What Is the Difference Between a DBA and PhD Degree?

The DBA and Ph.D. are both doctoral degrees and the terminal degrees in business administration. While there are similarities between the degrees, there are a number of differences to look at when considering which one to study for, as discussed in the following article. Schools offering Database Administration degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Comparing a Ph.D. to a DBA

Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy) in Business Administration

The scope of a Ph.D. program is often considered to be the wider of the two degrees, and it is often the popular choice for those who wish to work in academics. Many of the entrants into a 4-5 year business Ph.D. program do not necessarily have much work experience in that particular field. There are online Ph.D. programs, but the majority of the programs are in person. With an online Ph.D. program, the student is usually required to do an on-campus residency. Most Ph.D. students are required to write a dissertation that includes original research, data analysis, and evaluation of theories. With the business Ph.D. program, the student chooses a specialization to focus on, such as accounting or marketing, with the coursework for a Ph.D. focusing on theories, research methods, and teaching concepts.

DBA (Doctor of Business Administration)

Often more narrowly targeted in scope, select DBA programs can be completed in as little as 3 years. Some DBA programs require the student to write a dissertation and others require a doctorate project. Online programs typically do not require students to do an on-campus residency. The research done by a DBA student is often used to formulate solutions to complex issues and then to design effective business practices within their field or even with their current company of employ. With the DBA program, the student chooses a specialization to focus on in business, such as management or finance.

Degree ProgramProgram RequirementsRelated Careers
Ph.D.MBA or master's degree with GMAT or GRECollege teacher, policy maker, researcher
DBAMBA or master's degree and sometimes field experienceConsultant, manager, faculty member

Admission Requirements for Ph.D. and DBA Programs

The majority of Ph.D. programs require that a student already have a master's degree in the business field in which they plan to focus. Ph.D. students are often recent university graduates. Typically, a Ph.D. program will require that a student pass a GRE or a GMAT test, with the GMAT being more popular for business school.

DBA programs require that the incoming student have an MBA or a master's in their chosen business field. Typically, DBA programs also require that the incoming student have a certain number of years experience in that field. Some DBA programs do require that the student complete the GMAT.

Earning a Doctorate Degree in Business

Although the business Ph.D. and DBA programs have their differences, many of the same types of courses are required. The following course descriptions explain some of those similarities.

Qualitative Research

Qualitative research methods is a course that both the Ph.D. and DBA will require. This course can prepare the student to conduct research for their dissertation, doctorate project, future publication, or for use in future jobs. Qualitative is research that gathers textual data. It is important for students to understand which methods to use and how to use them.

Quantitative Research

Quantitative research methods is another type of course that both Ph.D. and DBA students will be required to take. Quantitative research gathers data that can produce numerical data. These courses are required to prepare the student to conduct research and also for beneficial use in future or current employment.

Organizational Behavior

The majority of Ph.D. and DBA programs will require that the student take an organizational behavior course. This class prepares the student to conduct and understand research that encompasses multiple types of people and looks at how they behave under certain conditions. This can be an important course to prepare the student for working in businesses and in the teaching field.

Business Research Methods

Both the Ph.D. and DBA programs typically require a class in business research methods. This class is in place to prepare students for research related to business settings and might address experimental design, as well as survey design. Topics of study might also include how to perform a literature review and the steps in writing a research proposal.


Ph.D. and many DBA programs will often have several dissertation courses that are required. These courses might help the student get started on their dissertation with how to design their research plan, show ways to manage their on-going research, and offer methods to synthesize what they read. The dissertation courses can provide a roadmap for the student who is making their way through the dissertation process.

The DBA and the Ph.D. in business administration are both doctoral degrees in the business academic field. The DBA may be more popular for students who intend to continue working in business, while the Ph.D. might be a favorite of those who plan to continue their research and move into teaching.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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