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Need advice on doctorate program in HR while working full-time


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Hello everyone,

 

I currently work full-time in human resources and have both an MBA as well as a Master's in HR.  I would love to pursue a doctorate in an HR-related discipline, but would not want to forsake my full-time career.  Therefore, distance or executive programs are really my only options at this point.  I would highly prefer to stick with distance or executive programs that are offered by non-profit institutions.  I have researched several programs and wanted to get some feedback/advice on which program might afford me the greatest opportunity:

 

  • Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) in Human Resources and Workforce Development Education; University of Arkansas
  • Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Technology Management with a specialization in Human Resource Development & Industrial Training; Indiana State University
  • Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Education and Human Resource Studies with a specialization in Organizational Learning, Performance, and Change; Colorado State University

 

I have evaluated the pros and cons of each program and there are both strengths as well as drawbacks to each program.  The Ed.D. at U of Ark is the least expensive program and requires the least amount of on-campus time (just the dissertation defense).  The subject material of this program is also very closely aligned with HR.  My primary concern with that program is if having an Ed.D. would be looked upon as inferior to having a Ph.D.  

 

I also really like the Ph.D. program from ISU since it's the second least expensive program and requires the second least amount of on-campus time (one week in the summer per year, comprehensive exams, and dissertation defense).  It's also a Ph.D. rather than Ed.D. program, so that could be a potential plus.  My question, however, is if having a Ph.D. in Technology Management with a specialization in HRD&IT is closely related enough to HR.  This program has the fewest number of hours in actual HR classes among the three programs.  

 

Finally, I really like the CSU program because it's a Ph.D. program and has more HR coursework than the ISU Ph.D. program.  However, it is also the most expensive program and requires on-campus attendance five Saturdays per semester.  That amounts to 40 times throughout the duration of the program (not including dissertation defense).  I don't live close to Colorado, so pursuing that program would require me to incur the expense of at least 40 round-trip airfare tickets (not to mention hotel and rental car expenses).  

 

As previously stated, each program has advantages as well as weaknesses.  This makes it difficult for me to choose one.  Any thoughts?  I'm also open to other program suggestions that might be a close-fit for my work/educational needs.  Thank you.

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It all depends on why you want the degree....to be brutally honest, to me a part time / online / distance PhD (apart from probably being viewed less as credible and robust) also signals a lack of clarity and/or focus and whilst you may view it as hedging your risks, it seems to me more like selecting an option that is not optimal for any particular career path you want to follow.

 

The only exception I can think of is if your existing or aspirational corporate job requires this degree as a "stamp" for better future prospects, in which case your current or future corporate employer can best answer your question.

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It all depends on why you want the degree....to be brutally honest, to me a part time / online / distance PhD (apart from probably being viewed less as credible and robust) also signals a lack of clarity and/or focus and whilst you may view it as hedging your risks, it seems to me more like selecting an option that is not optimal for any particular career path you want to follow.

 

The only exception I can think of is if your existing or aspirational corporate job requires this degree as a "stamp" for better future prospects, in which case your current or future corporate employer can best answer your question.

 

Thank you very much for your response.  I really appreciate it.  The reason I'd like to pursue this is that it's a personal goal of mine to attain a doctorate.  However, I'm already very well established in a leadership position in my career path for a large employer and do not wish to exit the labor force while working on a traditional Ph.D.  At this point in my career, that would not lead to a financial return on my investment.  I definitely do understand the perceptual obstacles of attaining a non-traditional doctorate, but I also think that programs from non-profit institutions tend to be viewed more favorably than programs from for-profit institutions (which I think might/could help offset some negative biases that exist currently).  

