Online PhD in Human Resource Management

Online doctorate programs in human resource management usually take around four to five years to complete. This will depend on the amount of credit a student may be able to transfer into a PhD program and whether or not a student chooses to take on a full-time or part time course load. Students must have an accredited master's degree in an area related to human resources, such as business, economics, psychology or communications, in order to apply for a human resource management PhD online. It is possible to apply for a human resource management doctorate with a somewhat unrelated master's degree, but students will need to demonstrate work experience or personal career goals that outline their preparedness for and capacity to benefit from doctoral work in human resource management. Students will take courses and exams in human resource management areas such as conflict resolution, organizational effectiveness, human capital development and strategy. They will also be required to complete and defend a doctoral dissertation in order to graduate. Many online doctoral programs in human resource management also require students to complete internships during which they apply human resource management theory to real-world situations.

About Online PhD Programs in Human Resource Management

Online PhD programs in human resource management will differ from their campus-based counterparts in many ways. The first difference is the fact that students will rarely be required to meet in one location at the same time. There are often residency or internship components to online doctoral programs, but students are usually able to choose when and where internships will take place, or select during which semester they would like to complete a residency. Because there are no face-to-face meetings, the sharing of information takes place completely online. Students will watch and listen to lectures through live video streaming, or downloaded video files. They will participate in course discussion within class discussion forums. Students are able to ask and answer questions in forums, and professors and fellow students comment on and add to posed questions and comments. A record of the conversation is kept within the forum, so students have access to the conversation throughout the length of the class. Students will also be able to contact professors and students through email and live chat. Sometimes students also connect through video chat in order to do group work.

Group work will definitely be a part of any online human resource management PhD program. Groups may be randomly assigned by professors, or students may choose with whom they would like to work. Students will connect with group members through email and may want to set up times to video chat. Also, groups can set up shared documents that can be edited and added to at any time by all group members. These unique elements of virtual communication allow students to communicate and contribute to group projects at any time, rather than during selected group meeting times.

The following is a sampling of the coursework that may be required to complete a human resource management PhD over four years at Capella University.

Year One:

  • Managing and Organizing People. A study of the needs, desires and motivations of people within a workplace and strategies for the application of appropriate management and organization principles.
  • Marketing Strategy and Practice. Covers marketing theory and examines how to strategically use marketing techniques in order to best benefit an organization.
  • Accounting and Financial Management. Examination of financial and accounting procedures and constraints, especially in the context of employee development and recruitment.

Year Two:

  • Ethics and Social Responsibility.Exploration of the ethical dimensions of human resource management. Students will delve into current issues within the field and common dilemmas that occur in workplace interaction.
  • Principles of Organization Theory and Practice. Examination of organizational designs and organizational structures. Students will cover the relationship of the organization to its environment and relationships occurring within the organization.
  • Strategy. Exploration of applicable methods in the planning of actions and policy designed to achieve an end goal. Students will discuss the ways human resource management departments contribute to overall organizational strategy.

Year Three:

  • Quantitative Research Techniques. Covers research and analysis techniques that measure situations and outcomes through the use of complex mathematical and statistical measurement. Students will examine ways to assign numerical values to variables in order to measure real-world issues in mathematical terms.
  • Advanced Qualitative Research. Examination of research techniques implementing collection and measurement of information that cannot be mathematically quantified.
  • Legal Systems, Labor Relations, and Regulatory Practices. Students will complete an in-depth examination of business law, especially areas relating to human resource management, and will review the most current regulations in the field.

Year Four:

  • Theories of Executive Human Resource Management. Discussion of human resource management at the executive level. Covers managing a human resource team and acting at the human resource representative among other top level executives within an organization.
  • The Human Resource Executive as Strategic Partner. Examines organizational strategy development and execution by human resource professionals at the executive level.
  • Perspectives and Practices in Global Human Resource Management. Discussion of human resource management within organizations composed of international teams. Students will explore cultural differences and ways to best manage employees on a global scale.

Dissertation work will take place throughout the program, culminating with entire semesters dedicated to final research and writing. Students will do the majority of their research in peer-reviewed journals. Many online doctoral programs in human resource management provide students with access to online libraries or subscriptions to applicable journals. Students also purchase journals on their own or conduct research in local libraries. Peer-reviewed journals will not be the only source from which students pull information. They will also have textbooks, case studies, and current books on the topic of human resource management from which to draw. In order to graduate, students must successfully defend their dissertations in front of a committee of professors.

