A doctorate in human resources management prepares professionals for research, postsecondary teaching, and high-level managerial and consulting positions. Through their research, graduates from these programs serve as thought leaders who understand human resources issues such as leadership and teams, employee selection, and equity in the workplace.

The job market looks good for educated and high-level HR professionals. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) highlights a 2017 median pay of $110,120 for HR managers, with a job growth projected to rise 9% by 2026. Learners who specialize in an area such as compensation and benefits can expect wages of $119,120 and a projected 5% job growth. A significant number of people who hold doctorates in HR pursue careers as college faculty. Their prospects also look good, with a median pay of $76,000 and a 15% projected job growth -- much higher than the national average.

Should I Get a Doctorate in Human Resources?

Some working professionals with an advanced business degree leave the workplace to pursue a doctorate in human resource management on a full-time basis. Students should evaluate their personal circumstances to decide whether they want to earn the degree full-time on campus or to take advantage of online flexibility to earn their Ph.D. in human resources. Some learners may pursue the degree right after completing a master's. In this case, many choose an on-campus program.

Once in the program, learners study subjects such as organizational behavior, human resource management, and measuring human capital. Research plays an important role in the doctoral HR curriculum, as faculty groom students for roles as researchers and educators. Learners take courses in areas such as qualitative reasoning and analysis, research methods application, and advanced research design. They also participate in significant research as part of the program.

The on-campus program provides other tangible benefits, like networking opportunities with peers and face-to-face discussions with faculty and advisers. Near graduation, learners can take advantage of the school's job placement or career services to dive into the job-hunting process. New Ph.D. holders enter the workforce with terminal degrees that often enhance their competitiveness and long-term career earnings.

What Can I Do With a Doctorate in Human Resources?

Getting a doctorate in human resources management represents a significant investment in time and money. While some doctoral programs in HR groom learners specifically for teaching positions, many pathways await professionals with this degree. Some choose to work as human resources managers within large organizations such as Fortune 500 companies. Other HR professionals specialize in particular areas such as training and development and compensation and benefits. Many with a Ph.D. in human resources embrace an entrepreneurial spirit and work as consultants, lending their expertise to companies both large and small.

Human Resources Manager

HR managers at this level oversee departments and staff responsible for hiring and firing, compensation and benefits, training and development, and other personnel issues. While most of these positions require a bachelor's degree and at least five years of experience, positions at larger organization prefer a more advanced degree.

Median Annual Salary: $110,120*

Training and Development Manager

Training managers plan, develop, and coordinate initiatives designed to enhance employees' knowledge and skills. Many training professionals began their careers with a bachelor's, but some employers want a master's degree with a specialization in HR management, training and development, or organizational development. Employers expect these managers to possess at least five years of experience, and high-level positions may require a doctorate or a commensurate level of work experience.

Median Annual Salary: $108,250*

Compensation and Benefits Manager

These managers specialize in the planning, development, and managing of compensation benefits for employees. Most jobs in this area require a bachelor's and at least five years of experience in HR, management, or a related field like finance.

Median Annual Salary: $119,120*

College Professor

Professors teach students HR management, organizational leadership, and related areas at postsecondary institutions. Typically, faculty hold a doctorate and boast a body of research which includes scholarly publications. Some colleges require some work or teaching experience. Many students in a Ph.D. in human resources program acquire teaching experience as graduate teaching assistants in this program.

Median Annual Salary: $76,000*

Management Analyst/Consultant

Management consultants improve an organization's efficiency in a number of areas, including training and development and HR compensation and benefits. This position requires a bachelor's degree or master's and demonstrable expertise such as a track record in the area of specialization. Those seeking to position themselves as HR thought experts benefit from a doctorate; most consultants enhance employability by earning the Certified Management Consultant designation.

