Online PhD in Training and Performance Improvement

Training and Performance Improvement is a specialty within the field of education. It develops students' leadership and research skills so they can run departments more efficiently and effectively. Like most doctorate programs it is geared toward professionals who already have experience in the field and are looking to build upon a master's degree. People who choose this specialization are often pursuing advanced positions within education, including as chief learning officers, training directors, professors, managers of learning and performance improvement, consultants, or higher education faculty positions in training, performance improvement, instructional design, or career counseling.

In addition to a degree, online PhD programs for training and performance can lead to certification in ROI Methodology from the ROI Institute. This certification demonstrates skills in building staff morale, improving support for programs, identifying inefficient programs, enhancing design and implementation processes, and more. Doctorate students also have the opportunity to advance the field through their own doctoral research.

About Online PhD Programs in Training and Performance Improvement

Programs in Training and Performance Improvement are often a specialization within a Doctor of Philosophy in Education. They are designed for professionals in education who are looking to develop their leadership skills. Students in the program develop and deepen their understanding of strategic and tactical issues important to the success of any performance improvement project. Core courses may include study in educational research methods, qualitative research, and statistics for educational research. Here are some examples of classes in a Doctor of Education in Training and Performance Improvement, as offered by Capella University's School of Education:

Year One:

  • Introduction to Training and Performance Systems. This course is an overview of the history of training and performance improvement and its associated theories, principles, and processes. Learners develop a systems view of developing people and organizations by completing a performance improvement project in which they perform business, performance, gap, and root cause analyses; select appropriate interventions; and develop implementation, change, and evaluation plans.
  • Needs Assessment: Models and Procedures. This course is a survey of the needs assessment models and procedures used to diagnose the causes of workplace performance problems. Learners design and develop needs assessment instruments and collect and diagnose data to differentiate workplace performance issues that require training solutions from those that require non-training interventions.
  • Designing Training and Performance Solutions. Learners in this course explore various training and performance gaps and solutions associated with information, resources, incentives, knowledge, and capacity. They examine theoretical models used to match performance gaps with potential solutions and identify the factors needed to enhance the success of a performance improvement intervention. Learners then select a performance gap to address using an intervention selection tool.

Year Two:

  • Delivery Systems for Training and Performance Improvement. This course provides learners with an in-depth application-based overview of facilitation skills and e-learning initiatives for training and performance improvement and the tools and strategies to address these critical issues.
  • Evaluating Training and Performance Improvement Systems. Learners explore reasons that evaluation is essential: so that courses or performance solutions can be improved and so that it can be shown how a particular training intervention can improve both personal and organizational performance. This course provides learners with an understanding of measurement and evaluation theory, principles, and procedures. Topics include quantitative and qualitative measures, performance objectives, Kirkpatrick's five levels, and reporting strategies.
  • Return on Investment in Training and Performance Improvement. In this course learners apply a relevant return-on-investment (ROI) methodology to their organization and complete an ROI proposal that reflects ROI Institute methodologies. Learners also study evaluation planning, data collection and analysis, and reporting procedures.

Upon completing required core courses and any electives of their choosing, doctoral candidates may have to take a doctoral comprehensive examination. Once they pass the exam they are able to conduct original research and work on their dissertation. The dissertation can be a topic of their choosing related to the field and must be presented before a committee. A student graduates when he or she receives a passing grade on the dissertation..

Value and Criticisms of a PhD in Training and Performance Improvement

There are many reasons to pursue a doctorate program in training and performance improvement. For some the degree may be required for advancement or a desired position, such as a professorship at an institution of higher education. Others may see it as a personal goal or challenge to obtain the terminal degree. All are valid reasons to obtain a Ph.D. in education with a specialization in training and performance improvement and in the end will result in highly trained leaders in the field.

At the same time, a doctorate degree can be a time-consuming experience that competes with work, family, and personal demands. It can also be a source of additional student debt if you aren't able to receive substantial scholarships or fellowships to help defray the costs. Additionally, if you are unable to attend a fully online Ph.D. program you may need to uproot yourself to pursue the degree.

Application & Admission Requirements

Admission requirements vary from program to program, so it's important to check with the specific department you're applying to for required materials. Those applying to Ph.D. programs in education can expect to need a minimum grade point average of 3.0 and a master's degree from an institution accredited by a U.S. Department of Education-recognized accrediting agency. In addition to an application and official transcripts from all schools attended, they may also need to submit an evaluation of work history and achievements as demonstrated by a resume, a statement of purpose, and letters of recommendation, as well as additional proof of licensure and teaching experience. International applicants may also need to prove English equivalency.

Career Options & Job Market

Graduates with a doctorate in education with a specialization in training and performance improvement can go on to a variety of careers in education, including post secondary teachers. These positions generally require a doctoral degree and salaries range from$30,720 and $130,510, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Career counseling is another potential profession and can pay anywhere from $31,630 to $86,250, according to the BLS. Graduates could go on to work as instructional coordinators, overseeing school districts' curricula and teaching standards. Workers in these positions earned a median annual salary of $58,830, the BLS reports. All fields are expected to grow about as fast as the average for all occupations from 2010 to 2020.

Where to Find Information

  • Association of American Educators: The AAE is the largest national, non-union, professional educators' organization. It works to advance the profession by offering professional resources.
  • Association for Talent Development: The world's largest professional association dedicated to the training and development field provides information on education and professional resources.
  • U.S. News & World Report: The popular publisher of college rankings lists the best graduate schools for education, including specialties in areas such as higher education administration.

How to Get Funding

By this point in your education you're well-versed in the ins and outs of financial aid. At the doctorate level it's important to remember that there are many ways to obtain aid. These include scholarships, fellowships, and grants, as well as federal and private loans, that can help you cover the costs of your tuition and living expenses if you're going to school full time. It's also a good idea to see if your employer offers any tuition assistance. To receive federal aid, you must be attending an accredited school and fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, by the deadline.

  • Federal Direct Stafford Loan. This low-interest loan awards up to $20,500 per academic year with a fixed interest rate of 6.80%.
  • Federal Perkins Loan. The Federal Perkins offers an even lower fixed interest rate, at 5.0%, but on average offers $3,500 per academic year.
  • Campus-Based Aid. In addition to the federal government, schools themselves are often sources of aid, such as merit-based scholarships and fellowships that, unlike loans, you don't have to pay back, though you may have to teach or do work for. These types of aid opportunities are often competitive.

Essential Advice

  • Doctorate programs are a big commitment. Oftentimes educators continue to work while they're enrolled in a degree program. Before you apply you'll want to make sure you're able to meet the demands of the program. Additionally, depending on whether you pursue a fully online PhD program or one that is a hybrid, you may need to be willing to relocate to complete the degree.
  • Once you decide to apply you'll need to give yourself extra time to put together an application, especially if letters of recommendation, personal statements, or test scores are required. Unforeseen circumstances can delay your application, so if you give yourself a bit of extra time you won't end up missing important admissions deadlines. This also goes for applying to any fellowships or federal loan programs.
  • Figure out how you're going to pay for your degree before the bill comes in the mail. At the doctoral level there are grants, scholarships, and fellowships you can pursue, so make sure to stay on top of what's available to you and know what your options are.
  • Many doctorate programs in education may require that you have a certain number of teaching or administrative experience before you're eligible to apply. Even if that's not the case, it can be extremely beneficial to spend a few years out in the field, finding out what you're interested in as well as what there may be a need for in your community.