Those who earn a Ph.D. in human development examine the relationship between people throughout the various stages of their lives and the public policies that affect them. Students must glean an understanding of this dynamic in order to effectively support human health and well-being. Established scholars and up-and-coming doctors of human development focus their research on how human beings develop policies and engage in public arenas in order to affect policy, as well as the effect that policy has on human behavior.
At the doctorate level, students pose challenging research questions, narrow their focus, and produce their own research. Generally, subject material pertains to child, adolescent, and adult development — the key transitions during one’s life.
Why a Ph.D.?
Doctoral students in human development may seek an advanced degree in the field for several reasons. Many are competing for professorial or research-based positions in universities and colleges across the nation; the field is quite competitive for these positions. The human development specialization gives graduates a definite advantage. The nature of the interdisciplinary field presents them as candidates who will bring new perspectives to more traditional departments.
Inside a Human Development Ph.D. Program
When students begin the doctorate program, they have already finished most or all of their course work; however, this is not always the case. Students who enter a doctoral program without a master’s will need to fulfill core curriculum requirements established by the department. Human development programs often have rules regarding the number of years students can use to finish their dissertation. Many students require at least six years from the beginning of the master’s program to the completion of their dissertation.
Rather than take classes, doctorate students split their time between conducting research and teaching undergraduate courses, or similar teaching assignments. The culmination of the degree is a dissertation and oral defense, but the path each student takes to achieve this end is quite different. The research topic and the speed at which the student is able to compile their research are two determining factors. Example Ph.D. human development dissertation topics in human development include: ‘Consumer Education Learning Styles of Older Adults and ‘Administrative Evaluation of Online Faculty in Community Colleges.
What's Next for Human Development Ph.D. Holders?
Doctorates in human development may find employment as adjunct faculty. With experience, they can work into into associate professorships and eventually earn tenure. According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS), the median annual salary forpostsecondary teachers in 2014 was $70,790. The employment rate for this occupation is forecast to rise 13% between 2014 to 2024, which is roughly as fast as the average for all occupations. However, further growth is expected as enrollment numbers continue to rise.
Some graduates will decide to switch careers and become career counselors, teachers, human resources specialists or market research analysts. Whatever career direction a Ph.D. in human development decides to take, they will most likely earn a higher salary than master’s or bachelor’s degree holders in the same field. When human development professionals have gained experience in the workforce, they may want to redirect their specialization. Earning professional certificates in health psychology or industrial organizational psychology, for example, may prove useful for shifting careers.