Finding the right online Ph.D. in Training and Development degree can be tricky; after all, not every professional wants a degree that focuses on the field without having the extra value of being informed by different professions. That’s why the field has expanded to include leadership and administration curriculums from various aspects of the working world, from business to technology to government and beyond. Students in the field need access to programs that can be molded to fit a variety of professions, and it is for this reason that this updated ranking is being made available.
Working professionals often have a minimum of three years of real-world experience in the field; this means that while they wish to complete their degree, they have personal and professional obligations that they must continue to maintain. They need online degrees that are flexible, accessible and, above all else, affordable. Students are interested in making an investment into their degree, but they do not want to spend their entire savings on a program.
The programs on this list come from various aspects of business and education. They all have a few things in common, however, including a focus on training, development, leadership, and education. This is why this ranking has been created so that all students will find the right program for their needs.
This ranking was created courtesy of the information gleaned from the National Center for Education Statistics and its publicly available College Navigator database. An initial group of 25 schools was created by searching for doctoral programs that incorporated training and development, organizational leadership, adult education, and human resources development online degrees. Each program was then individually reviewed and ranked based on several factors; the most important factor is the tuition rate. The final 20 schools were chosen based on the school’s total estimated in-state graduate tuition rate for the entire program.
Ranking Low-Cost Online Ph.D in Training & Development
20. Ashford University
San Diego, California
Online Doctor of Philosophy in Organizational Development and Leadership
The online Ph.D. in Organizational Development and Leadership degree that is offered by Ashford University is a brilliant choice for working professionals. With a focus towards research and statistics, this is a degree that will benefit anyone working in the business world and was designed specifically for working students. This degree was developed to have a strength in organizational development and leadership and is offered entirely online; there are no residency requirements. This program uses real-world case studies and evidence-based systems as ways to encourage students to participate in courses and inform a larger discussion on the subjects involved by offering their own input. This degree comes with four specializations: Innovation and Leadership, Organizational Diversity, Standard Organizational Development and Leadership, and Training and E-Learning. This program requires that students complete a minimum of 60 credits of coursework, a dissertation, and a comprehensive final exam. Sample courses include Leadership and Organizational Cultures, Theories and Models of Instructional Systems Design, and The Leader as Coach.
19. Regent University
Virginia Beach, Virginia
Online Doctor of Philosophy in Organizational Leadership, Specialization in Human Resource Development
Regent University confers an affordable online doctorate that is focused on human resource development. This is a great choice for HR professionals who are seeking to move into more senior roles within their career. This is a low-residency degree; students will have to be on campus for two separate four-day residencies throughout their course of study. The curriculum has a strong focus on research; students will need to keep that in consideration as many of the projects involved in this degree must be completed entirely on the student’s own time. This degree requires a minimum of 60 credit hours of coursework, a dissertation, an oral defense of that dissertation, and a comprehensive final assessment. Sample courses for this degree include Advanced Analysis, Trends in Organizational Leadership Research, and Organizational Theory and Design.
18. Lesley University
Online Doctor of Philosophy in Educational Studies, Specialization in Human Development and Learning
The online Ph.D. in Educational Studies that is offered by Lesley University was designed for professionals from all walks of life and all career paths; it is one of the most welcoming degrees on this list. This is an interdisciplinary program that focuses on developmental science, meaning that the information gleaned from this program can be used in a variety of settings, including healthcare and business companies. Students will find that this degree requires three separate residencies that each last nine days during the summer; this is a requirement for this degree. The program has four specializations, including Educational Leadership, Individually Designed, Human Development and Learning, and Jewish Educational Leadership. Requirements for this degree include a minimum of 45 credit hours of coursework and a dissertation. Sample courses include Advanced Adult Learning and Development, Change is a Process, and Nature of Inquiry: Below the Surface of Research.
