25 Best Online PhD in Human Services Programs [2021 Guide]
Looking for Online PhD in Human Services Programs for 2021? Want to finish faster? Some colleges are offering accelerated online courses.
When it comes to turning your educational acumen into an actionable response to the needs and concerns of individuals and your greater community, few graduate degrees offer quite the same potential boost as an online PhD in Human Services.
Community and social service occupations have a projected 12% rate in job growth, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and the potential to make between $60,000 and $172,000.
Types of Online PhD in Human Services Degrees
Your studies can consist of a generalist Human Services degree, or you can specialize by taking classes in a certain concentration.
Click on one of these areas to jump to that part of the page.
- Human Services
- Nonprofit Management
- Social and Community Services
- Social Psychology
Each specialization can help prepare you for different job opportunities as you become an expert in a particular field.
Doctor of Philosophy in Human Services programs are designed to train students to take leadership roles in organizations that address the needs of people struggling with addiction, illness, poverty, and violence.
Candidates for a PhD in Human Services take classes on the history, theories, systems, and policies concerning the human services field. They can also develop their research skills as they work toward the preparation of their doctoral dissertations.
Upon completion of their doctorate in human services, graduates often assume leadership roles in nonprofit organizations or enter the academe.
Those who also happen to be working professionals may benefit from the flexibility of an online human services doctorate program.
Students who come from the fields of social work, counseling, and non-profit management may find a PhD in human services advantageous to their careers. Students in related areas, such as criminology, public health, psychology, and sociology, may also benefit from this degree.
Individuals taking up a PhD in counseling can learn how to assist individuals who are struggling with real-life problems such as addiction, aging, careers, and health issues, among others. They may work in schools, hospitals, mental health clinics, vocational centers, and rehabilitation centers.
The ideal candidates for this program usually have strong empathy and compassion. They must also show the ability to help people of all ages in identifying their strengths and weaknesses.
They are expected to help their clients in improving their coping skills, modifying behavior, addressing mental health concerns, and focusing on personal growth.
Graduates of a PhD in counseling stand to get access to a wider range of career options. They may also use their degree to teach aspiring counselors and psychologists or undertake research on new methods for treatment.
This human services specialization is designed to produce graduates who are dedicated to promoting the welfare of elderly individuals.
Many of the studies in this specialization focus on the physiology of human aging and development. Students may examine social policies that are associated with aging and the factors affecting the quality of life for an older adult, such as chronic disease, independent living, and the physiological changes of aging.
Upon completion of the program, graduates can pursue roles like housing placement advisor, policy advisor, elder assistance administrator, and elder case manager.
Other job opportunities that may await graduates include community care coordinator, financial advisor, and elder program developer. Candidates for this program usually have good analytical and problem-solving skills.
The focus of a PhD in nonprofit management is to train students to advance their skills in independent research, particularly in areas such as volunteer development, strategic planning, and nonprofit organizational management.
This specialization can help them learn how to develop and implement research designs and methods, contribute to theory, and advance knowledge in their field.
This degree may be ideal for students who want to have a fruitful and rewarding career in nonprofit organizations, whether as educators, consultants, researchers, and executive leaders.
Some of the common coursework in a PhD in nonprofit management includes leadership, governance, and ethics, diversity in the workplace, and quantitative research methods in the public service.
Social and Community Services
The focus of a PhD in social and community services is to train students to assume leadership roles in community social services.
Students in this degree program are typically educated on a wide range of behavioral and developmental areas, including formulating policies to promote the well-being of those in communities and organizations.
They are often trained to assist individuals, groups, families, and communities in restoring their capabilities to function well. They may help people in improving their coping mechanisms, problem-solving skills, and developmental capabilities.
Upon completion of the program, graduates can pursue leadership roles in non-profit agencies and organizations, nursing homes, hospitals, schools, and mental health clinics.
Students of the PhD in social psychology zero in on human behavior and experience in social settings. The focus of this program is to train students to understand how the behavior, feelings, and thoughts of individuals are influenced or impacted by the actual or implied presence of other people.
A PhD in social psychology can help equip students with the managerial and leadership skills needed to assume higher positions in non-profit organizations, schools, and hospitals.
Graduates may also take various careers such as psychology professors at colleges and universities, marriage and family therapists, and community service managers.
Other potential opportunities include working for business organizations as marketing managers or in the government as political scientists.
Doctor of Philosophy in Human Services Curriculum
Before signing up for classes, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the standard coursework that comprises this kind of PhD program.
