9 Best Online PhD Human Services Programs

When professionals in the human services field reach a career plateau, the main question is how to break through. A PhD in Human Services may be the best option, for human services workers who already have a bachelor’s or master’s degree and can see themselves in administrative roles. While a doctorate Human Services program is a big commitment, and a lot of work to add to an already busy schedule, the benefits of a PhD Human Services online program can make the extra load well worth it in the long run.

Why Should You Earn A PhD in Human Services?

In the human services field – that vast, interdisciplinary profession that makes meeting human needs its greatest mission – workers come from all sorts of educational, cultural, economic, and professional backgrounds. The people who are drawn to the helping professions are as diverse as the communities, families, and individuals they serve, a psychology PhD, a doctor of social work, or a doctor of public administration could help professionals in human services reach higher levels of authority, responsibility, and pay.

But in recent years, the Doctorate of Human Services has emerged as an important standard for the upper reaches of administration in the field, for good reason. While doctorates in related fields may be respected, the human services doctorate is designed specifically for the needs of the contemporary and developing human services sector. Whether it’s a Doctor of Human Services or a PhD in Human Services – the one being more practice-based, the other being more academic – a Human Services PhD provides the highest level of expertise and the most specific, applicable knowledge for a human services professional.

Ranking the Best PhD Human Services Online Programs

Human services professionals are busy people, and the prospect of quitting a rewarding job to go back to school, or relocating for a doctoral program, is more than most workers in the field can consider. That’s why colleges and universities all over the US are developing PhD Human Services online programs. Online PhD in Human Services programs provide the right combination of flexible scheduling, convenience, and affordability to make a doctorate Human Services degree a realistic option for many.

To rank the nine Best Online Doctorates in Human Services, Online PhD researched all of the most reputable online, hybrid, or low-residency programs related to the field. From this initial list, programs were ranked according to three sets of data:

  • Cost: Current IPEDS data
  • Reputation: Current Niche grade
  • ROI: Current College Scorecard alumni salary data

All of the programs featured in the top nine come from regionally-accredited universities. All of these programs focus on preparing graduates to possess the skills to become successful policy advocates and leaders in nonprofit organizations, government agencies, or health facilities. Some PhD in Human Services programs emphasize human rights, community building, the environment, and social justice. Others focus on health management and health policy regulations. The commonality among doctorate Human Services degrees is a major with a focus on helping make our societies better. The doctorate Human Services degree will give graduates one of the strongest job-market positions in the field.

All of the programs featured in the ranking will qualify graduates to sit for the HS-BCP certification exam, the standard for the field, and membership in one of the most common human services professional organizations will further help human services doctoral graduates in their career.

1. University of Colorado Denver

CU Denver’s School of Education and Human Development is the largest such program in the state of Colorado. In recent years, CU Denver has been recognized as a top-tier research institution; growing into a site for influential research on topics like autism and other mental health disorders has allowed CU Denver to thrive and help students advance in the studies of Research and Development. Students interested in advancing in the career of Education and Mental Health, CU Denver provides the exciting opportunities they are looking for. The University also prepares each graduate with strong foundations in new research methods and specialized concentrations as they enter the workforce.

For those interested in a career in human services research, the online PhD in Education and Human Development at CU Denver is the right choice. Combining core courses in urban education and learning theory, CU Denver’s 75 credit doctoral program helps each student gain the skills they need for careers in Research, Assessment, and Evaluation. However, there are several other concentrations to consider. Family Science and Human Development provides the student the change to “critically examine and understand family science within an ecological life span development lens.” Early Childhood Education, Math and Science Education, and Urban Ecologies are other related concentrations.

Program: PhD in Education and Human Development
Format: Online
Cost: $$$$$

2. Clemson University

For that reason, Clemson’s doctoral program in International Family and Community Studies is designed to strengthen communities by building strong relationships and providing family support.

The doctoral program blends together several interdisciplinary perspectives on family dynamics, including humanities, social sciences, and a variety of professional disciplines. The PhD in International Family and Community Studies at Clemson also builds a comparative understanding of US, Foreign, and International law and policy on child and family issues. Students of the doctoral program will also have the opportunity to participate in community development, research projects, and consultations on public policy affairs within the state, nation, and internationally. Integration of normative analysis, empirical research, and community development makes the doctoral program very unique to prospective graduates. Graduates with at least a Bachelor’s degree are encouraged to apply. PhD students who live in the Clemson or Greenville areas may receive reduced tuition costs or tuition stipends if they participate in research or teaching assistantships, and grants may also be available.

Program: PhD in International Family and Community Studies
Format: Blended
Cost: $$$$$

3. Texas Tech University

As a student in the doctoral program, the student will learn practical teaching techniques and have access to top-notch facilities. The doctoral degree provide future career opportunities, such as cooperative extension, educational research, public policy, and academic publishing. 60 credit hours of coursework and 12 hours of dissertation work is required. Tuition fees are based on certain variables, for instance, on/off campus, online classes, scholarship offers, and if financial aid help is given. For Texas Tech employees or faculty members participating in the FCSE Doctoral degree, an Employee Tuition Assistance Waiver may be available.

Program: PhD in Family and Consumer Science Education
Format: Hybrid
Cost: $$$$$

4. Arizona State University

The ASU online DBH-Clinician degree in Behavioral Health is designed to train master’s-level clinicians to work effectively in the healthcare industry. Students in the doctoral program will learn core courses such as medical literacy to understand disease pathophysiology, integrated behavioral interventions that treat patients effectively, and an entrepreneurship to assist students in building a strong skill set for the 21st century. ASU’s online DBH-Management, on the other hand, focuses exclusively on management and behavioral care within the healthcare industry. The DBH-Management program also is designed to provide management didactics, training, and experience to helps students build strong leadership roles as they enter the healthcare marketplace. The 84-credit DBH-Clinical program provides 400 hours of clinical internship, interactive online streaming for all classes, and a business plan that will boosts a student’s professional career.

