10 Best PhD in Human Resources Online Programs

Are you interested in discovering how obtaining a PhD in Human Resources online could open up new and prestigious doors in your career? Let’s explore how doctorate-level credentials could get you to the top of your field.

PhD in Human Resources Online

Professionals with a doctorate in Human Resources earn an average of between $75,000 and $150,000 per year in a variety of roles.

Best Online PhD in Human Resources Programs

Pursuing a PhD in Human Resources offers room to focus on a specialty that you find engaging. The fact that you’re pursuing a specialty at a doctorate level means that you will be considered a true expert in your area of focus.

Click on the area that interests you to jump to that part of the page.

What does that mean for your career? You will be one of a very select handful of people to be considered for certain roles in organizations.

Be prepared to tackle law, psychology, negotiations, math, and pure business studies!

PhD in Human Resources

human resource manager talking to a colleague in an office

General human resources covers all of the aspects of managing talent within an organization. This includes everything from bringing in workers who are the right fit to creating pay scales that keep an organization competitive.

Having a doctorate-level specialty in general human resources positions you to be a vice president of human resources operating at an executive level within an organization.


In particular, you will be equipped to lead the full scope of human resources for major corporations, institutions, and universities.

Compensation and Benefits

human resource managers having a meeting regarding company's employee benefits

Compensation and benefits is a very relevant specialty because companies and organizations need to have smart strategies for offering fair and competitive pay and benefits.


Additionally, a company’s benefits package must be managed impeccably to ensure that resources are being used optimally. As an expert, you will be valuable to companies as they seek out ways to balance the need to offer generous perks with the realities of cost.

Employee Relations

human resource manager meeting with company's employees

Optimizing talent is all about managing talent. This is why a specialist in employee relations is such an asset to an organization. Your PhD is going to equip you with the negotiating and strategizing skills to create satisfied, productive employees.


You’re also going to be an expert at handling contracts, keeping up with compliance regulations, and developing key internal points that will be communicated across a workforce.

Human Capital Management (HCM)

human resource managers in a meeting

Human capital management is an emerging specialty that is attracting the attention of more and more employers.

What exactly is human capital management? Having a PhD in this specialty is going to make you a master of a comprehensive set of organizational practices that are designed to maximize the business value of employees.


However, the focus is far from seeing employees as impersonal “assets.” Your focus is actually on recruiting and developing talent through incentives, training, and other value-building strategies.

Organizational Effectiveness

human resources consultants sharing their ideas during a meeting

Do you want to be the one who organizations turn to when they want a fixer? A PhD in organization effectiveness makes you the go-to person for strategizing how to motivate, optimize, and enhance organizations.

Your true skill set revolves around achieving the outcomes that organizations want to produce.


Organizational effectiveness is an ideal specialty if you’re focused on how to become a human resources consultant. The big perk of this is that you’ll be brought in when corporations need guidance regarding how to reorient toward specific outcomes.

Organizational Leadership

team of professional employees meeting in a modern office

A specialty in organizational leadership makes you the person the leaders of corporations and organizations turn to when they want guidance and motivation for how to do what they do better.

Yes, you will be something of a guru to the powerful decision-makers of the corporate world once you obtain a PhD in this specialty.


You’re the one who has the tools to help leaders set strategic goals that impact every level of an organization. You’re also bringing insights and motivation to the table that will help leaders to put new ideas in motion.

Experts in organizational leadership have the unique distinction of being able to guide management approaches that work for both individuals and groups. Expect to be brought in during transitions and growth points.

Common Courses for PhD Human Resources Programs

PhD in Human Resources student studying online

The path to getting a PhD in Human Resources is paved with some of the most interesting courses a student can take. You will dabble in everything from high-level business theory to motivational psychology by the time you emerge as an expert in your field.

Everything you study will have a distinct people-oriented angle! Here’s a look at some of the courses you can expect as a Human Resources PhD student:

  • Compensation and Benefits will go into the depths of how to build and manage full-scale compensation and benefits with considerations given to legal requirements and accounting principles.
  • Conflict Resolution covers effective ways to communicate and bring forth resolutions when people within a workplace come to the table.
  • Workplace Ethics will dive into the legal and ethical requirements in workplace settings.
  • Employment Law will equip you to walk into situations that require action or mediation with the right tools.

You should have well-rounded expertise that covers core topics like management, compensation models, and employee relations when finished with your program.

PhD in Human Resources student studying at home

You will also gain familiarity with topics that include sexual harassment in the workplace, employee theft, union regulations, employee morale, bonuses, and retirement.

Dissertation seminars are also included in most PhD in Human Resources curriculums. You will be working toward doing independent, cutting-edge research that will ultimately contribute to the human resources field!

