Difference between DBA and PhD

Difference between DBA and PhD blog header
Difference between DBA and PhD blog header

Difference between DBA and PhD

Business professionals build advanced knowledge in their fields by seeking doctoral degrees. Mid-career managers and senior executives are in good company when considering additional education. The United States Census Bureau found a doubling of masters and doctoral degree holders from 2000 to 2018. The bureau also determined that 13.1 percent of professionals aged 25 years or older held graduate or professional degrees. For leaders in the corporate world, the choice is between a PhD in business and a Doctor of Business Administration (DBA). 

A great question for any prospective student is, “What is the difference between a DBA and PhD. degree?” PhD. programmes are well-established in the public mind and focus on producing academics rather than business leaders. The Executive Doctor of Business Administration from Aston University is designed to prepare future executives for the rigours of the global economy. It is helpful for students to look at additional differences between PhD. and DBA programmes if they are uncertain about which one to pursue. 

Programme structure and outcomes

The most common difference between a business PhD. and a DBA is programme structure. PhD. candidates are required to complete courses in advanced business topics along with research methods courses. A PhD. programme uses research, teaching, and other projects to develop academic skills. Universities sometimes combine MBA and PhD. tracks, showing the similarities between those degree types.  

U.S. News & World Report details a distinct approach to DBA completion. DBA candidates spend their initial semesters learning how to conduct academic research before focusing their attention on dissertation research and writing. This executive doctoral path tends to abstain from other obligations to produce high-end business research. 

Doctoral programmes also set different expectations for PhD. and DBA candidates. Universities offering PhD. degrees in business expect their graduates to pursue teaching and academic research opportunities. The majority of students stay in the academic world, while the remaining students pursue business or personal interests. 

The Global DBA Survey from Compass emphasises how graduates from this degree path focus on private-sector careers. Eighty percent of respondents published research in academic publications during or immediately after their dissertation defense. After DBA completion, however, a minority of students pursued academic employment or attended conferences. Managers and senior executives are more likely to pursue industry certifications like the Certified Association Executive certification from the American Society of Association Executives. 

An important difference between these programme types is student funding. PhD. candidates often receive fellowships, teaching assistantships, and grants to cover their studies. These funding sources are critical to PhD. studies because their candidates study full-time and work part-time to cover living expenses. DBA programmes are less demanding financially and serve full-time professionals who can cover most of the expenses. Universities like Aston University work with students through instalment plans to reduce tuition burdens. 

Schedule of completion

The differences in programme outcomes between DBA and PhD. degrees contribute to the length of time needed for graduation. U.S. News and World Report found that the average PhD. candidate took 5.8 years to complete their work. The publication also noted that 43.4% of doctoral candidates do not complete their studies. PhD. programmes tend to require teaching and research obligations for their candidates in addition to dissertation work. These obligations limit opportunities for doctoral candidates to speed up their work. Business students who are more interested in career promotion or transition might find PhD. programmes to be unnecessarily complicated. 

DBA degrees offered by Aston University and other universities are focused on working professionals. An Aston University student can complete their degree in four years while balancing studying with work. The university also sets an upper limit of six years to keep students on track. Executive DBA degrees are specifically designed for mid-career students who don’t have the luxury of full-time study. The years saved by choosing a DBA over a PhD. can be used to improve workplace performance and move up the corporate ladder. 

Student profile

Based on programme outcomes and schedules, the student demographics for DBA and PhD. candidates significantly differ. CBS News reported an average age of 33 years old for PhD. students. PhD. programmes attract students who have completed bachelors and masters degrees in sequence with some returning students. The typical PhD. student has a strong academic CV but small amounts of professional experience due to their full-time studies. Doctoral candidates who defend their dissertations often start with part-time faculty appointments and research positions. PhD. holders can also find it difficult on the job market with limited tenure-track and full-time positions in academic fields. 

The Global DBA Survey provides a different view of professionals who seek DBAs. Survey respondents reported an average age of 40 years old. The typical DBA student also enters their first term with 15 years of professional experience. Compass determined that a majority of participating students work full-time positions, making an executive DBA offered by Aston University attractive for most candidates. 

Old guard versus new school

Graduate degrees in business administration date back to the early 20th century. For example, Dartmouth College opened the Tuck School of Business in 1900 to become the first business school in the United States. As the 20th century progressed, business schools expanded their offerings with PhD.s based on existing doctoral programmes. PhD. degrees in business administration have been around for decades with varying levels of success in adapting to the demands of the modern world. 

The Global DBA Survey determined that a majority of current DBA degrees were founded in the 21st century. DBA students benefit from this recent development because universities around the world are willing to incorporate innovative teaching models. So to answer the question, “What is the difference between a DBA and PhD. degree?” we need to understand that DBA is a streamlined version of the PhD. Aston University’s Executive DBA programme is an example of how virtual courses and resources can boost careers.