Median Annual Salary: $82,450*

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

How to Choose a Doctoral Program in Human Resources

A number of issues factor into the decision to pursue a doctorate in human resources. Participants can expect to spend four to five years pursuing the degree with full-time attendance -- five to eight years for part-timers. Working professionals may opt to enroll part time to maintain careers while they further their education. They must also decide whether to choose an on-campus program or take advantage of the flexibility offered by online programs. The price of the program will serve as a significant factors for many.

Those who pursue careers in academia need teaching experience. An on-campus Ph.D. in human resources program furnishes access to such experience with teaching assistantships. Participants work closely with professors researching or teaching junior classes in exchange for a stipend and/or tuition reduction. Some schools also offer research assistantships for on-campus students to assist faculty. Out-of-state students may find themselves exempt from these opportunities.

Whichever mode of delivery they choose, learners can expect to take courses in areas such as strategic human resources management, performance improvement, quantitative research in HRD, and organizational performance. All programs require a dissertation involving substantial research. Faculty may also require that learners complete a comprehensive exam. Online learners may still need to attend campus for required residencies. If students plan to pursue an on-campus program, they should consider factors such as the cost of living and the quality of life they can expect if they move to a new location. Students should also weigh their future earnings against the cost of the degree.

Programmatic Accreditation for Doctoral Programs in Human Resources

Students should ensure that programs hold accreditation. Degree-granting programs hold either institutional or programmatic accreditation. Since no agency solely accredits HR programs, they receive blanket accreditation from the institution. In some instances, they may also hold accreditation from a business school accrediting agency such as the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, if the institution's business school offers the degree.

Most likely, a Ph.D. in human resources holds regional accreditation from one of seven agencies that accredit doctorate-granting colleges. Students should never underestimate the value of accreditation, since schools must undergo a rigorous evaluation process to achieve it. Without accreditation, the program may not provide the academic rigor or cachet students need for career success. Employers may not recognize a degree from an unaccredited institution. Furthermore, if a student begins a doctorate at a school that does not hold accreditation and decides to transfer to one that does, the credits may not transfer. Regionally accredited schools only accept credits from other regionally accredited schools. A college's accreditation also affects a student's ability to receive federal financial aid.

Doctorate in Human Resources Program Admissions

Students should expect to go through the same admissions process for either an online or on-campus doctorate in human resources. Applicants typically need the same documents, even if deadlines differ. Students should apply to six schools offering advanced human resource management degrees. Keeping their list of options at a reasonable number saves money and helps learners concentrate on putting together a comprehensive and polished application packet for each. Students should make sure that each program meets their personal, educational, and career objectives in terms of costs, course offerings, degree completion flexibility, and specializations they may need. Below, we provide a concise list of prerequisites and admission materials students should consider.


  • Degree: In general, students need a master's in human resources, management, business administration, or a related field for admission to a doctorate in human resources program. A select number of schools may offer a dual master's and doctoral program.
  • Professional Experience: Some schools design their doctoral programs with working professionals in mind, expecting students to incorporate their hands-on experience into the program and apply what they learn in their work. Many others do not require work experience or require minimal experience. Students should make this requirement a factor in their decision-making process.
  • Minimum GPA: Most graduate business/management programs require a minimum 3.0 GPA for admission, including doctoral programs. The admissions committee may consider other qualities the applicant brings to the table, such as HR or management work experience or a strong GMAT score.
  • License: Students seeking to enter a doctoral program in human resource management do not need to meet any licensure requirements.

Admission Materials

  • Application: Applicants should plan for a one-year process beginning in April and ending in April of the following year, at which point schools send out letters of notification. Most doctoral programs accept applications once or twice a year. Each school lists its own guidelines and deadlines that students should follow.
  • Transcripts: Departments require transcripts for all prior colleges, paying particular attention to the students master's degree. Learners order transcripts online, in-person, or in writing. Some schools charge a fee and others provide the service at no charge.
  • Letters of Recommendation: Students need between two and four letters of recommendation from professors, employers, and advisers. Give each writer about six to eight weeks to fulfill the request.
  • Test Scores: Many schools require the GMAT, but some programs do accept the GRE. Schools vary in what grade range they accept for doctoral students, and it may even differ between departments. Applicants should find out the department's average GMAT/GRE score for accepted students by going online or asking the department.
  • Application Fee: Applicants should expect to pay between $50 and $100 for each application. They should take advantage of any fee waivers to save on costs.

