In the rapidly evolving field of human services, there is demonstrated need for advocacy and policy development. An online Ph.D. in human services is structured for working professionals who maintain a clinical practice. Ph.D. candidates in this field have backgrounds in social services, public administration, health care, and public safety, among others. Collaboration with these professionals on original research and conceptual policy creates a rich environment for potential social change. Graduates of this Ph.D. program not only respond to legislative changes, but also guide them.

Why a Ph.D. in Human Services?

A Ph.D. is the highest level of education available in the industry. Ph.D. candidates will add to the training they previously received from bachelor’s and master’s degree programs in human services, developing extensive knowledge in social services law, global, and cultural diversity implications and the implementation of policy. Classwork requires a deep examination of each of the disciplines behind policy-making: health care, social science, psychology, and law. Original research work performed for a dissertation can ultimately effect real social change.

Since a doctoral degree provides an enormous competitive advantage in the job market, Ph.D. programs in human services groom candidates for leadership positions. Organizational goals, collaboration techniques, high-level communication, and client advocacy are all emphasized in this program. A Ph.D. in Human Services online allows working professionals to maintain their current efforts in social services while gaining further education in the field.

Getting Into a Human Services Ph.D. Program

Due to its rigorous academic requirements, admission to a Ph.D. program in human services is competitive. Applicants to a doctoral program such as this can expect to provide:

  • A master’s degree from an accredited institution
  • Cumulative GPA of 3.0 or above
  • Graduate work GPA of 3.5 or above
  • Statement of Intent detailing educational goals and plans
  • Proof of clinical experience
  • One academic reference
  • Two professional references
  • Curriculum vitae

While it is not required, any published work presented at the time of application will be viewed favorably.

Inside a Human Services Ph.D. Program

A Ph.D. in Human Services online usually takes four or five years to complete. Standard course work in this program covers the following topics:

  • Human Behavior: These classes focus on behavioral theory and how its application may resolve society’s ills. Research skills such as data collection and experiment design are emphasized, as is data analysis.
  • Healthcare Administration: The sweeping changes in the U.S. healthcare system are explored. Students engage in strategic planning to effectively manage the impact of these changes.
  • Professional Ethics: Morality issues that impact both society and the human experience are examined. Case studies are often used as a tool to teach ethical decision-making.
  • Research: Ph.D. candidates are taught advanced quantitative research method and theory.
  • Counseling: This course work centers on psychology and behavioral therapy, as well as both thought schools’ fundamental philosophies.

Students in a Ph.D. program in human services also choose a specialization, such as contemporary criminal justice, abnormal psychology or public safety. Additional course work is taken within each specialization, and students may tailor internships and residencies to that area of concentration.

Fieldwork, while perhaps somewhat challenging in an online environment, is a critical component when obtaining a doctoral degree. Ph.D. candidates must complete an approved internship; often these can be accomplished in the evenings. Residencies serve as a segue to writing a dissertation, requiring students to perform research and work in small groups. Timed at specific intervals in the pursuit of a doctoral degree, residencies provide students with the opportunity to network with colleagues while fine-tuning critical thinking skills. As candidates advance, residencies also provide field experience in advanced scholarly research and writing techniques.

A Ph.D. in Human Services program culminates in a dissertation. Original research is proposed and, once approved, conducted under supervision. The resultant data is analyzed and summarized in a lengthy document suitable for publication in a scholarly journal. An oral defense of the dissertation follows submission of the manuscript.

What’s Next for Human Services Ph.D. Holders?

Holding the most advanced degree in this field allows graduates selectivity in managing their careers. A Ph.D. in Human Services offers an opportunity that other degrees in human services do not: Ph.D.s are qualified to teach at the university level. Graduates of this program often go on to become adjunct or full-time faculty members, continuing to conduct research in academia.

Other graduates consult, maintain a clinical practice, manage a social services agency — or a combination of all three. Others act as lobbyists advocating for their industry in Washington, D.C. Some even use the advanced writing skills gained from this program to become grant writers.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), a social or community service manager earned a median salary of $57,950 in 2010. Local and municipal government, which employed most of these professionals, averaged $69,670 per year. Management occupations, though not as common in 2010 than are projected in the next few years, awarded a median salary of $91,440.