PhD in Industrial Relations & Human Resources


Program Description


SMLR's Ph.D. program in Industrial Relations and Human Resources (IRHR) is an interdisciplinary program that qualifies students for employment as college or university faculty or for research positions. The IRHR program is designed for people who want to:

  • Study the world of work in our dynamic global economy, including how employment relationships affect organizations, workers, and society.
  • Work with leading scholars who are nationally and internationally recognized experts in a broad range of topics in industrial relations and human resources.
  • Become leading scholars. Students learn how to design, conduct, and publish rigorous research in scholarly journals such as Academy of Management Journal, Academy of Management Review, Industrial and Labor Relations Review, Industrial Relations, and Journal of Applied Psychology, among others.
  • Develop teaching skills by working as teaching assistants and teaching their own courses.

Learning Goals for Students

  1. Attain marked ability, scholarship, research and leadership skills in industrial relations and human resources.
  2. Engage in and conduct original research.
  3. Prepare to be professionals in careers that require training at the highest levels in the social sciences that address issues related to industrial relations and human resources.

Degree requirements

The program of study in IRHR requires all students to:

  1. Complete three core seminars
  2. Select a primary field of either Human Resources or Labor, Work, and Society, in which five courses will be taken
  3. Either select a secondary field in which three courses will be taken, or take three electives if no secondary field is chosen
  4. Complete four statistics and research methods courses
  5. Complete a Master's thesis
  6. Complete a dissertation
  7. Attend the Proseminar, consisting of presentations by SMLR faculty, outside scholars, and Ph.D. students

Students can take doctoral courses at Princeton, Columbia, NYU, CUNY, Fordham, New School, or Stony Brook as part of their studies, through the Inter-University Consortium in which Rutgers participates.

Course Outline

Course Credits

Seminar in Industrial Relations

16:545:611 or approved equivalent – Year 1 or 2


Seminar in Human Resources: Macro Foundations

16:545:612 or approved equivalent – Year 1 or 2


Seminar in Organizational Behavior

16:545:618 or approved equivalent – Year 1 or 2


Primary field: either

1. Human Resources*, or

2. Labor, Work, and Society**

Years 1 -3


Secondary field: either

1. Human Resources*,

2. Labor, Work, and Society,**

3. Customized, or

4. No secondary field, with 9 credits of electives approved by the director.

Years 1 -3


Research Methods

16:545:613 or equivalent – Year 1 or 2


Statistics I

15:291:515 or equivalent. Must be Ph.D. level course Year 1


Statistics II

15:291:625 or equivalent. Must be Ph.D. level course Year 1
or 2.


Advanced Statistics or Methodology Elective

16:545:616 or 16:545:701, 702 or equivalent. Approval of
Grad. Director is required. – Year 2 or 3


Master's Thesis

16:545:701 – Year 2 or 3


Proseminar Credits

16:545:610 – Years 1-3


Doctoral Thesis Credits

16:545:702 – Years 4-5

= 72 Credits Total (which includes 24 Research “Thesis &
dissertation” Credits)

Master's Thesis

During their second year in the program, students complete an empirical research project under the guidance of a three-person thesis committee. A member or associate member of the SMLR graduate faculty may serve as the committee chair and direct the research project. A satisfactory oral defense of the thesis is required. Usually, the oral defense is scheduled as a presentation in the Proseminar. The defense is open to the public and must be announced at least two weeks in advance. Upon completion of the thesis and oral defense, and 30 credits of coursework (of which 6 may be research credits for completing the thesis), student are awarded the master of science degree and become eligible to take the qualifying exam.

Qualifying Exam

The qualifying exam assesses students' knowledge of, and ability to synthesize, the theory and methods covered in their required and elective courses and in their specialized fields of study. It covers the IRHR literature that is considered to be the foundation upon which the student's career and future research are based, as well as the research methods and data analysis techniques that are relevant to the student's chosen area of specialty. The exam is offered twice annually, in January and May (or at a time agreed to by the student's advisory committee and the Graduate Director). The format is take-home, with 48 hours for completion. Normally, students take the qualifying exam in December of their third year. The qualifying exam is graded and must be approved by at least four members of the IRHR graduate faculty. Students who fail the exam must retake it within four months. After passing the qualifying exam, students are admitted to Ph.D. candidacy.


Students complete a dissertation during their fourth and fifth years. The dissertation committee must be chaired by a member of the IRHR graduate faculty and include at least three other faculty. At least one member of the committee must be from outside the IRHR graduate faculty. Members from outside Rutgers are preferable. All students present and defend their dissertation proposals in a seminar format. The proposal defense is open to all interested faculty and Ph.D. students, although only the committee members vote on the acceptability of the proposal. A final oral defense takes place upon completion of the dissertation. The defense is open to the public and must be announced at least two weeks in advance.

Research Involvement

Students are expected to be actively involved in research throughout the entire time they are enrolled in the program. To facilitate this, students are assigned to a research advisor upon their admission into the program. Students may change their research advisor, by mutual agreement, at the end of their first year and any time thereafter. Research advisors provide annual assessments of students' research activities, and satisfactory performance is required in order for students to remain in good standing in the program and continue to receive financial assistance.

Last updated Aug 2019

About the School

The Rutgers School of Management and Labor Relations (SMLR) is the leading source of expertise in the world of work, building effective and sustainable organizations, and the changing employment relat ... Read More

The Rutgers School of Management and Labor Relations (SMLR) is the leading source of expertise in the world of work, building effective and sustainable organizations, and the changing employment relationship. The school is comprised of two departments—one focused on all aspects of strategic human resource management and the other dedicated to the social science specialties related to labor studies and employment relations--with faculty from a wide variety of disciplinary backgrounds. Read less
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