If you’re feeling stuck in your current position, you might consider going back to school. For professionals in business and management, there are several degree options to consider. You may choose to work toward a Master of Business Administration (MBA), for example, or a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD).
Alternatively, you might consider a Doctor of Business Administration (DBA). A DBA may be an ideal choice for those who already hold an MBA. Although it’s not strictly necessary to earn an MBA before pursuing a DBA, you will need a master’s degree to enroll. The DBA degree may also be a good choice for professionals who intend to stay in the corporate world rather than transitioning to academia. What is a DBA degree and is a DBA worth it? Let’s explore this degree further.
In This Article:
- What Is a DBA Degree?
- What To Expect in a DBA Program
- How To Get Into a DBA Program
- How Do DBAs Compare to Other Advanced Degrees?
- DBA Career Options
- Is a Doctor of Business Administration Worth It?
What Is a DBA Degree?
A Master of Business Administration (MBA) is one option for those looking to enhance their career qualifications. However, people who are looking for higher-level qualifications may wish to earn a Doctor of Business Administration (DBA). To earn a DBA degree, a master’s degree is required as a prerequisite.
DBA learners are taught skills that may allow them to position themselves for higher-level positions, such as senior leadership roles. Since DBA programs usually require learners to conduct practical research, DBA graduates can have strong portfolios that may prove to be beneficial when searching for new jobs or opportunities. They can show tangible results of their work.
In addition, DBA learners are taught about current business practices and theories. This means they may be able to bring numerous ideas and innovations to companies and businesses looking to reconsider and modernize their business.
What To Expect in a DBA Program
Before taking a closer look at the question, Is a doctor of business administration worth it? let’s take a look at what you can expect in a typical DBA degree program. A master’s is a prerequisite for enrolling in DBA programs. Such programs build on the foundational skills acquired in for example a MBA program. The DBA extends and amplifies that foundational knowledge (see the next section for more detail).
Generally, people who enroll in a DBA program are already business professionals. They often work toward the DBA with the goal of becoming better business leaders with a deeper understanding of problem-solving practices.1
Research and Dissertation
The DBA program includes advanced coursework on business topics. Students learn qualitative and quantitative research methods they may use to complete their dissertation or research projects. They also learn modern business theory in areas like risk assessment, finance, managerial skills and decision-making. DBA programs usually include a global perspective that allows students to learn more about the interconnectedness of business across today’s world.
DBA students then combine this research and theory with practical experience. The research they do may have an immediate impact on their work or businesses. A DBA is a research degree, so course material will revolve around preparing learners to write a dissertation. Researching, writing and revising are essential to successful program completion.
The dissertation may focus on solutions to complex organizational problems. Usually, DBA students conduct research that is immediately applicable to their line of work; however, some conduct research in fields they would like to move into.
Learners may participate in two or three five-day residencies to engage in networking opportunities, receive instructor feedback and undergo intensive faculty mentorship. Residency curriculum and instruction offers resources to establish a network of peers and guide dissertation development. For students completing this degree program at Grand Canyon University, a residency is required.
Various DBA programs exist, each with a different focus. All are designed to fit the needs of learners in their respective fields and help them reach their goals as students and professionals. Some DBA offerings include:
- DBA in Data Analytics: This degree program focuses on data analytics. Courses offered cover a wide range of topics, including economics and financial management. Learners are taught competencies in numerical data — how to interpret it and how to apply it to their field.
- DBA in Management: A management degree program explores theories and frameworks that drive financial decision-making, management theories and their application to supporting organizational stability in a global economy, and relationships between organizational designs and organizational structures. It also covers legal aspects of business management, microeconomic principles and how to apply those principles to solving business problems.
How To Get Into a DBA Program
Some universities offer online DBA programs, while others may be in person or offered through a hybrid approach with a combination of in-person and online coursework. In addition, some programs offer evening courses on campus.
An online doctorate can be ideal for some, but challenging for others. You know how you learn best, so as you are considering DBA programs to apply to, do your research and make sure that the structure fits your needs. In addition, talk with alumni and current students in the DBA programs that interest you. Find out about their curriculum and see if their type of program is a good match for you.
Once you have done the research, it is a matter of applying to your DBA program of choice. After meeting the admissions requirements, you will need to fill out the school's application. You may need to write an essay or a letter explaining your experience and why you are seeking the advanced degree. The admissions process may include an interview or additional fact-finding phone calls.
If you are admitted into a DBA degree program, you will enroll in classes and begin to consider your research project or dissertation. The program can help you learn how to choose a dissertation topic, but ultimately what you research will be up to you. You will want to think about the needs of your business and your professional development as you identify the topic that seems most applicable and practical for your experience and position.
How Do DBAs Compare to Other Advanced Degrees?
DBA programs can improve a graduate’s professional qualifications. The degree is often considered to be a professional degree for business practitioners. Explore and research various types of degree programs to find one that fits your goals and delivers what you are looking for.
How Do DBAs Compare to PhDs?
You may wonder about the difference between a DBA and a PhD. More scholarly doctoral programs like PhD programs may support an academic career. PhD dissertations add to the theory and body of knowledge in a field.