As you hone and refine your expertise in the human services field, you can expect to cover topics including:
- Community and Social Services
- Community Intervention and Leadership
- Conflict Management and Negotiation
- Criminal Justice
- Disaster and Crisis Intervention
- Family Studies and Intervention
- Social Policy Analysis and Planning
Most PhD programs require a dissertation in addition to your regular courses. If you’d prefer not to complete a dissertation, these universities have no dissertation requirement.
Naturally, this list can shift somewhat based on your target institution’s unique program framework. However, having this cross-section in mind can help prepare your as the start of the semester nears.
Career Outlook and Salary Information
In terms of your career outlook, the BLS notes that this portion of the professional and academic worlds is growing at a much faster than average rate when compared to other industries.
Specifically, opportunities to serve as either a professional social worker or a tenured professor that stays on the academic side of things have projected job growth rates that easily reach the 12% mark.
In other words, whether you plan on helping members of your community in real-world scenarios or training the next incoming class of PhD candidates, there are plenty of viable career paths awaiting you after graduation.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, some of the most popular positions you might hold after graduation include:
|Careers||Annual Median Salary|
|Human Services Organization CEO||$172,690|
|Training and Development Manager||$98,020|
|Child Welfare Director||$85,550|
|Professor of Human Services||$71,530|
|Adoption Services Manager||$70,830|
|Community Service Director||$67,150|
|Nonprofit Organization Director||$62,020|
|Family Service Center Director||$61,920|
|Youth Program Director||$60,180|
As you may have noticed, having a PhD can help open the door to many more career opportunities that aren’t as easily available for those with a bachelor’s in human services, or even with a master’s in human services.
Apart from your degree, your salary will also depend on your place of employment and region of the country in which you work.
Professional Organizations for Working in Human Services
Graduates of PhD in Human Services may join the following organizations that can help them improve their work in their respective communities:
- American Counseling Association (ACA): gives professional counselors free access to publications, aids in continuing education classes, and provides discounts on conferences. It also offers members free online resources on mental health support.
- American Public Human Services Association (APHSA): connects with policymakers as well as human-serving organizations to advance advocacies such as strong families and better, safer communities. This bipartisan organization offers local and state membership.
- National Organization for Human Services (NOHS): provides professional development opportunities to members. It also promotes certifications and advocates for social change to transform communities and individuals.
- National Human Services Assembly (NHSA): binds together some of the leading nonprofit service providers in America. It advances policies and advocacies in areas such as the youth and the elderly.
Consider joining one of these organizations to be informed of the latest industry news and scholarship and to take advantage of job and networking opportunities.
Certification and Licensure Following a Human Services Degree
Traditional or online human services degree holders should consider applying for Human Services Board-Certified Practitioner (HS-BCP) credential. This certifies that they have incorporated 11 core Human Services areas by adhering to the national standards set through their experience and education.
Earning the HS-BCP credential can not only enhance the employability of a human services degree holder but also demonstrate his/her commitment to the practice of the profession. It also helps in professionalizing the human services field.
Continuing education is also required to maintain HS-BCP credential. Human services degree holders with this type of credential must complete 60 hours of continuing education throughout the five-year certification period.
Accreditation for an Online Human Services Degree
Accreditation for an online human services degree program assures the quality of instruction.
Educational institutions offering online human services degree may receive regional accreditation from agencies recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation and the Department of Education.
Another organization, the Council for Standard in Human Service Education, may also provide individual accreditation to a human services degree program.
Check to see whether the program you’re interested is accredited. If it’s not, other universities and employers may not recognize your degree.
To earn a spot in an incoming PhD in Human Services cohort, you’ll need to start off by having a master’s degree in an appropriate area of study, or a stellar undergraduate resume – specifically capped off by a final GPA that hovers around the 4.0 mark.
From here, submitting your complete transcripts, as well as letters of recommendation and Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores, often rounds out the process.
Financial Aid for a Human Services Degree Online
Students enrolled in an accredited school often qualify for federal financial aid. Yes, even doctoral students can take advantage of grants and loans. See what you qualify for by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
You might also qualify for scholarships and grants from your state’s education agencies. Also, ask about scholarships and fellowship opportunities from your chosen university.
Financial assistance may also come from businesses that offer grants and scholarships. Religious organizations, professional groups, and community groups likewise offer college scholarships.
Questions Related to Earning a PhD in Human Services
Here are our answers to a few more questions you might have.
What Is a PhD in Human Services?
