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If you want to make a difference in the lives of underserved populations, consider earning an online doctorate in human services. This terminal degree prepares students to take on leadership roles in organizations that serve people in need, such as those who suffer from addiction, poverty, mental illness, or abuse. Earning a doctorate in human services online prepares you to apply specialized skills and research to create effective policies, protocols, and legislation within human services organizations.

In the coming years, growing populations of people requiring medical and mental health services will drive an increase in human services positions. As a result, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects the need for social services managers to increase 18% between 2016 and 2026 — more than twice the average rate of growth for all other occupations in the country.

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Featured Schools

The Best Online Doctorate in Human Services Programs

  • Capella University

    Minneapolis, MN

    Capella University, a private, for-profit university established in 1993, offers two online doctorate in human services program options: an online doctor in human services, and an online Ph.D. in human services. While the doctor of human services focuses program on professional practice, the Ph.D. in human services focuses more on research and theory. Both prepare students to advance a variety of careers and positions in the field.

    The online Ph.D. in human services degree program comes with three specialization options, in multidisciplinary human services, nonprofit management and leadership, and social and community services. The program requires 92 quarter-credits for completion, a dissertation project, and comprehensive exams. Courses are lead by actively-practicing faculty covering topics such as case analysis, multidisciplinary practice, diversity in the workplace, advanced research methods, and ethics.

    The online doctor of human services offers two specialization options in advanced program evaluation and data analytics, and leadership and organizational management. The program requires 72 quarter-credits for completion, as well as a doctoral capstone. Courses are lead by actively-practicing faculty covering topics such as grant writing, data analytics and program evaluation, multidisciplinary practice, ethics and leadership models, and action research methods.

    Students in either program benefit from committed doctoral support, real-world education from scholar-practitioner faculty, asynchronous course delivery and 24/7 access, and a multidisciplinary approach.

  • University of Arizona Global Campus

    San Diego, CA

    University of Arizona Global Campus, an online, for-profit university, enrolls over 36,000 students in an array of entirely online undergraduate and graduate programs. Among its offerings is an online doctor of philosophy in human services degree program.

    The online Ph.D. in Human services requires 62 credit hours for completion, including 11 core courses, one elective research course, and five specialization courses. Students may choose from three specialization options, in the areas of mental health administration, nonprofit management, or standard human services. Regardless of the chosen specialization, the program develops advanced knowledge and skills in human services. Students prepare for leadership roles and learn to assess human services structures, evaluate and implement concepts, formulate strategies, and advocate for policies and practices.

    The program requires students to complete a doctoral capstone and dissertation. Courses are completed in six-to-nine week segments. Applicants must have a minimum of a master’s degree for admission. Students benefit from 24/7 technical support.

  • Walden University

    Minneapolis, MN

    Walden University, an online for-profit university established in 1970, enrolls around 50,000 students in a wide selection of undergraduate, graduate, and professional degree programs. Among its offerings is an online doctor of philosophy in social services degree program that prepares students for advanced positions in an array of human services careers.

    The online Ph.D. program offers 15 options for specialization, in areas such as advanced research, community and social services, criminal justice, family studies and intervention, gerontology, and military families and culture. The wide selection of specializations allows for students to fill any conceivable professional niche in human services by focusing on the specific area in which they wish to help. Regardless of the specialization chosen, students gain the advanced knowledge and skills necessary to effectively analyze problems, develop and implement strategies, and serve diverse populations of people.

    The online Ph.D. program also comes with two track options, designed to serve students of all levels of experience. Track I is for students who hold a master’s degree from an accredited university in human services, counseling, social work, or psychology, and is the shorter path of the two, requiring just 83 quarter-credits. Track II is for student’s holding a bachelor’s degree, or a master’s degree in a non-related field, and requires 108 quarter-credits. Both tracks require a dissertation, a professional development plan, and four periodic campus residencies.

Best Online Doctorate

Online Doctorate in Human Services Programs Ranking Guidelines

We selected these degree programs based on quality, curricula, school awards, rankings, and reputation.

Our Methodology

Here at, we take the trust and welfare of our readers very seriously. When making our school and program rankings, our top priority is ensuring that our readers get accurate, unbiased information that can help them make informed decisions about online education. That's why we've developed a rigorous ranking methodology that keeps the needs of our readers front and center.

Our proprietary, multi-criteria ranking algorithm analyzes key data indicators — as collected by the federal government — for each school or program. What data we use depends on the focus of each specific ranking, but in all cases, our ranking methodology is impartial: Schools cannot buy better rankings at TBS.

