What is the difference between a Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) and a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Management Science degree?
It’s a good question. Embarking on either of these doctorates will involve a major commitment of your energy, time and finances. You want to be sure to choose the right one.
First, the similarities. Both DBA and PhD programmes:
- Involve several years of study and research
- Culminate in a thesis, usually tested in an oral exam (‘viva voce’)
- Are equal in status, standing and challenge*
- Lead to a doctor’s title and can open up new horizons
So why would you choose one rather than the other?
It all depends on what your personal and professional goals are.
DBA v. PhD – professional v. academic goals
- A DBA is the doctoral degree to choose if you are pursuing a professional rather than an academic career. Your primary goal is to carry out research that advances professional practice in your field.
For example, if you are a marketing executive who wants to know how digital marketing influences your customers’ purchasing behaviour, or a CEO who wants to explore effective change management strategies in a global pharmaceutical company, the DBA would be your choice.
- A PhD in Management Science is the degree for you if you are on an academic career path. Your primary goal is to carry out scholarly research that advances theories and knowledge of management science.
The PhD would be a good choice if you want to become a management lecturer and conduct research that addresses existing gaps in management knowledge and theory, or a researcher who wants to become a trusted academic source for analysis of specific economic factors.
DBA v. PhD – taught modules v. research only
At UK universities, you will generally find that:
- A DBA is a professional doctorate that involves both taught modules and research
- A traditional PhD is a research-based doctoral programme with usually little or no taught element
DBA v PhD – practical v. scholarly research
Both types of doctorate culminate in a final research exercise.
- For the DBA, this will be a doctoral study addressing a practical problem, usually in your workplace, acknowledged as significant by scholarly and professional stakeholders.
- For the PhD, this will be a research dissertation addressing a gap in existing research, acknowledged as significant by the scholarly peer community.
What is the advantage of a DBA?
“I have gained an unparalleled amount of new knowledge, especially as it pertains to designing and conducting research studies related to real problems or opportunities in the workplace,” said DBA graduate Dr Lisa Crockett, senior director at a US health service provider.
The University of Liverpool’s AACSB-accredited Management School offers a Doctor of Business Administration that is fully accessible online and also has a face-to-face residency option. Read more about our online DBA
*Equivalence between the professional doctorate and a PhD is fully accepted within the UK through the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA), and across the European Higher Education Area, through the Lisbon Recognition Convention as part of the Bologna Process.
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Doctor of Business
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Business professionals who are looking for an alternative to a Ph.D. in business may wish to pursue a Doctor of Business Administration (DBA). Since the DBA is a professional practice doctorate, it is a good fit for business leaders who want to remain in the business world rather than enter careers in academia or research, although some DBA programs do equip people to teach at the college level. Traditional and online DBA programs tend to emphasize practical application over theory.
Individuals pursuing a DBA often seek higher credentials for increased credibility in consulting or as top executives. The ideal candidate for a DBA program would have extensive professional and managerial experience, would have a strong academic record, and would demonstrate the appropriate level of educational preparation. Having the right academic preparation, such as a master’s degree or a minimum of 30 hours of graduate-level course work in a business-related discipline, is important for a DBA candidate since they will be conducting disciplined scholarly research and should have some experience with research methods.
Like Ph.D. candidates, DBA candidates must complete a dissertation, a book-length document of publishable quality that details the doctoral student’s original research. This research must make an original and unique contribution to the body of knowledge in business administration, but often builds on the research of others. Once the dissertation is completed, the DBA candidate must orally defend his or her thesis before a faculty panel.
What Kinds of Courses Do You Take in a Doctor of Business Administration?
The types of courses you take as a DBA student in a traditional or online graduate degree program will vary greatly depending on the school and specialization you choose. For instance, DBA students specializing in information systems management will take very different courses than DBA students specializing in accounting. In general, however, many courses emphasize advanced leadership studies, global management strategies, business strategy, and ethics, as well as emerging issues and special topics in business administration. Courses will also include research methods, qualitative and quantitative methods, and special research techniques.
After a student has completed their doctoral course work, they generally take a comprehensive exam that tests the depth and the breadth of their knowledge in business administration. Upon successful completion of this exam, students begin their dissertation research, a process that could take anywhere from a year to several years, depending on the research topic. Because the dissertation process is so challenging, even students who are completing an online business degree program typically must report to campus for residencies where they conduct intensive research and receive advice and feedback from faculty mentors. A student can only receive a DBA after completing and successfully defending their dissertation.
What Jobs Can I Get with a Doctor of Business Administration?
Many students who are pursuing a DBA are already employed in the business world, and a DBA is excellent preparation for careers in senior management. A sampling of careers for graduates of DBA programs include top executives, management consultants or analysts, general and operations managers, computer and information services managers, senior financial managers, and many more. Some DBA graduates go on to teach at the college level, becoming adjunct faculty, associate professors, and full professors.
The median yearly salary for management analysts, or management consultants, was $78,160 as of May 2010, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Salaries vary depending on many factors, including your experience, your career responsibilities, and the size of the organization you serve. While the BLS points out that those with doctoral degrees have higher salaries and lower rates of unemployment on average than those at other degree levels, finding employment is never guaranteed.
Schools That Offer a Doctor of Business Administration.
Many high-quality universities offer an online business administration degree at the doctoral level. California Southern University, for example, offers a DBA program 100% online that concludes with a field-based doctoral project. Walden University, which also offers an online DBA program, incorporates two face-to-face residencies and allows students to specialize in one of 13 areas, including global supply chain management, finance, marketing, technology entrepreneurship, and a self-designed specialization. Last but not least, Capella University offers an online DBA program that incorporates three face-to-face weekend residencies and an opportunity to participate in an international trip for a unique learning experience in global business.