PhD in Human Resources Careers

PhD in Human Resources Careers and Salary

A PhD in Human Resources is a particularly robust area of study because it opens up possibilities in both the corporate and academic worlds. Many people who pursue this path do so because they want to reach executive-level positions.

Others would like to teach business classes on an academic track.

Being a vice president of human resources on the executive team of a large corporation is typically the goal that people have in mind when they pursue a PhD in human resources.

human resource manager talking to a job applicant

Roles as a human resources leader for a school district, hospital, university, or municipal government are all on the table.

A PhD in Human Resources is also attractive for those who are interested in providing executive and leadership training on a consulting basis. You can start your own consulting practice, publish books, and host workshops.

Additionally, a PhD qualifies you to seek teaching positions within the business departments at colleges and universities.

PhD in Human Resources Salary

human resource manager talking to her colleague

Let’s discuss what salaries can look like for those who reach the upper echelons on the human resources profession. Yes, the pay is generous once you get to this level.

Here’s a look at salary data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics:

  • Vice President of Human Resources: $143,069
  • Professor of Business Administration: $120,000
  • Training and Development Manager: $111,341
  • Human Resources Consultant: $74,120


Those who chose to parlay their expertise into careers focused on teaching or consulting can always earn income through published works and paid workshops.

Professional Organizations for Those With an HR Doctorate Degree

Professional Organizations for Those With an HR Doctorate Degree

As a leader in your profession, you’ll want to become engaged with other professionals through professional organizations. The field of human resources has some of the most robust professional organizations around.

Here’s a look at groups to consider for everything from personal development to networking:

Becoming connected with a professional organization is vital for those seeking prominent roles within the HR industry. One of the big perks of professional membership is that you will be invited to attend regional and national events. You may even be rewarded and recognized by an organization!

The certifications that are offered by highly recognized and regarded HR organizations can demonstrate the practical skills that accompany your PhD in human resources.

Certification and Licensure Following a Doctorate in Human Resources

Human Resource manager receiving a certificate

Is it necessary to pursue certification and licensure after completing a human resources PhD program? Doing so can certainly make your online degree in human resources more valuable by demonstrating practical knowledge to accompany your academic pursuits.

Here’s a look at the certifications that are considered to be the most relevant:

These certifications are considered to be résumé boosters for applicants applying to high-level HR leadership positions. Preparing for certification can be a very useful experience for adding very relevant and actionable skills and knowledge to your professional toolkit.

Accreditation for a Doctorate in Human Resources

Accreditation for a Doctorate in Human Resources

Many people seeking HR PhDs focus exclusively on schools and programs with regional accreditation. You may be wondering if this is what you should also be doing if you’re about to pursue a degree that will position you to be an HR leader.

There’s no denying that a school with regional accreditation offers benefits that could help your degree to appear more impressive to employers. Regional accreditation requires very strict evaluation guidelines. This generally makes your degree more valuable by default.

Don’t forget that regional accreditation could be very important if you end up switching schools! That’s because your credits will transfer more easily if you begin your studies at a regionally accredited institution.

A school’s federal accreditation is all that’s necessary to participate in federal financial aid programs that are available to students.

Financial Aid for an Online PhD in Human Resources

Financial Aid for an Online PhD in Human Resources

You’re probably looking into ways to pay for a PhD in Human Resources if you feel that completing this level of education is what’s necessary to help you reach your career goals. PhD programs can be more expensive per course than other programs like a master’s in human resources online degree program.

Fortunately, PhD students have a wide variety of funding resources at their fingertips beyond what’s available for undergraduate students. This includes things like fellowships, teaching assistantships, research assistantships, and grants.

A student studying for a PhD in Human Resources also has access to federal grants, federal loans, private loans, and institution-provided tuition assistance. There is a good chance that you will pay much less than what a college or university lists as its full-time tuition cost.

Can You Get a PhD in HR?

human resource manager studying at home

Yes, several colleges and universities offer PhD programs in HR. The human resources programs of most schools are closely aligned with business and management programs.

There’s a good chance that you will be taking the majority of your courses through a school’s business department. Additionally, psychology and finance courses may be a part of your full curriculum.

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

human resource manager studying at a cafe

Most PhD programs for HR require you to complete between 60 and 90 credits. The length of time it takes to finish your program will depend on your full-time or part-time status.

Most students are able to complete a PhD in Human Resources within five years. Keep in mind that you will be required to complete research for a lengthy, involved dissertation. Due to this, traditional or online accelerated human resources degree programs aren’t an option for students who are pursuing a PhD.

If completion speed is a primary focus for you, then you may want to consider pursuing a Doctor of Business Administration in Human Resources instead. DBA programs are professional doctorates and in many cases they don’t require a dissertation.

