DBA or PhD – What’s the Difference?

Posted by on February 10, 2013

DBA, PhD BusinessBy Stephanie M. Heald-Fisher, Graduate Program Chair for Business, Minnesota School of Business

When considering the pursuit of a doctoral degree in business, there are generally two paths to take. The more traditional path is the PhD, Doctor of Philosophy. Another option is the DBA, Doctorate of Business Administration. In order to choose the right path for you, it’s important to consider their similarities and differences and how they align with your goals.

Both degrees are equal in terms of their academic value. They are terminal degrees, meaning there is no degree higher that can be earned. The educational program to earn a doctorate degree is very rigorous, regardless of which path you take. Each will entail a major research project, which is written up in a dissertation and must be defended to an academic committee. Their differences are in the focus of the studies.

In a PhD program, the focus is more narrow and theoretical. The goal is to advance knowledge and add to the current research. PhD scholars are looking to contribute to the learning community. This degree is appropriate for learners who are looking to get into an academic career with a focus on teaching and research. It is more theoretical in nature and not necessarily meant to be applied in practice.

For a focus that is more applied than theoretical, the DBA is the appropriate degree. Typical DBA learners are looking for a professional degree as opposed to an academic degree. They are scholar-practitioners who want to advance their careers and gain a competitive edge in business. The degree program focuses on adding more knowledge to what they are doing in business as opposed to developing theories. The goal is to apply the DBA research to their business practice.

The choice of which degree program to pursue is dependent upon your own personal goals. Consider what you want to gain from your degree and where you want it to take you. Then make your choice. For additional details on what each degree can offer, the links below go to a short article and a short video on the topic.




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