Simply put, a PhD in Human Services is designed to indicate that you have the ability to guide policies, practices, and legislation that relate to public matters and issues within your local area. Those who either want to delve deeper into crucial research areas related to this field or apply their learning to real-world scenarios are often members of incoming PhD cohorts.
Completing this kind of degree normally requires a commitment of 90 credit hours on campus or in the virtual classroom. However, some universities do lower the coursework burden based on already completed post-graduate credit hours – specifically the work you’ve logged via a bachelor’s or master’s degree program.
What Is the Difference between a PhD in Human Services and a PhD in Public Administration?
While both of these doctoral programs focus on offering services and guidance to the public, how these degrees actually reach this point requires subscribing to two different approaches.
A PhD in Human Services usually focuses more on improving the connection between social workers and the community while pursuing a similar degree within the public administration field takes a “big picture” view via political action and policy implementation.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) notes that if you fall on the public administration side of this discussion, you may be able to earn up to $133,200 per year in the professional sector as a political scientist or professor.
The average earnings for a human services professional in the same sector over this same time span clocks in at $74,800.
How Do You Get a Doctorate in Human Services?
Earning a PhD in Human Services requires either committing to the standard on-campus experience – including a rigid class schedule – or working on your degree via an online program.
While there’s no universal right answer to which option is best, it’s hard not to gravitate toward the flexibility and freedom offered by a virtual classroom experience that shapes and molds itself to your daily demands and current professional responsibilities.
List of Universities Offering Online PhD in Human Services Programs
Methodology: The following school list is in alphabetical order. To be included, a college or university must be regionally accredited and offer degree programs online or in a hybrid format.
This university has physical locations in Missouri, Arizona, and California. A.T Still University, also known as ATSU, offers an online Doctor of Health Sciences Degree.
The degree is offered through the College of Graduate Health Studies. Candidates must complete 70 credit hours to be awarded this Human Services degree.
- Online Doctor of Health Sciences (DHSc)
A.T. Still University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Amridge University is located in Montgomery, Alabama, and has affiliations to the Churches of Christ. It offers a 60-semester hour PhD program in Marriage and Family Therapy.
The number of credit hours to be completed will vary based on the number of graduate hours a student has upon entry to the program. Upon completion of the program, students will have an advanced degree with scholarship and therapeutic expertise.
- Online PhD in Marriage and Family Therapy
Amridge is a SACSCOC-accredited institution.
Baylor University is often just called Baylor and can be found in Waco, Texas. It is a Baptist Christian school that was chartered in 1845.
Their PhD in Health Services Research is delivered on campus and is a collaboration with the Center for Clinical Effectiveness at the Baylor Scott & White Healthcare System. Students will see a focus on current issues affecting the US healthcare systems.
- On-campus PhD in Health Services Research
Baylor University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Capella University has its headquarters in Minneapolis, Minnesota, with learning sites in Florida and Georgia. The university operates online and is owned by Strategic Education Inc, which is publicly traded.
They have been offering doctoral education online for more than 25 years and have multiple programs that are designed to help the student obtain the critical skills they need to work in a variety of situations.
- Online Doctor of Human Services – Advanced Program Evaluation and Data Analytics
- Online Doctor of Human Services – Leadership and Organizational Management
- Online PhD in Human Services – Multidisciplinary Human Services
- Online PhD in Human Services – Social and Community Services
Capella is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Concordia University, commonly known as CU for short, can be found in River Forest, in Illinois. The online PhD in Health & Human Performance is designed to prepare students for research and leadership roles in exercise science, health promotion, human performance, and more.
It is a 66/67-credit program with coursework in research, statistics, exercise science, leadership, and a requirement for a 9-credit dissertation.
- Online PhD in Health & Human Performance
CU Chicago is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Drexel University has its main campus located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The university was established in 1891 by Anthony J. Drexel.
The on-campus PhD in Health Services Research and Policy is suitable for students living in the Philadelphia area. It is designed to train students to work in health services research and health policy and program creation, implementation, and practice.
- On-campus PhD in Health Services Research and Policy
Drexel is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
Emory University is a research university that can be found in Atlanta, Georgia. It was founded in 1836 as Emory College by the Methodist Episcopal Church.
It’s PhD in Health Services Research and Health Policy is delivered on campus. The program is very competitive, accepting, on average, 3 students per year out of 15 applications. There is no master’s degree requirement for applying to this program.
- On-campus PhD in Health Services Research and Health Policy
Emory University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Houston Baptist University can be found in Sharpstown in Houston, Texas. It is a Baptist university that was founded in 1960.