In contrast, a DBA program is more focused on working professionals who plan to stay in their field. Their priority is to find solutions to the business problems they currently face.
How Do DBAs Compare to MBAs?
A DBA program is longer and more intensive than an MBA program. One way to think about this is that an MBA student learns about the practices of management and leadership, but a DBA graduate is among those who create such practices.
A DBA requires students to seek out and create original research and ideas. DBA graduates may be equipped to pass along new practices and theories to other business professionals.
DBA Career Options
A DBA program is about learning the theory of business and then putting it into practice. The final research project involves applying possible solutions to actual business problems. Most DBA students already work in the business world and intend to keep doing so. However, those who are interested in teaching the skills they have learned to others can pursue jobs in higher education, especially at the community college or undergraduate level.
Earning a DBA can identify you as a qualified candidate for a wide range of career opportunities.2
Whether you choose the public, private or nonprofit sector, the possibilities are vast. A few of the many potential careers for DBA graduates to pursue include:
- Chief executive officer
- Operation manager
- Cost estimators
- Management analyst
- Project management specialist
- Business teacher, postsecondary
- Human resource manager
- Compensation, benefits, and job analysis specialist
- Social and community service manager
These are only a few examples. Throughout the course of your studies in business school, you are likely to identify new interests and opportunities that you may wish to pursue upon graduation.
Is a Doctor of Business Administration Worth It?
Ultimately, only you can determine if pursuing a DBA is worth it for you. However, a DBA may be worth it if you feel stuck in your current position and you’re looking to position yourself for the opportunity to pursue a higher-level role or to transition to a different type of company. Consider your own career and personal objectives as you reflect upon the following reasons why a DBA may be worth it.
Become a Leading Authority in Your Field
A Doctorate in Business Administration is a terminal degree. In other words, there is no higher level of academic achievement. By earning a DBA degree, you have the opportunity to demonstrate your advanced knowledge and skills.
To understand the potential impact of a DBA degree more fully, it’s helpful to take a look at the statistics. According to the United States Census Bureau, the overall education level of Americans has risen steadily in recent years. Doctoral degree holders still comprise a very small percentage of Americans compared to those who have a bachelor’s or a master’s degree.3 Because of this, it can be said that earning a doctoral degree can set job applicants apart from other candidates.
Gain Practical Skills and Knowledge
Now that you understand the potential impact of doctoral degrees in general, it’s time to take a closer look at why a DBA, in particular, may be worth the investment of time and resources. One of the main reasons professionals choose to earn a DBA is that it teaches them effective skills and strategies that are immediately applicable in actual settings.
The other business doctoral degree option — a PhD — also establishes graduates as authorities in their fields. However, a PhD program emphasizes conducting theoretical research that contributes to the field’s understanding of some specific topic.
In contrast, the DBA is a professional doctorate that explores business and management theories and empowers professionals to apply them in practical situations. As a result, graduates can be prepared to tackle the varied challenges that modern organizations face with respect to growth and revenue, leadership, human resources and similar areas.
Increase Your Earning Potential
Not only can a DBA help improve your career qualifications — it may also enhance your earnings potential. In fact, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2022, those with a doctoral degree earned median weekly wages of $2,083. Those whose highest education was a bachelor’s degree had median weekly wages of $1,432.4
When you’re ready to take your education to the next level, Grand Canyon University is here to help you. Explore our many DBA programs, including the Doctor of Business Administration: Data Analytics (Qualitative Research) program. Get the details about our business and management degrees by filling out the form on this page.
Approved by the dean of the College of Doctoral Studies on Oct. 2, 2023.
1 Callahan, I. (2023). Earning A Doctor Of Business Administration: What To Know Before You Enroll. Forbes. Retrieved Aug. 10, 2023.
2 Morris, C. (2021). What can I do with a DBA? GreatBusinessSchools. Retrieved Aug. 10, 2023.
3 U.S. Census Bureau. (2022, February 24). Census Bureau releases new educational attainment data. U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved July 14, 2023.
4 The earnings referenced were reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (“BLS”), Education Pays as of July 2023, retrieved on July 14, 2023. Due to COVID-19, data from 2020 and 2021 may be atypical compared to prior years. The pandemic may also impact the predicted future workforce outcomes indicated by the BLS. BLS calculates the median using salaries of workers from across the country with varying levels of education and experience and does not reflect the earnings of GCU graduates. It does not reflect earnings of workers in one city or region of the country. It also does not reflect a typical entry-level salary. Median income is the statistical midpoint for the range of salaries in a specific occupation. It represents what you would earn if you were paid more money than half the workers in an occupation, and less than half the workers in an occupation. It may give you a basis to estimate what you might earn at some point if you enter this career. You may also wish to compare median salaries if you are considering more than one career path. Grand Canyon University can make no guarantees on individual graduates’ salaries as the employer the graduate chooses to apply to, and accept employment from, determines salary not only based on education, but also individual characteristics and skills and fit to that organization (among other categories) against a pool of candidates.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.