Online Ph.D. in Crisis Human Services

A doctoral degree in crisis management is a multidisciplinary approach to a specialized area of human services. As a field that has evolved recently, degree programs in this subspecialty are rare, especially at the doctoral level. However, they do exist; the growing demand for qualified professionals in this line of work should drive expanded educational options in the future. A Ph.D. in crisis human services enables graduates to coordinate complex systems to create strategies for assisting communities in the wake of disasters or other traumatic experiences.

Why a Ph.D.?

A doctoral degree with a concentration in crisis management curriculum emphasizes public policy and the extensive human services network currently in existence. Understanding available resources and effectively coordinating them for unique situations is a crucial skill for upper-management level professionals in this field. Students in this type of doctoral program approach theory, research, and practical application with an eye toward crisis intervention, crisis counseling, and crisis planning for potential emergencies. Through courses that cover disaster recovery, crisis management, hazard mitigation, and emergency management theory, Ph.D. candidates prepare for original research and a dissertation required to earn their degree.

Students who have completed a doctoral degree in human services crisis are also eligible for membership in the National Center for Crisis Management (NCCM). Membership with the NCCM offers further credentialing via Diplomate or Fellowship status. Additional certification programs are available within 13 subspecialties of traumatic stress and four areas of crisis management. These additional credentials not only add to your training and marketability, but also connect you to a network of other service providers that you may need to access in the event of a crisis.

Inside a Crisis Human Services Ph.D. Program

Degree programs at the doctoral level are comprised of coursework, fieldwork, and original research published in a dissertation. Courses examine theory and strategy behind effective community response in a crisis or emergency situation. Candidates explore typical behavioral traits after a traumatic event, compromised coping skills and post-crisis implications like PTSD. Graduates of this Ph.D. program will be able to effectively manage crises on a community and regional level.

Specific courses on crisis management may include:

  • Crisis and Emergency Management
  • Information Technology in an Emergency
  • Environmental Hazard Mitigation
  • Geographic Information Systems
  • International Crisis Management
  • Emergency Management Health Issues
  • Terrorism Preparedness and Response
  • Local Business Continuity
  • Risk Management and Contingency Planning

Residencies provide an opportunity for doctoral students to collaborate with peers. Short programs that require on-site attendance serve to fine-tune critical thinking skills and to advance scholarship within the field through research analysis and peer review. These residencies, timed with coursework in quantitative research methodology and analysis, produce the seed that drives original research and the dissertation.

A dissertation should provide new research that is a contribution to the field. Original research is proposed and, once approved, supervised by faculty as it is conducted. Candidates then analyze research data and present it in the form of a lengthy document that is suitable for a scholarly publication. When approved by faculty, the dissertation must be orally defended.

What's Next for Crisis Human Services Ph.D. Holders?

Graduates of a human services crisis Ph.D. program are equipped with skills in emergency management and conflict resolution, and are able to coordinate a wide variety of human services resources to assist a community in crisis. Public safety, homeland security and public administration sectors typically attract these graduates. Titles might include Director of Emergency Management, Crisis Team Coordinator, Social Services Agency Liaison or other upper-management roles.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), positions in emergency management are expected to increase 6% by 2024. In 2014, the median annual wage for emergency management directors was $64,360.