17. Colorado State University
Fort Collins, Colorado
Online Doctor of Philosophy in Education and Human Resource Studies, Organizational Learning, Performance and Change Specialization
Colorado State University confers a low-cost online Ph.D that has a strong focused on management theory. This program was designed for working executives and academics, making it a great resource for both academic and applied analysis of the theories that impact the field. This is a hybrid course of study; students will need to attend the Denver campus every other Saturday during the term in order to meet the participation requirements; therefore, it is advised that only students in the immediate area apply for this program. With a four-year plan of study, students will take a part-time course load every term in order to graduate on time. This degree requires a minimum of 60 credit hours, a dissertation, and a comprehensive final assessment. Sample courses include Scenario Planning in Organizations, Theory Building in Applied Disciplines, and Theory and Practice of Change.
16. Indiana Wesleyan University
Online Doctor of Philosophy in Organizational Leadership
Students who enroll for a low-cost Ph.D. in Organizational Leadership online degree at Indiana Wesleyan University will be offered the chance to complete a degree that focuses on providing students with the chance to learn how to be servant leaders from a Christ-centered perspective. This is an online, cohort program that can be completed in less than four years and is also available as a hybrid program. Students will note that the online program requires yearly participation for one week at the school’s Summer Institute. This degree requires a minimum of 60 credit hours of coursework, a dissertation, and a comprehensive final assessment. Sample courses include Advanced Global Leadership, Application of Research Methods, and Global Perspectives on Leadership.
15. Capella University
St. Paul, Minnesota
Online Doctor of Education in Performance Improvement Leadership
Capella University confers an online Ed.D in Performance Improvement Leadership that was designed for professionals who wish to work in education or training-related careers. This degree will prepare students to become experts in management or performance and will open the door to senior-level roles in business and in education. Students will note that this is a sequential degree; courses must be taken in sequence and are completed in 12-week terms. This program’s curriculum focuses on research and designing action plans, meaning that this is a practical degree that is based on research fundamentals. The program requires a minimum of 64 credit hours of coursework and a capstone project. Sample courses include The How-To of Becoming an Action Researcher, Introduction to Human Performance Improvement Systems, and Return on Investment of Human Performance Improvement Interventions.
14. The University of Arkansas
Online Doctor of Education in Adult and Lifelong Learning
The affordable Ed.D. in Adult and Lifelong Learning that is offered by the University of Arkansas was designed for scholar-practitioners who are interested in taking on leadership or instructional roles. Students who take on this degree work with adult learners who have yet to complete high school, making them an important guiding force for many within the United States. There are two specializations within this degree: Adult Education Leadership and Community College Leadership. Both specializations are offered as low-residency, cohort programs. There are three residencies every term that must be completed for a student to graduate; these are all announced previous to the course beginning. Students will be tasked with completing a minimum of 60 credit hours of coursework, a dissertation, and candidacy exams. Sample courses include Current Issues in Adult and Lifelong Learning, Leadership and Ethics in Adult and Lifelong Learning, and Analysis of International Adult and Lifelong Learning Programs.
13. Bellevue University
Online Doctor of Philosophy in Human Capital Management
Bellevue University confers an online Ph.D. in Human Capital Management that is geared to professionals who are working in human resources. This program was developed to educate working adults on how to design and implement human capital development programs, enabling them to learn from past research and to add their own insight into ongoing research. This program’s curriculum focuses heavily on the human capital and talent, which is laid out through the coursework and subsequent assignments. Students will note that this degree is offered entirely online; there are no residency requirements. Students will be expected to complete a minimum of 58 credit hours of coursework, a comprehensive final written exam, and a dissertation. Sample courses include Introduction to Human Capital Modeling and Research, Human Learning and Decision Making, and Strategic Management of Human-Derived Sources of Capital.
12. Franklin University
Online Doctor of Professional Studies in Instructional Design Leadership
The affordable online doctorate that is available from Franklin University was designed to give students the chance to learn the terminal concepts and theories that permeate the industry. As a professional studies terminal degree, this program was built to ensure that working professionals understand and can reach the standard that has been set for them. This is a 100 percent online course of study; there are no residency requirements. One feature of this degree is that the average completion time is three years, including the completion of the dissertation. This program requires that students complete a minimum of 58 credit hours of coursework, comprehensive exams, and a dissertation. Sample courses include Instructional Design Consulting, Innovative Learning Environment Design, and Strategic Examination of Trends and Technology.