 

A doctorate is not typically necessary for senior leadership HR positions in industry, but I have also found that the job market is increasingly becoming more and more competitive.  A master's in HR and/or an MBA has become a dime a dozen.  The job market is becoming oversaturated with advanced degree holders.  It is not unusual for 80% or more of applicants for an open executive HR position (SVP, CHRO, EVP, etc.) to possess these credentials.  While having a doctorate may or may not differentiate me from other candidates at this high level (since real-world experience and accomplishments are deemed much more important), I don't think that having it would necessarily hurt either.  The corporate world tends to be very unimpressed with educational credentials if those credentials are not accompanied with demonstrable experience/accomplishment.

 

I most certainly do understand your point about how a doctorate might signal "a lack of clarity and/or focus," but in my case I don't think that it necessarily would.  The reason is that I'm tenured in my profession already and am not trying to attain education in lieu of gaining leadership experience and/or concentrating my efforts on professional development.  In additional to earning two master's degrees, I have also actively participated in professional growth/development by earning three industry-respected certifications/designations (SPHR, PMP, CCP).  I have also served on various HR/leadership/business boards in my community.  I think that earning a doctorate at this point in my career might signal continued personal and professional development instead of a lack of clarity and focus.

 

I guess my goal is to balance high achievement in both my career path and my education.  While earning a doctorate the traditional route might be ideal, I don't view it as the ideal situation for me.  Forgoing a very comfortable salary and exiting my field for a few years might make it extremely difficult to continue on my trajectory of upward mobility.  In fact, I think it would be a setback in my career and could even greatly hinder my reentry into it.  However, my personal goal of attaining a doctorate remains, and so that is why I feel I am only left with the option of distance/executive programs.  The programs I originally listed are the closest fits I've found so far.  They are applicable to my interests/career, are from non-profit institutions, and would allow me to continue to advance in my career path.  I just don't know which one is the optimal choice or if there are other programs out there that might be even better for me.  Thanks again.

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  • 5 months later...

Hello everyone,

 

I currently work full-time in human resources and have both an MBA as well as a Master's in HR.  I would love to pursue a doctorate in an HR-related discipline, but would not want to forsake my full-time career.  Therefore, distance or executive programs are really my only options at this point.  I would highly prefer to stick with distance or executive programs that are offered by non-profit institutions.  I have researched several programs and wanted to get some feedback/advice on which program might afford me the greatest opportunity:

 

  • Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) in Human Resources and Workforce Development Education; University of Arkansas
  • Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Technology Management with a specialization in Human Resource Development & Industrial Training; Indiana State University
  • Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Education and Human Resource Studies with a specialization in Organizational Learning, Performance, and Change; Colorado State University

 

I have evaluated the pros and cons of each program and there are both strengths as well as drawbacks to each program.  The Ed.D. at U of Ark is the least expensive program and requires the least amount of on-campus time (just the dissertation defense).  The subject material of this program is also very closely aligned with HR.  My primary concern with that program is if having an Ed.D. would be looked upon as inferior to having a Ph.D.  

 

I also really like the Ph.D. program from ISU since it's the second least expensive program and requires the second least amount of on-campus time (one week in the summer per year, comprehensive exams, and dissertation defense).  It's also a Ph.D. rather than Ed.D. program, so that could be a potential plus.  My question, however, is if having a Ph.D. in Technology Management with a specialization in HRD&IT is closely related enough to HR.  This program has the fewest number of hours in actual HR classes among the three programs.  

 

Finally, I really like the CSU program because it's a Ph.D. program and has more HR coursework than the ISU Ph.D. program.  However, it is also the most expensive program and requires on-campus attendance five Saturdays per semester.  That amounts to 40 times throughout the duration of the program (not including dissertation defense).  I don't live close to Colorado, so pursuing that program would require me to incur the expense of at least 40 round-trip airfare tickets (not to mention hotel and rental car expenses).  

 

As previously stated, each program has advantages as well as weaknesses.  This makes it difficult for me to choose one.  Any thoughts?  I'm also open to other program suggestions that might be a close-fit for my work/educational needs.  Thank you.

Have you considered going to law school and getting a J.D.?  I ask because my VP of HR also has a J.D. and this has proved very beneficial for her. Good luck!

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