Program: DBH – Clinical or Management emphasis
Format: Online
Cost: $$$$$

5. University at Albany (SUNY)

University at Albany, often simply called UAlbany, is strategically positioned in New York’s Capital city, It has access to a vast network of relationships with universities, educational systems, and government agencies nationwide and globally. UAlbany is known to prepare students for in-demand fields and prides themselves as a university of great value with low-cost tuition. UAlbany offers several Master’s degrees and Certifications, ranging from Early Childhood, Special Education, Computer technology, Public Health, and English Literature, many of which are available entirely online.

The UAlbany PhD in Educational Policy and Leadership is an interdisciplinary 69-credit program, providing a solid foundation of theory and practice, based on educational policy research and policy analysis. Students will also learn critical decision-making and leadership skills. Four concentrations include Educational Policy Analysis, Global Comparative Education Policy, Higher Education, and School Leadership. PhD students at UAlbany-SUNY collaborate with faculty of international reputation while researching areas that they want to learn most. Human services professionals may also be interested in UAlbany’s PhD in Social Welfare, which provides a path to careers in state government, research institutes, and some community-based agencies, locally and abroad; however, this program is only available on-campus.

Program: PhD in Educational Policy & Leadership
Format: Online
Cost: $$$$$

6. University of Southern Mississippi

stands up to their name by encouraging their students’ personal growth, professional development, and commitment to succeed in life. Southern Miss offers many graduate degree programs from the arts and sciences, child and family development, and criminal law. Southern Miss also provides a PhD in Human Capital Development through the School of Interdisciplinary Studies and Professional Development.

The Southern Miss online PhD in Human Capital Development program focuses on human capital development through the transfer of research to practice. The PhD degree brings real-world experience and encourages professionals to engage in research that is meaningful to their organization. Faculty members provide a think-tank learning environment to the students, allowing creativity to blossom. The program offers face to face courses with web-based instruction. Graduates of the Doctorate of human capital development may have job options such as a training specialist, human resource officer, or a human capital consultant. Places of employment can be with business firms, colleges, or the military.

Program: PhD in Human Capital Development
Format: Online
Cost: $$$$$

7. Capella University

Capella University is an online school dedicated to providing exceptional, professional education to their students by combining fundamental theory with real-world applications. Founded in 1993, Capella University offers a high quality education to its students. Capella presents their students with the option of 47 degrees and over 89 specializations. 18% of students are doctorate applicants, while 45% are going for their master’s degree. Capella University also provides a unique tuition plan. Students have the option to pay by what is called a Flexpath or a GuidedPath, giving the student control over their own education needs. FlexPath only available for select programs.

The Doctor of Human Services – Leadership and Organizational Management offers relevant skills and knowledge to be an effective human services leader. Students will study advanced strategies for constructive collaboration with organizations, communities, and individuals. Graduates will learn how to provide solutions as leaders and channel expertise for positive outcomes in a challenging world.

Program: Doctor of Human Services – Leadership and Organizational Management
Format: Online
Cost: $$$$$

8. Walden University

Founded in 1970, Walden University has achieved recognition as a top online educator and has provided a diverse community of career professionals with the opportunity to transform into scholar-practitioners. Walden University offers 25 Doctoral degrees and over 150 specializations or concentrations. Walden University provides each student with competency-based education for all their degrees. Social justice and change is a high topic for Walden university as well; through research, practice, and educating motivated scholar-practitioners, they work to better foster social change.

One doctorate degree available at Walden University is the PhD in Human and Social Services. Through the School of Family Studies and Intervention, Walden’s PhD is designed to help students understand advanced clinical theory and research methodology within a unique, student-centered format. Students will study theoretical and clinical approaches to interventions, learn about the needs of target minority groups, and be acquainted with multimodal therapeutic approaches. The doctoral degree in Human and Social services is a 83-quarter credit degree which includes a foundation class, some core courses, specializations, and a dissertation. Some main subjects are quantitative reasoning and analysis, community psychology, human sexuality, and research theory. Grant writing also will reflect on the student’s experience as they enter the human services field.

Program: PhD in Human and Social Services
Format: Online
Cost: $$$$$

9. Saybrook University

Saybrook University is a college that is making headway in the field of social sciences. The University, which operates entirely online, works to provide a rigorous graduate education to those inspired by the social changes of today. Originally called Saybrook Graduate School and Research Center, the university was brought together over 40 years ago by a small group of academic rebels. Today, Saybrook University consists of the College of Social Science, and the College of Integrated Medicine and Health Science. Saybrook University has doctoral degrees ranging from Leadership and management programs, Humanistic and Clinical psychology, Psychophysiology, and Counseling. Integrated wellness programs are also available.

Saybrook’s online PhD in Transformative Social Change will prepare graduates to become successful policy advocates and leaders in nonprofit organizations. The program is also designed to promote community building and social justice. Through the program, Saybrook University teaches students strategies that will lead to social transformation and communicate viewpoints that are global, multicultural, multigenerational, social, and environmentally responsible. One of the points of the doctoral degree in transformative social change is to model compassion and connectedness for communities and local governments. The total credits for this degree is from 68-83, depending on transfers from other institutions.

Program: PhD in Transformative Social Change
Format: Online
Cost: $$$$$