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Not all learning takes place in school. Increasingly, the corporate world has put an emphasis on continuing education to keep its workforce as up-to-date and competitive as possible. This has created a burgeoning industry in corporate training, and with it, demand for qualified corporate trainers.

One way you can help meet this demand is by earning a PhD in Corporate Training or a related field. This could qualify you to work as an instructor for a specialty education provider, in-house as a full-time corporate skills trainer, or independently as a consultant or executive coach. The high-level academic attainment represented by a PhD in Corporate Training could also qualify you to handle other aspects of this field, such as curriculum design.

Basically, becoming a corporate trainer is a fresh twist on the teaching profession. If you like the idea of teaching, but also feel you would prefer to work with adults and/or want to work in the corporate world, then corporate training may be the ideal niche for you. In that case, you should look into earning a PhD in Corporate Training, or a similar degree.

This guide will help you understand your options for earning a doctorate degree in corporate training. It will describe more about what the profession entails, what options are available for earning a doctorate degree in corporate training, including both on-campus and online PhD programs, and how to go about selecting and applying to a school where you can earn your PhD in Corporate Training.

Overview: The Need for PhDs in Corporate Training

To understand the need for PhDs in Corporate Training, you need only look as far as the constant role that continuing education, skills retraining, and employee workshops play in the corporate world.

There are several reasons for all this corporate training:

  • Skills retraining. An economy that features global competition is bound to change rapidly. Products and services that were big sellers last year may be replaced by something new and different this year. The onus, then, on companies is to remain as flexible as possible, and that means being able to retrain employees periodically to put them to more productive use.
  • Knowledge updates. A person who goes to college for four years or so cannot expect that knowledge to subsequently remain current over the course of a forty-year career. Certainly, anyone who works with computers or with other technology knows that the rate of change is accelerating, but the same can also be said for business models and management methods. Keeping employee skills up-to-date is essential for companies that don't want to get left behind.
  • Regulatory changes. Many professions are subject to regulations that are frequently changing. It is vital to keep employees briefed on how these changes affect their jobs, without requiring each employee to become an expert in the field. In addition, there are sometimes sweeping new regulations, such as the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, which cut across all professions and affect the way many different people do their jobs. Training seminars can be the most efficient way to brief the relevant employees on these new developments.
  • Employment issues. Besides skills and other issues directly related to their jobs, employees also need to be educated about general topics that affect the workforce. Examples include sexual harassment awareness and non-discrimination training, investment education for 401(k) and other retirement plan participants, and information about options and changes in company health care plans.
  • Management development. One challenge that is especially acute in growing organizations is finding the next generation of supervisors and leaders. It can be much less expensive and disruptive to grow these people from within rather than recruiting them from outside the organization. For this reason, management development programs can be very valuable in helping to identify and nurture employees with potential for advancement.

Recognizing that ongoing learning is an integral part of meeting professional standards, the governing or sanctioning bodies for a diverse group of occupations have continuing education requirements for their members or practitioners. These requirements reinforce the demand for corporate training. Some of the corporate professionals that may be subject to continuing education requirements include the following:

  • Accountants
  • Investment analysts
  • Architects
  • Insurance agents
  • Real estate agents

Whether they are required to or not, many corporate professionals actively seek out continuing education and other training to improve their prospects for advancement, make themselves more competitive on the job market, and/or to demonstrate their qualifications to clients.

Potential Uses for a PhD in Corporate Training

Given all this demand for continuing education and instruction in the corporate world, what are some of the roles you could play with a PhD in Corporate Training?

First, before getting into specific roles, you should recognize that a PhD in Corporate Training could qualify you for several types of employment environments. You could work within a corporation, designing and/or conduction training sessions for its employees. This type of specialist role would typically exist only in mid-sized to large corporations. Alternatively, you could work for an educational provider, either a school or training organization that conducts sessions geared toward continuing education and other workplace needs. Another possibility is to work as an independent consultant, engaging in one-on-one training or advising organizations on their professional development needs.

Within those types of employment situations, there are many different individual roles you could play, such as:

  • Technical training coordinator. This would involve assessing the technical skills of the workforce relative to evolving industry standards, making recommendations for how to update those skills, and designing or perhaps conducting group and individualized training sessions.
  • Director of learning. In this position, you would typically take an organizational-wide view of educational needs and how to address them.
  • Management development specialist. This role would involve assessing the management potential of individuals, and helping them acquire the knowledge and skills necessary to be successful managers.
  • Executive coach. An executive coach is usually hired independently by a corporate executive or would-be executive, to help them develop high-level skills in anything from public speaking to conflict resolution. This is something like a personal trainer, only to develop executive rather than physical abilities.
  • Regulatory trainer. In companies with strong regulatory oversight, a regulatory trainer can work in conjunction with the compliance department to make sure employees stay abreast of their responsibilities.
  • Human resources trainer. In this role you can train employees on a variety of subjects important to the human resource department, from appropriate workplace behavior to basic hiring and supervisory skills.
  • Benefits education specialist. Given the complex nature of employee benefit plans, some companies use specialists to conduct workshops on general topics as well as consult with employees individually.
  • Continuing education instructor. There are a variety of training and professional development companies and associations which design and conduct seminars to help people in various professions meet their continuing education obligations.