What Else Can I Expect From a Doctoral Program in Human Resources?

Students should evaluate the curriculum of each prospective doctorate in human resources management program to ensure that it meets their career goals. The following table lists some popular concentrations students may opt to take. Colleges may offer these concentrations outright or as clusters of courses that students can specialize in.

Concentrations Offered for a Doctorate in Human Resources
Concentration Description Careers
Organizational Effectiveness This concentration emphasizes an understanding of both organizational design and the effective management of employees. Courses cover areas such as organizational theory and practice, effective team leadership, and HR analytics. College faculty, HR manager, industrial-organizational psychologist, management analyst
Human Capital Management This concentration focuses on how companies can align human capital with organizational performance by hiring the best and investing in workers to accomplish the organization's goals. Courses cover areas such as productivity, designing development programs, and the measurement of performance. College faculty, HR manager, training and development manager, corporate trainer, recruitment manager, industrial-organizational psychologist
Compensation and Benefits This concentration focuses on how to classify jobs and establish qualification requirements. Courses cover areas such as total rewards and assessing pay for performance. College faculty, compensation and benefits manager, HR manager, HR director, director of compensation, benefits specialist
Employee Relations This concentration examines HR and labor issues, including the roles employees, employers, governmental organizations, and unions play in employment relations. Courses cover topics such as employment and labor law, benefits and compensation, and labor unions. Training and development manager, compensation and benefits manager, HR manager, college faculty, contract negotiator, director of industrial relations, union leader
Organizational Leadership This concentration prepares learners for leadership positions within organizations or as researchers or faculty at postsecondary institutions. Learners acquire knowledge in areas such as organizational learning, organizational theory and research, and governance and ethics. College faculty, training and development manager, HR manager, management analyst

Courses in a Doctoral Program in Human Resources

Courses offered in doctoral human resources programs may vary, but below highlights some courses students can expect to take.

Organizational Behavior and Effective Human Resource Management

Learners explore advanced research in organizational behavior to understand its implications in managing human capital. The course focuses on deconstructing the behavior patterns of individuals, groups, and the organization itself to identify what motivates employees, their expectations, and how to build teams to achieve organizational goals, essential information for all HR executives.

Strategic Thinking for Effective Human Resource Management

Students study how the effective deployment of human resources gives organizations a competitive advantage. This course enhances managers' and executives' knowledge of areas such as metrics-based performance, systems thinking, HR information systems, and knowledge management.

Qualitative and Quantitative Reasoning and Analysis

Faculty expect all students in a Ph.D. in human resources program to engage in significant research as part of the dissertation process and their daily work. This course focuses on the frameworks that apply to qualitative and quantitative research, data collection procedures, and the analysis and presentation of data collected.

Labor Relations and Employment Law

Aspiring HR executives explore the state and federal laws governing labor relations. The course covers areas such as disability, discrimination, union organizing, privacy, and collective bargaining. Learners exit the program well-versed in the law and able to advise organizations about how to minimize exposure to litigation.

Resolving Disputes and Managing Conflicts

Participants receive training in how to diffuse conflict in the workplace between peers and superiors and their subordinates. Learners examine some of the issues that cause conflicts and how to resolve them with mediation and other negotiation strategies.

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

Most doctorate in human resources require between 60 and 90 credits that students complete in four to five years of full-time study. In addition to the curriculum, programs require students to complete research and a dissertation. The pace at which students complete the degree depends on whether they study full or part time, and students who want to accelerate degree completion can take more courses. But the research and dissertation process leaves little leeway for acceleration given that research and writing require time and thoroughness.

How Much Is a Doctorate in Human Resources?

