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Ph.D. vs. DBA - what's the difference?

The Ph.D. and the Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) are highly regarded. But what is the difference between them? Read on to find out.

Mar 20, 2023
  • Education

What is the difference Between a Ph.D. and a DBA?

A Ph.D., or Doctor of Philosophy, is an academic degree that requires the completion of a dissertation and focuses on research, theory, and methodologies. A DBA, or Doctor of Business Administration, is an executive-level doctoral program focused on practical business applications and problem-solving.

Ph.D. vs. DBA: prerequisites

Ph.D. perquisites:

Most universities require applicants to have an undergraduate degree in a relevant field and a master's degree. Some may also require students to complete additional courses or exams before being accepted into their program.

DBA perquisites:

Applicants must typically have an undergraduate degree in business and a master's degree in some specialized business area. However, you can still be accepted onto a DBA program without a relevant master's degree; by demonstrating why you are a strong DBA candidate through your professional working experience.

Many universities will also require you to prepare and submit a short research proposal as part of your application. A proposal outlines the research project you want to pursue in your degree.

Like Ph.D. programs, you must pass English language requirements if English is not your first language.

Ph.D. vs. DBA: research scope

A significant difference between a Ph.D. and a DBA is the research topic. A Ph.D. candidate selects a research project of theoretical value to the academic field. A DBA candidate chooses a research project with a practical application to the business environment.

This means that while the research topic for a Ph.D. will centre around a gap in knowledge of existing theories, a DBA will usually focus on developing an innovative approach or taking an innovative take on an existing one.

DBA students typically choose research topics based on real-life scenarios they are facing or have faced. This is different from a Ph.D. student where research topic usually centers on an issue, they don't have first-hand experience in

Ph.D. vs DBA: program

A Ph.D. usually takes 4 years to complete, while a DBA degree takes 4 – 7 years, with most students needing 6 years.

DBA students tend to be working professionals, so all DBA degree programs are part-time courses via 'distant learning.' Ph.D. programs are mostly full-time projects which require attending classes on the university's campus.bPhDs have no taught components, while DBAs have many tutors led modules.

DBA programs are comprised of two parts:

DBA part 1:

The first section is 2 years long, covers the degree's taught elements and involves completing coursework. Many specialist business management topics include market theory, resource partitioning, and organizational development. These first two years provide you with advanced business knowledge and develop your research and analytical skills to prepare for your individual research project.

DBA part 2:

You can undertake your individual research project for the remaining 2 to 5 years.

You must produce a thesis for your research project, outlining your methods and results and discussing your research findings. You must defend your work during an oral examination known as a 'viva voce'.

During your degree, you'llhave several opportunities to present your research at conferences, universities, and related organizations.

Differences in Ph.D. and a DBA program length

In most cases, completing a Ph.D. requires several years of study, including completing coursework and a dissertation.

In contrast, a DBA program is usually shorter, often taking two to three years to complete. This is because the program focuses on professional experience rather than theoretical research and study.

Ph.D. vs. DBA: Tuition Fees

A DBA degree in the USA typically ranges from $19,000 to $45,000. This depends on the state, university, tuition fees, and any other costs associated with attending the program, such as accommodation and travel expenses.

The average cost of a full-time Ph.D. is fixed throughout its entire duration and is typically around $28,000 to $55,000, depending on the field of study and university.

Ph.D. vs. DBA funding opportunities

DBA candidates can apply for Doctoral Loans or secure external funding. The first point can be your employer. Even if they cannot pay all the tuition fees, they may contribute to part of the cost or provide access to relevant resources.

There tend to be fewer funding opportunities for DBA programs than for Ph.D. programs.

Differences in Ph.D. and DBA program outcomes

Many Ph.D. graduate progress into an academic career as a researcher or professors. Ph.D. graduates are expected to contribute to their research by sharing their insights through journal articles.

DBA graduates tend to step into leadership roles in the corporate world or in government. They use the practical business skills they have learned through their DBA in their management styles.

Ph.D. vs. DBA: salaries

DBA graduates can earn more than business management Ph.D. graduates, as the former focuses on practical skills in business management, which gives them an advantage in the professional world. DBA graduates are thus considered well-placed for management and director roles.

A Ph.D. degree gives graduates applied research skills and teaches them to use theoretical practices and understand and develop management concepts. Thus, they are well suited to academic and research careers.

Salaries within the business/corporate and academic fields can vary a lot.

In conclusion, both Ph.D. and DBA programs have unique advantages that prospective students should consider carefully when deciding which best meets their needs. PhDs offer intense research experience but require several years of study, while DBAs are shorter in duration but provide greater focus on professional working experience and post-program career prospects. Whatever your choice is, make sure it's the right one for you.

Keystone Team


The Keystone Team is comprised of experienced educators and advisors dedicated to providing valuable resources and advice to students all over the world.

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