It offers a 63-credit-hour EdD program in Executive Leadership in Mental Health and Human Services, which is delivered online. This program aims to prepare students for management roles in mental health services.
- Online EdD in Executive Leadership in Mental Health and Human Services
HBU is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Indiana State University can be found in Terre Haute, Indiana. It is a Doctoral, Research University and got this designation by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions for Higher Education.
Their online Doctor of Health Sciences degree requires students to do a minimum of one campus visit per semester along with a qualifying exam. The dissertation proposal and final defenses are done face to face on campus.
- Online Doctor of Health Sciences (DHSc)
ISU has been accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) since 1915.
Liberty University can be found in Lynchburg, Virginia. It is an evangelical Christian university that was established in 1971 as Lynchburg Baptist College.
The online EdD program in Community Care and Counseling is a 57-credit-hour program with a duration of three years. Students can transfer up to 15 credits, and courses are 8 weeks long.
- Online EdD in Community Care and Counseling – Marriage and Family
- Online EdD in Community Care and Counseling – Pastoral Care and Counseling
- Online EdD in Community Care and Counseling – Traumatology
Liberty is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Loma Linda University is a Seventh Day Adventist institution found in Loma Linda, California, with a focus on health sciences. It was established in 1905 as the Loma Linda Sanitarium.
The Doctor of Marital and Family Therapy is delivered online and is the only COAMFTE-accredited program in the United States. They review applications and approve them on an ongoing basis until all spaces are filled.
- Online Doctor of Marital and Family Therapy
Loma Linda is accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission.
Nova Southeastern University was established in 1964 and has its main campus located in Davie, Florida, with three other campuses in Florida.
Their online EdD in Human Services Administration is designed for those who have master’s degrees or higher or those that are currently practicing in universities, hospitals, schools, rehabilitation centers as human services professionals.
- Online EdD in Human Services Administration
NSU is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).
Rocky Mountain University of Health Professions can be found in the East Bay Technology Park at Provo, Utah. It was founded in 1998 as the Rocky Mountain University of Physical Therapy. They offered their first doctoral program in 2003.
It’s PhD in Health Sciences is delivered partially online with some face-to-face instruction. It is designed for persons who work full time and want to earn their doctoral degree.
- Online PhD in Health Sciences
RMUoHP is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.
Rush University can be found in Chicago, Illinois. It was founded in 1972 and offers a 54-credit-hour PhD in Health Sciences, which is delivered via online classes.
The program is designed to provide students with the skills necessary for them to teach, perform research, and to practice in working situations for advancing health care and science practice.
- Online PhD in Health Sciences
Rush University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
Saybrook University is a graduate institution that can be found in Pasadena, California, and which is associated with the TCS Education System. Founded in 1971 as the Humanistic Psychology Institute, its PhD in Transformative Social Change is delivered online.
Students completing this degree have potential employers such as Greenpeace Mediterranea, Amnesty International, and other organizations with similar goals.
- Online PhD in Transformative Social Change
Saybrook is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC).
Texas Tech University can be found in Lubbock, Texas and was established in February of 1923 and was called the Texas Technological College until 1969.
Its online PhD in Family and Consumer Science Education is a 72-credit-hour program that is designed to provide students with the knowledge necessary for working in higher education as well as in leadership roles.
- Online PhD in Family and Consumer Science Education
Texas Tech is accredited with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Trident University is an online University with offices operating out of Cypress, California, that was established in 1998. It was formerly known as Touro University but was established as a stand-alone institution after being purchased by Summit Partners in 2007.
Its PhD in Health Sciences is a very rigorous and research-focused degree program. It is designed to prepare students for working in education, research, and management in the fields of health education, global health, public health, etc.
- Online PhD in Health Sciences – Global Health
- Online PhD in Health Sciences – Health Policy and Administration
Trident is accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission.
The University of Colorado campus located in Denver is part of the University of Colorado system and was founded in 1912 by Johnathan Hill.
The full-time PhD in Education and Human Development with 7 different specializations allows students the opportunity to learn while experiencing research and teaching opportunities.
With this degree, students can build their dossiers while learning to make them more marketable upon completion of the program.
- Online PhD in Education and Human Development – Early Childhood Special Education/Early Childhood Education
- Online PhD in Education and Human Development – Family Science and Human Development
- Online PhD in Education and Human Development – Mathematics Education
- Online PhD in Education and Human Development – Research, Assessment and Evaluation
- Online PhD in Education and Human Development – Science Education
- Online PhD in Education and Human Development – Urban Ecologies
- Online PhD in Education and Human Development – Administrative Leadership and Policy Studies
CU Denver is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
The University of Indianapolis is located in Indiana was established in 1902 and is affiliated with the United Methodist Church.
