5 Core Human Resources Classes in PhD Programs

  • HR Analytics or Research
  • Strategic Workforce Planning
  • Training & Development
  • Organization Behavior & Development
  • Strategic Leadership

Human resources professionals can enter the job market with a bachelor’s degree, but advancement in the field requires a graduate or post-graduate degree. A doctorate degree in HR focuses on executive-level research, leadership, decision-making, conflict resolution and organizational success and sets up graduates to become influential human resources professionals.  Here is some of the coursework required in a human resources PhD program.

Related Resource: Top 10 PhD Programs in Human Resources

1. HR Analytics or Research

No HR related decisions can be made, nor labor problems analyzed, without proper empirical data. A course in HR analytics or research explores key topics like research design, resources, methods, measurements, and applications. This class will teach the practices and principles of qualitative and quantitative research based on scientific norms and psychological standards. Other topics include probability, statistics, data interpretation, and applied human capital decisions. Students are trained how to effectively communicate research findings to executives to stimulate interest, buy-in, and acceptance.

2. Strategic Workforce Planning

An organization’s overall business success depends on a vibrant and proactive talent management strategy. The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) states that strategic workforce planning (SWP) refers to organizational tools used to examine workforce dynamics to preemptively prepare for future staffing needs and transitions. The goal of strategic workforce planning is to maintain the right number of skilled people in the right role or place at the right time or duration of time. Students will learn how to plan for uncertainty and anticipating change that manifests through industrial, political, economic, and market fluctuations.

3. Training & Development

HR management always involves employee education and development because when organizations synchronize training strategies with business strategies, there are better financial and individual performance results. Training has evolved from the limitations of traditional classrooms to online education platforms that blend online learning with performance goals, team collaboration, and developmental assignments. Training is often associated with teaching hands on skills to lower level employees, but it extends to supervisors who must understand HR guidelines, labor laws, and legal statutes.

4. Organization Behavior & Development

This class will explore individual, group and organizational behavior and dynamics as they relate to engagement, performance, and outcomes. This may involve job attitudes, environmental factors, and intrinsic motivation. HR leaders are expected to know organization behavior and development to increase organizational effectiveness and individual performance. This is possible through applying behavioral science knowledge, diagnosis, and interventions into the organization’s policies and processes. HR leaders must continually enhance and adjust an organization’s overall competence through aligning strategy and structure with people and procedures.

5. Strategic Leadership

HR leaders with doctoral degrees will likely be expected to perform executive-level managerial duties. Globalizing markets and diversifying corporations face complex regulatory, administrative, and technological challenges. HR leaders who understand the theory and application of strategic leadership within multinational environments are more likely to succeed. For example, an HR director of an international corporation must understand financial frameworks and economic value to effectively guide staffing strategies in different regions or countries. This will involve uniquely tailored employee benefits and compensation programs that reward performance and create engagement.

Most human resources leaders and professionals recognize the need for a graduate degree to move up the career ladder, but they may not know that the average HR professional with a PhD makes around $100,000 per year. PhD graduates of Human Resources programs will know how to conduct original research, apply theories of social sciences, improve employee well-being and evaluate the costs, concerns and benefits of various HR scenarios and suggestions. They will be prepared to assist executives with globalization, HR analytics, industrial relations, and talent management strategies.