Doctorate Degrees in Corporate Training and Related Fields

If one or more of the roles described above appeals to you, then you should look into earning a doctorate degree in corporate training, or a related field. Because this is still an emerging area of employment and education, looking specifically for a PhD in Corporate Training might limit your options. However, there are a number of doctorate degrees in related areas which might also give you an appropriate background for a career in corporate training.

Here are some of the degrees you might consider:

  • PhD in Corporate Training
  • EdD in Education: Instructional Leadership
  • EdD in Education: Educational Leadership
  • PhD in Curriculum and Instruction
  • PhD in Corporate Training and Human Resources Development
  • EdD in Curriculum and Instruction

To further expand your options, you might talk to the education department of a college or university about designing your own doctorate program in corporate training. Another way to expand your options is to be sure to consider earning an online PhD in Corporate Training.

In fact, an online PhD in Corporate Training might be the ideal solution for a number of reasons. For one thing, with doctorates specifically in this field still relatively scarce, an online PhD in Corporate Training might give you access to a program that would otherwise be unavailable in your area. Also, if you are a conventional school teacher looking to transition to the corporate world, an online PhD in Corporate Training can give a flexible enough academic schedule to prepare for this transition without giving up your current job. Similarly, if you are already in the corporate world but like the idea of making training your career, an online PhD program could be a perfect fit.

It's worth noting that recent studies have suggested that online instruction can be even more effective than in-person learning under certain circumstances. Of course, on-campus programs also have advantages such as the opportunity for personal interaction and hands-on experience, so you would be wise to include both on-campus and online PhD programs in your search.

Selecting a Graduate Corporate Training Program

As you start your search for appropriate PhD programs, a good place to start would be an online directory and education guide. This can give you an overview of relevant issues as well as a list of some of the schools offering a doctorate in your chosen field. Beyond that, individual college Web sites can give you detailed information about both on-campus and online PhD programs.

Some of the information you should be looking for:

  • Schools offering relevant doctorate degrees. Again, in addition to doctorate programs in corporate training, draw from related fields to put together your short list of possibilities
  • Accreditation. For both financial aid and eventual employment purposes, it is important that the PhD program you choose be approved by a recognized accreditation organization
  • Quality of faculty. You can check this out by looking at degrees earned and articles or books published, as well as by talking to individual faculty members if possible
  • Ratio of students to faculty members. The more you value individual attention, the more this ratio might matter to you
  • History of the program. A program which has been active in putting corporate trainers in the workplace might be more likely to have the reputation and the contacts to help you get a job
  • Graduation rate. Before you invest your time and money, you should know what your odds for success are
  • Program ranking. Various college guides rank different schools on a variety of criteria. These rankings may help you with your search and decision

Once you have narrowed down the field according to the above criteria, you'll be in a better position to get a feel for which programs might be the best fit for you.

Applying to PhD Programs

Another area in which online educational guides can help you is in understanding how to apply to doctorate degree programs. The following are some of the things you'll need to know:

  • Materials needed for submission
  • Application deadlines
  • Qualifying exam requirements
  • Degree prerequisites
  • Undergraduate GPA range for acceptance
  • Program cost
  • Financial aid options
  • Acceptance rates
  • Application cost

Making the Most of a PhD in Corporate Training

A doctorate degree in corporate training or a related field can open the door to a number of career options. To make the most of those options, look for ways to increase your visibility by doing things such as publishing articles or participating in press interviews on the subject of corporate training. Also, remember to keep your career options open--you can work as an in-house corporate trainer, act as an instructor or curriculum designer for a professional education provider, or operate independently as a consultant or executive trainer.



  • Bureau of Labor Statistics, Human Resources, Training, and Labor Relations Managers and Specialists
  • O'Brien Group, Dr. Michael O'Brien
  • The American Institute of Architects, Sustainable Design
  • Wisconsin Realtors Association, Real Estate Continuing Education
  • California Deptartment of Insurance, Ethics Continuing Education Requirement
  • CFA Institute, Get Recognition
  • New York State Society of Certified Public Accountants, Continuing Professional Education Requirements
  • The Sarbanes-Oxley Act, A Guide To The Sarbanes-Oxley Act
  • The New York Times, Study Finds That Online Education Beats the Classroom, by Steve Lohr
  • U.S. Department of Education, Evaluation of Evidence-Based Practices in Online Learning, by Barbara Means, Yukie Toyama, Robert Murphy, Marianne Bakia, and Karla Jones

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