11. Morehead State University
Online Doctor of Education, Specialization in Adult and Higher Education Leadership
Morehead State University offers students the chance to complete an online Ed.D that was designed specifically for working practitioner-leaders. With a focus on adult and higher education leadership, the curriculum puts forth the different aspects that inform adult learners in the field. This degree was designed for students who are self-directed; this is a 100 percent online program that has no residency requirements and relies on a student to complete the program without too much encouragement. This degree requires a minimum of 48 credit hours of coursework, a doctoral seminar, and a capstone project. Sample courses include History of Adult and Higher Education, Advanced Instructional Design, and Philosophy of Adult and Higher Education.
10. The University of Idaho
Online Doctor of Philosophy in Leadership and Counseling, Specialization in Adult, Organizational Learning and Leadership
The online Ph.D. in Leadership and Counseling degree that is offered by the University of Idaho offers students the chance to work as a leader or educator who is instrumental in helping adults learn the necessary skills to work in a variety of settings. This is a fully online program; there are no residency requirements. This program has a variety of focuses, none more important than the research component. Students will be expected to complete a minimum of 84 credit hours of coursework, an internship or immersive experience, a comprehensive exam, and a dissertation. Sample courses include Future of Education and Work, Career Development and Organizations, and Strategies for Facilitating Adult Learning.
9. The University of Southern Mississippi
Long Beach, Mississippi
Online Doctor of Philosophy in Human Capital Development
The University of Southern Mississippi confers an online Ph.D. in Human Capital Development that focuses on human capital development. This degree was designed to translate research into practice. Students will find that this is a low-residency program; students will have to participate in a minimum of three separate residencies that take between three to five days to complete on-campus. The program’s curriculum will help prepare students to become C-level executives in a variety of settings, including in business and healthcare. This degree requires a minimum of 54 credit hours of coursework, a dissertation, and a set of comprehensive final exams. Sample courses include Survey Design and Administration, Human Capital Development Project Management, and Research in Human Capital Development.
8. The University of South Florida
Online Doctor of Philosophy in Career and Technical/Workforce Education
The low-cost online doctorate that is offered by the University of South Florida was designed to prepare students to work as teacher-educators in the career and technical workforce. This program is offered primarily online; residencies may be required for some cognate courses. All core courses are available online and will prepare students to compete with other senior-level administrators in their field. This degree requires a minimum of 70 credit hours of coursework, a dissertation, and a comprehensive final exam. Sample courses include Comparative Study of Career Workforce Education Systems, Vocational and Adult Education Program Planning and Implementation, and Career Development in Career and Workforce Education Change.
7. The University of Illinois
Online Doctor of Education in Human Resource Development
The University of Illinois confers an online Ed.D in Human Resource Development degree that is perfect for students who are currently working in or wish to work in human resources. The program was designed to prepare candidates to work as program directors and senior administration in a variety of settings, all with a focus on analyzing employees and training them in careers that best fit their talent and skills. This degree is designed to be completed online; there are no residency requirements. Students will be required to complete a minimum of 64 credit hours of coursework, a dissertation, and a set of comprehensive exams. Sample courses include Organization Development, Learning on the Job, and Instructional and Training System Design.
6. Northwestern State University of Louisiana
Online Doctor of Education in Adult Learning and Development
The affordable online Ed.D in Adult Learning and Development that is offered by Northwestern State University of Louisiana was designed for community college leaders and educators. This program was built for working professionals who are looking for online programs; there are no residency requirements. There are two concentrations: Community College Leadership and Adult Learning and Workforce Development. Both specializations are buoyed by a core curriculum that focuses on the leadership skills that will provide them with a basis for leadership in any community college. Students are encouraged to speak directly to the department to learn more about the degree and any program requirements that are attached to graduation.
5. Kansas State University
Online Doctor of Education in Adult Learning and Leadership
Kansas State University delivers an online Ed.D in Adult Learning and Leadership degree that is developed to prepare teacher-leaders to serve in a variety of different educational settings. This low-residency course of study has two major components: Educational Leadership and Adult Learning and Leadership. This program does require a substantial residency requirement; students must complete two courses on campus in order to be eligible for graduation. These may be completed in summer or one-week intensives. This program requires a minimum of 60 credit hours of coursework, an internship, a doctoral dissertation, and a comprehensive final exam. Sample courses include Multicultural Curriculum Planning, Psychological Bases of Educational Thought and Practice, and Experimental Design in Educational Research.