While specific criteria under consideration can vary by ranking, there are a few data points that we value most highly. They are affordability, academic quality, and online enrollment. Below, we break down our algorithm to help you understand what you're getting when you use one of our rankings.

  • Academics
  • Affordability
  • Online Enrollment

Data Sources

The data used in TBS rankings comes primarily from the federal government, and much of it is provided by the schools themselves. We aggregate and analyze this data to build our rankings.

The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) is our primary source. Its data comes from annual surveys conducted by the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). Every college, university, or technical school with access to federal financial aid must participate in these surveys, which include questions about enrollment, graduation rates, finances, and faculty qualifications. This is publicly available data, which you can access yourself through the College Navigator.

Additionally, because we value a personal touch and the professional experience of our staff and Academic Advisory Board, we vet all results and adjust rankings as necessary based on our collected knowledge of schools and degree programs. Depending on the ranking, we may obtain additional input from, subject matter experts, prior TBS ranking lists, or other sources we deem relevant to a particular ranking.

Breakdown of Our Rankings Methodology

About Our Ranking Factors

Here at TBS, we value what you value: quality education, affordability, and the accessibility of online education. These factors guide all of our program rankings.

Each of these factors are further broken down into weighted subfactors. For example, retention rates are weighted more heavily than availability of program options because they are a better indicator of student success.

We chose the following factors for our rankings because of their influence on learning experiences and graduate outcomes. However, students should always balance our rankings against their personal priorities. For instance, a learner who needs a fully online program may prioritize online flexibility more than our rankings do. Our rankings are designed to help you make a decision — not to make a decision for you.

Academics - 75%
Affordability - 15%
Online Enrollment - 10%

In all our school rankings and recommendations, we work for objectivity and balance. We carefully research and compile each ranking list, and as stated in our advertising disclosure, we do NOT permit financial incentives to influence rankings. Our articles never promote or disregard a school for financial gain.

If you have questions about our ranking methodology, please feel free to connect with our staff through contact page.

We thank you for your readership and trust.

Choosing an Online Human Services Program

If you plan to earn your doctorate in human services online, make sure to research each program’s offerings to find a program that serves your academic interests and career goals. Although programs may focus on similar learning outcomes, each boasts unique course offerings and program formats. Explore what specializations a program offers. Some human services programs, for instance, offer concentrations in nonprofit management, gerontology, mental health, criminal justice, military families, or social policy analysis. Decide whether a program’s course offerings meet your career aspirations.

Most human services doctorate programs offer a selection of foundational courses related to management, ethics and decision-making, and research methods, providing a blend of courses that explore human services and skills for effective organizational leadership. Beyond these foundational courses, programs may differ in what classes they offer and what they require of students. Some programs require a dissertation while others require workshops or professional residencies. Students looking to earn their human services doctoral degree online should consider these factors when deciding on a program that fits their schedule. They should also look into how long a program takes. Some schools offer accelerated tracks that help students earn their doctorate faster.

What Else Can I Expect From an Online Doctorate in Human Services Program?

This section explores the concentrations and course offerings typically found in online doctorate programs in human services. Although students can anticipate similar foundational course offerings, every program offers a unique curriculum.

Concentrations Offered for an Online Doctoral Degree in Human Services

Curriculum for an Online Doctoral Degree in Human Services

Online Doctorate in Human Services Careers

Those who earn their doctorate in human services enter a variety of fulfilling careers. They can work in mental health administration, nonprofit management, and elder care, finding employment in homeless shelters, rehabilitation clinics, or halfway houses. They can also work primarily with certain populations, such as military families, abused women, or children. Whatever field they enter, their goal remains to improve conditions and services for people in need.

  1. Social and Community Service Manager:
    Social and community service managers supervise and organize programs that serve the community, typically those housed within nonprofit organizations or government agencies. They oversee community service workers, locate funding opportunities, and organize outreach programs, working to improve programs and create more effective operations.
    • Median Annual Salary: $64,100
    • Projected Growth Rate: 18%
  2. Social and Human Services Assistant:
    Social and human services assistants typically help other social service workers support clients and their family members. They may assist social workers or work in rehabilitation clinics, connecting people with other means of support. They coordinate services for clients, such as applying for food stamps, and may help clients navigate activities as simple as eating and bathing.
    • Median Annual Salary: $33,120
    • Projected Growth Rate: 16%
  3. Training and Development Managers:
    Training and development managers work with employees at an organization to increase their overall knowledge, productivity, and effectiveness. They develop and oversee staff training and manage training budgets. They pinpoint an organization’s goals and work with employees and training instructors to achieve these goals.
    • Median Annual Salary: $108,250
    • Projected Growth Rate: 10%

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

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