The doctoral degree emphasizes training that enables you to conduct rigorous research for publication in scholarly journals.


Because of course sequencing, admission only occurs during the fall semester unless you are already enrolled in the MHRIR program. You may be admitted to the PhD program either with a master’s degree or with only a bachelor’s degree. If you are admitted to the PhD program upon completion of your bachelor’s degree, you must complete your master’s degree within four semesters of initial enrollment. The application deadline for admissions is January 7.


The initial phase of the doctoral program focuses on course and seminar work, while also providing opportunities to collaborate with faculty members and doctoral student colleagues on research projects. Top priority is given to training in research competence and the writing of analytical papers of publishable quality.

You will be required to successfully complete 48-64 hours of coursework (beyond the baccalaureate), including work in research methods and the principal content areas of human resources management, industrial relations and labor economics, which comprise the common body of knowledge in which all PhD students must demonstrate competency. Your program of study will be determined in consultation with the PhD Advisory Committee and your individual faculty advisor each semester.

LER 556-557 (IR Theory and HR Theory)8 hours
LER 542 and LER 540 or LER 541 or LER 5458 hours
One year sequence in statistics (must be approved by PhD Committee)8 hours
Research methods (LER 559 and LER 590)8 hours
Two theory courses in a social science discipline (must be approved)8 hours
Two related courses outside discipline (must be approved)8 hours
Electives (must be approved)0-8 hours
Total48-64 hours

Workshops & Thesis Work

You must also complete a non-credit faculty-student workshop (LER 558) and 32-48 hours of thesis work (LER 599), for a total of 96 hours. The LER 558 Seminar Series will give you an understanding of the various areas of industrial relations through faculty and student presentations and discussion. Faculty from allied departments participate, offering a multidisciplinary perspective of employment relations.

Exams & Dissertation

In addition to the required coursework, there is a second year paper and area of specialization exam requirement.

The second year paper has been adopted in lieu of the Comprehensive HR/IR Theory Exam. By mid-July of your second year in the program, you will
complete a second year research paper. The second year paper must be approved by an Advisor and one other faculty member who will serve as a ‘Reader’. Presenting this paper at the Fall 558 is a requirement and submitting it to a conference (e.g., AOM, SIOP or LERA) is a strong expectation.

Your area of specialization will be chosen in consultation with your faculty advisor and must be from within the following three sectors: 1) Human Resources Management, 2) Industrial Relations Systems and Public Policy, or 3) Wages, Labor Market Behavior, and Income Security. The area of specialization should be chosen as early as possible and must relate to more than one discipline and be considerably broader than the proposed thesis topic.

Within three months of successfully completing the area of specialization exam, a dissertation topic and committee should be selected.  Final stages of the PhD include a preliminary and final defense.

More in depth information can be found in the LER Handbook under the PhD Program Requirements section.