Online PhD in Human Services

Human services is a subject centered on counseling, research, and social policy. An online PhD in human services prepares students for this wide-ranging field through the introduction of research techniques, analytical skills, and independent thinking. Students typically choose a particular avenue of human services in which to concentrate their studies. Common areas include social work, public health, and social policy.

Many enter online doctoral programs in human services to gain the necessary knowledge, research skills, and leadership skills to not only succeed in the field, but also teach human services courses at the college level. Students tackle complex topics commonly found in private and governmental organizations. They also become familiar with social policy procedures and standards. Overall, students pursue these programs because it widens their career prospects and long-term career growth.

About Online PhD Programs in Human Services

The typical online doctorate in human services requires three years of study full time. In addition to this, students must complete a dissertation, which is a 200- to 400-page research paper that many publish. Some programs also require the completion of Ph.D. residencies, like the online program offered by Walden University. At Walden, Ph.D. students must complete four Ph.D. residencies, which correspond with students’ courses and enables them to apply what they’ve learned in the field.

Year One:

  • History and Development of Human Services. Students learn about the human services industry and the history of the specializations within it.
  • Culture and Psychology. Students become familiar with psychology from a cross-cultural perspective.
  • Ethics and Social Justice. In this course, students gain leadership skills and learn about social justice in relation to power and economic status.

Year Two:

  • Quantitative Reasoning and Analysis. Students learn how to understand and analyze statistics and data. This course is intended to aid students in developing the research skills they’ll need for their dissertation.
  • Human Motivation. Motivation is examined by students in relation to various external and internal human factors.
  • Writing and Quality Prospectus. Students write a paper with a variety of references and research. This paper is meant to help them write their dissertation.

At Walden, for example, students’ dissertation is divided into five chapters, including their research problem, literature review, research methods, findings, and summary, conclusions, and implications. Dissertations are on average 300 pages long and even those students in online PhD programs in human services must orally defend their dissertation. Students spend their time divided between researching their subject and analyzing and reporting their findings. Students have an advisor to support them while they complete their dissertation.

Value and Criticisms of a PhD in Human Services

One of the pros of an online PhD in human services is that students benefit from the inherent flexibility an online education offers. They can maintain their full-time job while earning their Ph.D. when it is convenient for them. Additionally, they can earn their degree from their home. They don’t have to move to attend a school out of their area or have to sacrifice the degree they want because a school in their area doesn’t offer the program of their choice.

However, cons for a PhD in human services also exist. Because students earn their degree from a distance, there is little face-to-face interaction with their instructors, advisors, and peers. Moreover, in not being in an academic environment, some students find it difficult to focus on their Ph.D. curriculum and dissertation. Only those students with self-determination should enter into online doctoral programs in human service.

Application & Admission Requirements

Students interested in entering into an online PhD in human services should first complete a master’s degree in human services or a related discipline, though this is not always a requirement. Additionally, they must gather three letters of recommendation from professional and academic sources. Certain documents must also be submitted, including students’ official undergraduate and graduate transcripts, application, application fee, official GRE scores, and CV or resume. Many schools allow students to submit their application online and mail in the rest of the required documents.

Career Options & Job Market

Most jobs do not require an academic degree at this level, but a Ph.D. is a requirement for those who wish to work as professors at universities and colleges. Thus, one of the most commonly sought jobs for those with a Ph.D. in human services is that of a professor. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), university and college professors earn a median salary of $62,050 annually. The BLS also reports that employment for this occupation is expected to increase at a rate of 17% into 2020.

Where to Find Information

  • Human Services Association is a nonprofit agency that helps clients throughout the U.S. and it offers human service graduates membership and networking opportunities.
  • American Public Human Services Association is another association for those in the human services field; it works with public and private agencies to find solutions to problems in the human services field, again providing graduates with ample networking opportunities.
  • National Organization for Human Services An organization composed of social justice advocates offers graduates networking opportunities.

How to Get Funding

Various forms of funding are available to Ph.D. students. Public and private funding, loans, and scholarships are available. Assistantship opportunities are also numerous. In an assistantship, students either work on campus teaching or conducting research; some private parties other than schools themselves provide assistantship opportunities. Moreover, grants are a popular route for many students. Grants must be applied for and generally require students to conduct a research-related project; in return, those students awarded a grant do not have to pay back the money given to them.

  • Federal Direct Stafford Loan.
    Human service Ph.D. students often apply for the low-interest Federal Direct Stafford Loan, which awards at most $20,500 to students annually at a fixed 6.8% interest rate.
  • Federal Perkins Loan. Another loan sought by Ph.D. students is the Federal Perkins Loan. This low-interest loan is awarded to those most in need of assistance at an average of $3,500 per year; the interest rate is fixed at 5%.
  • Campus-Based Aid. Ph.D. students also take advantage of campus-based aid programs, which are managed by their school’s financial aid office.

Essential Advice

  • Before ever committing to an online PhD in human services, be sure you possess the motivation necessary to complete a degree in a non-academic environment.
  • Ensure that your degree and school are accredited. You can check this on the U.S. Department of Education’s website, which has a list of every accredited institution in the U.S. You can double check that the program in which you enroll is accredited by checking with the program’s accreditation agency.
  • Discuss your plans to pursue a Ph.D. in this subject with someone who has experience with it, whether it be someone already enrolled or a graduate. They will be able to give insight into the dissertation process, course work, and their experience in finding a job upon graduation.
  • Research your job growth potential before enrolling in a program. Is the financial payout worth the financial return? Will you gain the job of your dreams with this degree? Or could you realize job and salary growth the same way without a doctoral degree?