Value and Criticisms of a PhD in

Online doctoral degrees in human resource management can be an excellent choice for anyone interested in the ways business and organizational leadership intersect with team members. Human resource management professionals work to create environments with happy, healthy and professionally fulfilled employees. A doctorate in human resource management will allow professionals to expand their career opportunities and serve as experts in the field of human resource management. Those who are interested in teaching at the college or university level would benefit from an online PhD in human resources management. Students should be very dedicated to strengthening their listening skills and their understanding of the human psyche in a professional atmosphere.

A discipline such as human resource management actually fits quite well within a distance learning format. Coursework is mainly theory-based and there is no lab research involved. Case studies and management examples are easily conveyed in writing, through text books or online course materials. Also, because business is becoming increasingly global and internet-driven, students may actually benefit from experience with virtual communication. Online PhD human resource management students will become comfortable with online programs and applications and will be able to seamlessly integrate new technologies upon graduation.

Application & Admission Requirements

Most online PhD programs in human resource management require a master’s degree in order to apply. The degree should be in an area related to human resource management, such as business administration, economics or psychology. Work experience in a related field will also most likely be required. Many applicants must demonstrate at least 3 years of professional or academic experience in human resource management in order to qualify for acceptance. So, if students don't have a master's degree that is directly related to human resource management, they may be able to enter human resource management PhD programs online if they have relevant professional experience. In order to apply for most human resource management doctorate degrees online, students will submit an online application and mail any necessary documents. Usually GRE or GMAT scores are required. Applicants must provide at least two letters of recommendation, preferably from academic or professional colleagues with whom the applicant has worked closely. They must also submit a statement of purpose outlining their relevant experience and future goals.
Admission rates vary from school to school, and some online programs are more selective than others. Search the College Navigator at to research admission rates for prospective schools.

Career Options & Job Market

Common career fields for those with online doctorate degrees in human resource management typically fall into the realm of teaching at the university level, performing executive level human resource management within an organization, or serving as an expert consultant within the field. According to, college professors make anywhere from $42,000 to $143,000 annually. Labor relations managers, who typically serve as upper-level management professionals within a business or organization, make anywhere from $53,000 to $121,000, according to Payscale. Human resources consultants can also make salaries ranging from $40,000 to $125,000 annually, according to Payscale. All professionals with an online doctorate in human resource management will see expanded employment opportunity from 2008 to 2018, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as the overall employment within human resource management is estimated to grow by 22 percent, well over the national average.

Where to Find Information

How to Get Funding

Tuition rates for online PhD programs in human resource management differ. It is important to determine how many transfer credits may be applicable to prospective programs before calculating costs, because this will affect the total tuition. Students in the online PhD human resource management program at Capella University pay a tuition of $4,485 per quarter. With no transfer credits, students will take a total of ten quarters, so the tuition cost comes to approximately $44,850 for the entire program. Tuition for the online PhD in Human Resource Management through Walden University is $550 per quarter credit. Students must take 100 quarter credit hours to complete the degree, so the total cost comes to approximately $55,000.

  • SHRM Foundation Research Grant. The Society for Human Research Management grants awards to students conducting empirical human resource management research geared toward an academic community. SHRM funds 5-10 proposals per year at an average of $58,243 per project.
  • SHRM Academic Scholarship. The Society for Human Research Management grants 20 Academic Scholarships, of $2,000 each, every year to students at all levels of study.
  • National Academy of Human Resources Fellowship. Anyone making a significant contribution to the field of human resource management is eligible to apply. Considered of the highest honors in the human resources profession.

Essential Advice

  • Talk to online professors before enrolling. Students should always make the time and effort to contact potential professors before pursuing online PhD degrees in human resource management. This is the best way to get a feel for how classes will run and which school of thought a professor may find central. It will also give students an opportunity to see how receptive professors are to questions from students and how openly an online college provides information about its programs.
  • Take advantage of the online format. The nature of distance learning can serve as a huge benefit to top professionals in human resource management. They will discover ways to communicate across borders and apply the newest communication technologies within the workplace.
  • Apply advanced academic theory within your current HR position. The great thing about an online program is the fact that professionals can earn the degree without putting their careers on the sideline. This allows them to implement new management principles while receiving an online human resource management doctorate and advance their careers while earning a degree.
  • Network with fellow students. Because all students working toward an online doctorate in human resource management have extensive experience and education in the field, students can make excellent business contacts during the program. In fact, the nature of an online program may lead to a higher level of communication and connection between all students, because conversations are recorded and added to within forums.