What Is a DBA Degree?

Woman earning DBA degree

A Master of Business Administration (MBA) is a well-known advanced degree that is highly regarded among business professionals. However, people who are looking for even greater expertise and stature in business may wish to earn a Doctor of Business Administration (DBA). This advanced degree program sets graduates apart from other business professionals and empowers them to pursue higher-level job positions.

How a DBA Can Advance Your Career

DBA graduates have acquired skills that can boost their career trajectory by equipping them for senior leadership roles. Since DBA programs usually require learners to conduct practical research, DBA graduates have strong portfolios that give them a competitive edge when searching for new jobs or opportunities. They can show tangible results of their work.

In addition, they are well versed in current business practice and theory. This means they can bring numerous ideas and innovations to companies and businesses looking to reconsider and modernize their business plans.

What to Expect in a DBA Program

An MBA is a prerequisite for enrolling in most DBA programs since such programs build on the foundational skills acquired in an 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 work toward the DBA to become even better business leaders with a deeper understanding of problem-solving practices.

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 dissertations written at the end of a DBA program 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 crucial resources to establish a network of peers, guide dissertation development and make full use of available resources.

Program Focuses

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 achieve a solid understanding of 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.
  • DBA in Marketing: A DBA in marketing gives graduates the in-depth knowledge they need to pursue high-level jobs in the business and marketing field. Learners explore consumer behaviors, analysis issues and marketing patterns.

How to Get Into a DBA Program

Some universities offer online DBA programs, other programs are fully in-person and still others offer a hybrid approach with a combination of in-person and online coursework. In addition, some programs offer evening courses on campus. An online doctorate is ideal for some and 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. You will need to fill out the school's application, and 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.

After your admission to a DBA degree program, you will enroll in classes and begin to consider your research project or dissertation. The program will 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 are unique and offer distinctive benefits. 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 usually lead to 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 that they currently face.

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 real-world 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 find jobs in higher education, especially at the community college or undergraduate level.

A few of the many potential careers for DBA graduates include:

  • Chief executive officer
  • Business intelligence director
  • Entrepreneur
  • Chief innovation officer
  • Research director

How Do DBAs Compare to MBAs?

A DBA program is more rigorous 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 are equipped to pass along new practices and theories to other business professionals. A DBA is highly regarded, and pursuing this degree is a great way to continue your education as a business professional.

If you desire to be a leader in business or you are wondering how to level up in your practices, consider earning a Doctor of Business Administration from Grand Canyon University. Throughout the program, you will be tasked with learning theories and applying practical research to your work. The College of Doctoral Studies at GCU gives doctoral learners the flexibility and resources to achieve their goals. To learn more about GCU’s doctoral programs, click on the Request More Information button at the top of this page.

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.

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