4. The University of Texas at Tyler
Online Doctor of Philosophy in Human Resource Development
Students at the University of Texas at Tyler confers an online Ph.D in Human Resource Development . This degree was designed for human resource executives and leaders in mind, making it a great choice for any student who wish to work in senior roles. This is a hybrid program; students will need to meet on-campus five times per semester for the program. Students will also be able to complete this degree in less than three years, making it an accelerated program for professionals. More information on this program and its requirements can be found by contacting the school’s doctoral department.
3. Valdosta State University
Online Doctor of Education in Adult and Career Education
Valdosta State University delivers students a low-cost Ed.D in Adult and Career Education online degree that was designed for educator-leaders who are interested in working in various fields to help facilitate adult learners and their education. This is a hybrid program; regular participation on campus is a requirement for graduation. The curriculum has a strong focus on the psychology of adult learning, how to devise programs that will fit the needs of working adults, and how to analyze and determine an individual’s rate of growth in any particular program. More information on this program, its requirements, and a list of course offerings can be found by contacting the school’s graduate admissions office.
2. North Carolina State University
Raleigh, North Carolina
Online Doctor of Education in Adult and Community College Education
The online Ed.D in Adult and Community College Education at North Carolina State University was designed to provide executives with a strong foundation in adult and community college education. This program was designed in an online, cohort format that is offered to students who are ready to complete a degree in less than four years. Students will find that this is a low-residency program; attendance on campus is required but is announced months in advance so accommodations can be made. This degree requires a minimum of 64 credit hours of coursework, a dissertation, and a comprehensive final exam. Sample courses include The Change Process, Labor Market Outcomes, and Organizational Issues in Adult and Community College Education.
1. The University of Memphis
Online Doctor of Education in Instructional Design and Technology
The University of Memphis confers an online Ph.D. in training and development that is unique in that it focuses on instructional design and technology. Students who work in academic environments knows how important these two factors are in continuing education and now they have a degree in which they can explore the areas in depth. This program was designed to be completed entirely online with no residency requirements, making it a great choice for busy professionals. Students will be expected to complete a minimum of 54 credit hours of coursework, a comprehensive final exam, and a dissertation. Sample courses include Consulting and Project Management, Data Collection and Analysis, and Seminar Instructional Design and Technology.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the Career Options for an Affordable Online Ph.D. in Training and Development Degree?
- College or University Professor
- Operations Research Analyst
- Non-Profit Organization Director
- C-Level Executive
- Human Resource Manager
- Training and Development Manager
- Education Administrator
- Curriculum and Instruction Design Director
- Social and Community Service Manager
- Education Administrator
- Chief Academic Officer
- Freelance Writer or Copyeditor
- Non-fiction Author
- Survey Researcher
How Much Can You Earn in this Field?
The current median wage for a professional in the training and development field is roughly $105,000. The salary range for this field is between $75,000 to $175,000 when all positions are taken into account. The range does not account for additional forms of compensation, including bonuses, commission, and stock shares; this in common in the field but is not reflected in annual wages. The range also demonstrates that there is a regional difference in salaries; professionals who work in metropolitan areas will make far more than their rural counterparts and this is mitigated by the competition that is found within those particular regions.
Mid-level and senior-level positions make the most in terms of salary in this field. A terminal degree in the field can fetch as much as more than $50,000 more in annual wages than a professional with a comparable master’s degree. This is enough to make most working professionals at least consider the idea of earning a doctoral degree.
In fact, many C-level executive positions are reserved for professionals who have earned a doctoral degree. This is because working professionals often earn this degree after having worked for some time in their career, meaning they have a great deal of work experience that would help them in their career goals. It also means it is becoming far more difficult for a professional with a master’s degree to earn an executive position.
It is also important to remember that professionals in the field have the option to work as freelancers. They can create their own private firm and work as consultants, write articles for publication, author non-fiction books, or work the conference network. This means that these professionals have more flexibility in terms of their career but that they do not have a steady income; this relies on their ability to get contract work.
