20 Best Online PhD in Human Services Degree Programs [2019 Edition]

PhD in Human Services ProgramsWhen 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 boost on this front as an online PhD in Human Services.

To ensure that you have all the tools you need to overcome the rigors of this PhD program – and create the change you want to see within your community – let’s spend a few minutes breaking down the path to a PhD in Human Services from a variety of different angles.

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 will normally require 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.

List of Online PhD in Human Services Programs

I’ve included a list of universities below offering a PhD in Human Services online, as well as related programs like the Doctor of Social Work.

Walden University

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 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 can expect to earn up to $90,251 per year in the professional sector as a political scientist or professor. The average earnings for a human services professional that stays in academia over this same time span clocks in at $74,960.

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.

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:

  • Social Policy Analysis and Planning
  • Conflict Management and Negotiation
  • Criminal Justice
  • Community and Social Services
  • Community Intervention and Leadership
  • Family Studies and Intervention
  • Disaster and Crisis Intervention

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.

Degree Concentrations

If you’re interested in going even deeper into specialization via unique area of study, most universities offer concentrations as part of your PhD coursework. Some of the most common examples within the human services field include:

  • Public Safety Leadership
  • Nonprofit Management
  • Social Work
  • Collaborative Governance

Again, this list should just serve as a guiding example as you map out your doctoral path. Connecting with a guidance counselor at your chosen school can ensure that you select the concentration that accurately fits your future goals and professional outlook.

If your undergraduate studies were in Human Services, a doctoral degree concentration can help add focus and depth to your degree.

Admission Requirements

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.

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 rates of job growth that easily reach the 22 percent 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.

List of Universities offering an Online Doctoral Programs in Human Services


Is a PhD in Human Services worth it?

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.

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Joy Miller
Joy Miller
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