The online Doctor of Health Science degree requires students to have a masters’s degree and two years of experience working in healthcare. The program aims to provide students with skills to become educators, advocates, scholars, and leaders.
- Online Doctor of Health Science
UIndy is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
The University of Louisiana at Monroe is a part of the University of Louisiana System. It was established as the Ouachita Parish Junior College in 1931.
The PhD in Marriage and Family Therapy – Systemic Studies is a non-clinical focused program that is delivered online. The program does not prepare students for licensure.
- Online PhD in Marriage and Family Therapy – Systemic Studies
ULM is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
The University of Minnesota has two locations in Saint Paul and in Minneapolis with main campuses around 3 miles apart. The university was established in 1851, and the first set of college classes was held in 1867.
Admissions to its online PhD in Health Services Research, Policy & Administration requires GRE and at least a bachelor’s degree. The program is designed to prepare students for careers as educators and researchers in the field of public health.
- On-campus PhD in Health Services Research, Policy & Administration
All campuses of the University of Minnesota operate with the accreditation of the Higher Learning Commission.
The University of South Dakota was founded in 1862 thanks to the Dakota Territory legislature. This university was established before the state itself.
Its PhD in Health Sciences is a 75-credit-hour program with a curriculum focused on teaching, leadership, advanced practice, and scholarship. It is designed for the working professional and is fully online.
- Online PhD in Health Sciences
USD has been accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCA) since 1913.
The University of Washington can be found in Seattle. It is a public research university that was founded in 1861. It offers 5 specializations for the PhD in Health Services, which is a program that is consistently ranked among the best in the nation by U.S. News & World Report.
Programs are delivered on campus and provide instruction in evaluation, research methods, health care systems, social determinants, and health policy research.
- On-campus PhD in Health Services – Evaluative Sciences and Statistics
- On-campus PhD in Health Services – Health Behavior and Social Determinants of Health
- On-campus PhD in Health Services – Health Economics
- On-campus PhD in Health Services – Health Systems Research
- On-campus PhD in Health Services – Occupational Health
UW is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.
Located in Richmond, Virginia, Virginia Commonwealth University was founded in 1838 as a medical school.
The PhD program at VCU takes two years for full-time students or three years for part-time students. You can customize your degree based on your interests, but admission into the program is limited.
- On-campus PhD in Health Services Organization and Research
VCU is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).
Walden is a very popular university with headquarters in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The university is managed by Laureate Education, Inc., which manages a global network of Universities. The university has academic offices in Minneapolis and administrative offices in Baltimore, Maryland.
Their PhD programs are designed to equip students with the skills they need to create intervention strategies, assessments, and evaluation methods.
- Online PhD in Health Services
- Online PhD in Human and Social Services – Advanced Research
- Online PhD in Human and Social Services – Community and Social Services
- Online PhD in Human and Social Services – Community Intervention and Leadership
- Online PhD in Human and Social Services – Conflict Management and Negotiation
- Online PhD in Human and Social Services – Criminal Justice
- Online PhD in Human and Social Services – Disaster, Crisis, and Intervention
- Online PhD in Human and Social Services – Family Studies and Intervention
- Online PhD in Human and Social Services – General Program
- Online PhD in Human and Social Services – Gerontology
- Online PhD in Human and Social Services – Global Social Services
- Online PhD in Human and Social Services – Higher Education
- Online PhD in Human and Social Services – Human Services Nonprofit Administration
- Online PhD in Human and Social Services – Mental Health Facilitation
- Online PhD in Human and Social Services – Military Families and Culture
- Online PhD in Human and Social Services – Social Policy Analysis and Planning
Walden has been accredited by The Higher Learning Commission (HLC) since 1990.
Is a PhD in Human Services Worth It?
Yes, a PhD in Human Services is worth it for many students. The Bureau of Labor Statistics is projecting 12% job growth in community and social occupations over the next 10 years. Common careers in this field include community service director, youth program director, and college professor.
But at the end of the day, answering the question of this PhD program’s “worth” requires a deeper inspection of your personal goals and motivations. Are you interested in higher-paying career opportunities? Perhaps this degree simply serves as a stepping stone to a promotion within your current line of work.
Even if you’re just looking for an academic challenge that pushes you to your limits, that’s okay too. The big key here is that you understand what you want to get out of the PhD in Human Services program and build your future academic and professional plans around these aspirations.