What are the Various Disciplines of Training and Development?
Training and development is a field that is hard to define as a field, but one that is imperative for most sectors of working life in America. From education to business, technology to government, the field has far-reaching effects and is an area where both private and public sector employers find the best candidates.
The field is dominated by leadership, administration, psychology, and sociology. Management plays a large role as well, especially as it refers to human resources and building C-level executive communities. Also important is business, law, history, and culture; these are generally directly impacted by the individuals who take up administrative and managerial positions.
There are several sub-disciplines in this area that consider human resources, marketing, organizational psychology, and more. Some of these are offered as specializations within different doctoral programs and will provide students with a strong concentration in the area in which they would like to grow their career. These specializations will depend on the program, but students will find organizational development and entrepreneurial offerings at most schools.
Are Dissertations Required for this Degree?
Dissertations are a general requirement for doctoral degrees; however, many schools have forgone this requirement in favor of other options, such as scholarly projects, capstone projects, and coursework-only options. However, dissertations are great for students who have chosen to take on a research-based degree.
Dissertations in this field are generally focused on a student’s curriculum and are based on real-world case studies that a student can analyze and form a solution, providing them with the chance to complete a project that demonstrates both their ability to analyze a problem and how to create solutions for that particular problem. Because the dissertation takes a long time to complete, students will benefit from having their final year in the program left to their own studies and research.
However, some schools have chosen to offer different options for working professionals. Some of the most common are capstone projects, which may require research but most often deal with practical experience, comprehensive exams, or coursework-only options. This is great for professionals who work full-time because most of them do not have the time to complete a year-long dissertation project.
Is it Important to Consider Accreditations for an Online Ph.D. in Training and Development?
This depends on the professional. Not all training and developmental Ph.D. programs are created the same, meaning that there is not one specific accreditation that houses all of these degrees. This can make it difficult for professionals who are looking for an accredited degree.
A good rule of thumb is for a professional to look at their own career and see what accreditations are already available for them. The Society for Human Resources Management is an accrediting body for human resource-specific degrees, while the National Accreditation Council for Teacher Accreditation is one that is based on educational degrees. Since training and development degrees have been built for both programs, it is important to check for each accreditation that is available.
The most important thing to remember is that national or regional accreditation is the true mark of quality in higher education in America. Students who need an accredited online degree should look to CHEA, the national online accrediting body, to ensure that they have a reputable degree. Another option is to check to see if the Department of Education has accredited the program.
What is the Difference Between an Online and On-Campus Program?
Yes, there are differences between online and on-campus programs, the most notable being that the latter requires live participation on campus and the former rarely requires residency online. Online programs can be offered asynchronously or synchronously while on-campus programs require live, physical participation as a requirement for passing the class.
The difference goes further than that. Online programs are often more flexible than on-campus programs; full-time and part-time options are more widely available than on-campus programs, who regularly require full-time participation. Additionally, online courses can last four, six, eight or 12 weeks while online programs are routinely set to the traditional 16-week academic term length. Even further, online courses are often offered all year round, including summer and winter intensives, both of which are options that are not available to on-campus students.
Online programs are also more affordable than on-campus programs. Most schools offer in-state graduate tuition rates or a flat online rate, both of which are far more affordable than on-campus tuition rates. These rates often eliminate on-campus fees, making them even more affordable than their brick-and-mortar counterparts.
With all of that having been said, what is important for students to remember is that online and on-campus degrees are exactly the same. The degree that students earn at the end of their course of study will not show how a student earned that degree, only that they earned it. This is the most significant similarity, something that all students should keep in mind.
The idea of training and developing professionals in all sectors is one that is not often discussed but is of the utmost importance in most settings. Professionals need the training to achieve the highest degrees of career attainment, and that often means seeking guidance and programs that will enable them to do so. The field is filled with ambitious and dedicated individuals who wish to put their work into helping develop the experts in their field, but to do so, they need added training. An online Ph.D. in Training and Development will help them achieve their goals, and it is for this reason that seriously considering the programs on this list are important for any working professional who wishes to become a guiding light in the field.