Schools Offering a Doctorate in Human Resources Online

These colleges and universities are fully accredited and offer terminal degrees in the field of Human Resources. All programs can be taken online, with some requiring brief campus residencies.

#1  Capella University

Capella University campus

Established in 1993, Capella University is an online university headquartered in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

The DBA Human Resources program is available online and in-person. The program consists of 8 core courses, 4 specialization courses, 1 doctoral thesis project, and students must fulfill 2 residency requirements. Scholarships are available for eligible students.

  • DBA in Human Resource Management

Capella University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

#2  Colorado State University

Colorado State University campus

Located in Fort Collins, Colorado, Colorado State University was founded in 1870.

The 60-credit PhD in Education and Human Resource Studies – Organizational Learning, Performance, and Change program is offered in cohort format by the university’s School of Education. The program can be completed in 3.75 years. Classes are held in Denver and use online tools as well.

  • PhD in Education and Human Resource Studies – Organizational Learning, Performance, and Change

Colorado State is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission.

#3  Liberty University

Liberty University campus

Established in 1971, Liberty University is a Christian Evangelical institution located in Lynchburg, Virginia. It is ranked among the top 1% of online universities in the US.

The 60 credit-hour, 100% online DBA in the Human Resources program can be completed in 3 years, with no set log in times. Students can complete coursework at their own pace.

  • DBA in Human Resources

Liberty University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

#4  Northcentral University

Northcentral University campus

Located in San Diego, California, Northcentral University was established in 1996.

The university offers 100% online 60 credit-hour DBA and PhD programs in Human Resources Management that can be completed in 50 months. The program consists of 20 courses with no residency requirements, group projects, or weekly start date requirements.

  • DBA in Human Resources Management
  • PhD in Human Resource Management

Northcentral is regionally accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.

#5  Regent University

Regent University campus

Founded in 1977, Regent University is a Christian institution located in Virginia Beach, Virginia.

The 60 credit-hour online PhD in Organizational Leadership with a concentration in Human Resource Development program has two 4-day residency requirements.

The program consists of core and concentration courses, a capstone project, comprehensive exam, and dissertation, with some face-to-face components.

  • PhD in Organizational Leadership – Human Resource Development

Regent University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

#6  University of Arkansas

University of Arkansas campus

Located in Fayetteville, Arkansas, the University of Arkansas was established in 1871.

The online Doctor of Education in Human Resource & Workforce Development Education (HRW DEd) program, offered by the College of Education & Health Professions, requires students to take the GRE. Students are allowed to take up to 7 years to complete the doctoral degree.

  • EdD in Human Resource and Workforce Development Education

The U of A is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

#7  University of Illinois – Urbana-Champaign

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign campus

Established in 1867, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is located in the twin cities of Urbana and Champaign.

The Ph. in Human Resources program is offered by the School of Labor and Employment Relations. Students must complete 48-64 hours of coursework, a non-credit faculty-student workshop, exams, and a dissertation for graduation.

  • PhD in Human Resources

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

#8  University of Texas – Tyler

University of Texas at Tyler campus

Located in Tyler, Texas, the University of Texas at Tyler was established in 1971.

The PhD in Human Resource Development program is offered by the university’s Soules College of Business. Students are required to complete 60 credit hours, and GMAT scores are necessary for admission. Coursework can be completed in 2.5 years.

  • PhD in Human Resource Development

The University of Texas at Tyler is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

#9  Walden University

Walden University campus

Headquartered in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Walden University is an online university established in 1971.

The online DBA in Human Resource Management program has a 49-credit-hour requirement for completing the degree, with two face-to-face academic residencies. The program must be completed within 8 years unless the student’s petition for an extension.

  • DBA in Human Resource Management

Walden is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission.

#10  Wayland Baptist University

Wayland Baptist University campus

Located in Plainview, Texas, Wayland Baptist University is affiliated with the Stalked Plains Baptist Association. It was established in 1906,

The Doctor of Management in Human Resource Management program has a 60-credit-hour requirement consisting of 57 hours of coursework and 3 credit hours of research project work, comprehensive exams, and successful completion of an applied research project.

  • Doctor of Management in Human Resource Management

Wayland Baptist University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Is a PhD in Human Resources Worth It?

human resource manager giving the contract to a new employee to be signed

The reason why you’re researching a PhD in Human Resources is that you’ve decided this is the field where you can build a career on your talent and skills.

It’s true that a PhD in Human Resources isn’t for everyone who works in the HR field. This degree is for someone who wants to be at the top of the industry.

Yes, a PhD in human resources is worth it for someone who would like access to high-level HR roles within operations. This degree will equip you to be a decision-maker. The salary range for HR managers and executives makes pursuing your PhD an especially worthwhile adventure!

Carmen Reed
WRITTEN BY
Carmen Reed