Is there a Difference between a DBA and a PhD in Business Administration?

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Updated October 2, 2020

The biggest difference between DBA and PhD business degree programs is the program focus. While the focus of the programs varies, there are additional reasons why academically inclined students prefer PhDs and working professionals prefer DBAs.

Resource: 10 Most Affordable Online DBA Programs - Online Ph.D. Business

The Basics

Doctor of Philosophy programs are the highest post-graduate degrees available in universities. These programs usually revolve around the scientific research of specific academic topics, but there are also doctorate studies in liberal disciplines. Doctor of Philosophy programs generally last three to six years. The majority of PhD holders accept university teaching positions, such as those involving the life, social and physical sciences. Doctor of Business Administration programs are the highest available post-graduate degrees for just working professionals, who usually have MBAs with a few years of managerial experience. These programs last between three and five years. These degrees focus on applied research and real-world applications.

Program Differences

The Doctor of Philosophy is a globally recognized degree that is the traditional qualification for academic researchers. The doctorate degree is relatively new and not well-recognized outside the U.S. or even among certain local universities. This degree limits students to only working with business-based schools or companies. It is highly likely that the actual value of the degree will depend on the reputation of the educational institution. Almost all Doctor of Philosophy programs are full-time, but the doctorate degree programs are usually part-time. These hybrid programs blend both online and residential learning modules together to create flexibility. Doctor of Philosophy programs focus on researching and developing new theories, while DBA programs seek solutions to current problems.

Student Demographic Differences

Both programs are actually designed for different student demographic groups. Doctor of Philosophy programs are usually made up of recent graduates who want to spend their future careers teaching or researching the social sciences. Most of these students simply transition directly from their Master's program to their Doctor of Philosophy's program. The typical background of these students is individuals between the ages of 20 to 30 with limited work experience. Doctorate programs target both recent graduates and senior professionals. The majority of candidates are working professionals with established careers who want new intellectual challenges and opportunities to research and solve specific work environment problems. These students tend to be between 30 to 40 or older and have relevant experience and specific needs.

Financing Differences

Doctor of Philosophy programs specializing in management usually offers financial support through scholarships or paid research position. This is normal because most Doctor of Philosophy students have limited employment experience and plan on spending their careers working for their university anyway. Most universities expect these students to perform research on specific topics that will generate revenue and promote the university within academic fields. Because doctoral students usually keep working while they study, financial support is limited. However, these academic expenses are usually tax deductible. Some companies provide tuition reimbursement and promotions after graduation.

In closing, the biggest difference between DBA and PhD business degrees is the ultimate purpose: research or applied problem solving.

Additional Resources:

Top 10 Best Business Schools

Top 25 Doctoral Programs in Business

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