human resources management. Typically, this is by analyzing the theories and concepts in compensation, organizational behavior, dispute resolution, training and development, and a number of other subjects.

Some of the courses you may take while earning your PhD include the following.

  • 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 while performing 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. Look at a few schools to find one that matches your 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:

  • 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 a 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 management. Click on any of the sponsored listings on this page to read program descriptions.

You can also see specific requirements of each school. Then, you can directly contact your favorites to request more information and apply today.


[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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