The cost of a doctorate in human resource management depends on a number of factors. Those who plan to pursue a program in the state in which they reside can save money on out-of-state tuition. If learners plan to relocate to another state, they should also factor in the cost of accommodation and cost of living in the area they plan to move to.

An increasing number of colleges offer a flat tuition rate for online learners regardless of residency. This option saves on tuition and provides learners with the flexibility to maintain careers. However, technology fees apply to online students but not the traditional learner. All students should examine how they will pay for their education, including their eligibility for scholarship programs and federal loans. Full-time students should weigh lost wages for the duration of the program against future earnings to calculate the return on investment. A sampling of doctorate in human resource management programs showed that tuition runs between $475 and $1,200 per credit. Learners can expect to pay a premium for elite colleges.

Certifications and Licenses a Doctorate in Human Resources Prepares For

Many HR managers opt for certification to demonstrate proficiency even if employers do not require it. Organizations such as the Society for Human Resource Management and Human Resources Certification Institute offer programs that require HR professionals to sit for exams, culminating in certification.

Senior Professional in Human Resources -- International

With this credential, international senior HR professionals validate their mastery of HR principles in areas such as business leadership and talent development. Eligibility to take the exam requires a master's degree and at least four years of HR experience, including knowledge of local employment law.

Senior Professional in Human Resources

Senior HR professionals solidify their credentials as HR leaders with superior knowledge in areas such as leadership and strategy and employee relations and engagement. Eligibility to take the exam requires a master's degree and at least four years of HR experience.

Senior Certified Professional

Senior HR professionals who develop strategy, oversee HR functions, analyze performance metrics, and work to align HR initiatives with the organization's goals demonstrate proficiency with the SHRM-SCP credential. Eligibility requires a graduate degree in HR and three years in an HR role. Students in graduate programs aligned to SHRM's curriculum guidelines can sit for the SHRM-CP exam, one level down.

Resources for Human Resources Doctorate Students

Beta Gamma Sigma

An honor society for business students, BGS offers members benefits and services such as test prep, scholarships, publications, and a discounts program. BGS's membership consists of a select percentage of undergraduate students, graduate students, and doctoral candidates with completed dissertations.


A WorldatWork membership provides access to a repository of HR information, such as research, salary data, white papers, and the WorldatWork Journal. The organization also offers certification programs, training, and a member network for HR professionals.

National Association of Graduate-Professional Students

A student-run organization, NAGPS advocates for the interests of graduate and professional students. Members enjoy access to conferences and regional events, tuition insurance, life insurance, and car rental discounts.

Harvard Business Review

HBR provides business professionals, including those in HR, with the latest developments in business and management. Readers can access many articles for free and pay a subscription for exclusive content.

Professional Organizations in Human Resources

Students in human resources doctorate programs should consider joining professional organizations, which provide members with access to a host of programs and resources that contribute to their professional development. These include continuing education, certification programs, research, and publications. These organizations also provide members with opportunities to network with peers and experts through annual conferences, regional events, and virtual meetings. Members can use job boards and other services as they pursue careers. The following outline lists some prominent organization in human resources.

Society for Human Resource Management

SHRM is the largest organization for HR professionals in the world. The organization's 300,000 members enjoy access to a repository of information on a large number of topics, resources and tools, and professional development such as certification, eLearning, virtual events, and publications. SHRM offers students membership.

HR People + Strategy

HR professionals with more than 10 years of experience join HR People + Strategy. Members enjoy access to executive programs and conferences, research, blogs, webinars, and People + Strategy journal.

Academy of Human Resources Development

A community of HRD practitioners and academics from around the globe, AHRD provides member benefits including access to four journals, an annual research conference, and a discounts program.

Association for Talent Development

ATD caters to professionals working to improve the knowledge and skills of employees in the workplace. Member benefits include access to publications, a job bank, conferences, and training and certification programs.

International Association for Human Resource Information Management

IHRIM is the leading organization for information management professionals in HR. Members enjoy access to conferences, certification programs, a workforce analytics forum, and publications such as Workforce Solutions Review.