What Is the Difference between a PhD and a DBA?

There are various different types of PhD degrees out there. But what do the abbreviations PhD and DBA mean?

Read below to find out more about:

  • What is a PhD?
  • What is a DBA?
  • The main differences between PhDs and DBAs
  • Choosing between a PhD and a DBA

What is a PhD?

The Ph.D. (also PhD, Doctor of Philosophy) is the highest postgraduate degree that can be achieved at universities. People awarded with a PhD are normally allowed to have a teaching position at a university. The Ph.D. is a scientific research doctorate or doctorate studies with a duration of typically three to five years. Despite its name, the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) is not limited to philosophy related studies, but is awarded in most disciplines.

The discipline name is usually attached with an “in” to the title (e.g. Ph.D. in Economics). Typically, a Ph.D. degree is pursued after completion of a Master’s programme. However, in some cases it is already possible to pursue a PhD after achieving a Bachelor’s degree.

In the UK, Ph.D. candidates usually enrol for a Master of Philosophy (M.Phil.) course first. After a short period of typically one year, the supervisor decides upon an acceptance to the Ph.D. programme.

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What is a DBA?

The Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) is the highest postgraduate degree in the academic management education. The introduction of DBA programmes within universities came as a result of satisfying the need of senior managers and professionals to get an official acknowledgement of their extensive skills and knowledge in the business industry.

The Doctor of Business Administration can be seen as a follow-up to a Master of Business Administration (MBA). Similarly, many DBA programmes require several years of management experience for admission. DBA courses focus on acquiring knowledge based on the latest business research and theories.

DBA programmes usually last between three and six years. In contrast to classical Ph.D. programmes, the DBA focuses more on practical oriented research that aims to fulfil the needs of industry and economy.

Main differences between a PhD and a DBA

1. The scope of research

For a regular PhD degree, students are required to develop a new theory or have an original approach to an existing theory, especially if their goal is for their thesis to be published. Their research has to focus on pointing out certain gaps or important issues in existing theories. On the other hand, DBA students will have to bring their contribution by combining research with clear business problems; it can be a problem they are usually confronting in their workplace. In fact, most DBA students will choose to tackle a business situation that is very familiar to them and provide a case-study view in their work.

2. Career orientation

PhD courses are research degrees usually dedicated to candidates who aim to pursue a career in the academia, as researchers and professors and conduct research that contributes to knowledge or theory in a certain field. DBAs are rather more suitable for working professionals who plan to advance to higher management positions or land consulting jobs in various business fields. However, DBA graduates are qualified to do research as well and they can also teach as guest professors and publish in academic journals.

3. Time engagement

Both PhD and DBA programmes are available mostly for full-time study. However, due to the fact that Doctorate in Business Administration courses are specifically targeted towards students engaged in full-time jobs, you are more likely to find part-time DBA programmes.

4. Study costs

Most often, tuition fees for PhD courses are more affordable, compared to tuition fees for DBAs. For instance, the same university in the UK charges around 4,100 GBP per year for a PhD, whereas for a DBA, it charges 11,700 GBP per year.

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How to choose from the two doctoral degrees – PhDs and DBAs?

Common profile of PhD candidates

If you are in the early stages of your career, then the obvious choice for you is to pursue a PhD. In addition, if you are truly interested in conducting research in a certain topic or would like to pass on your knowledge to university students, a PhD is certainly more suitable for you.

Common profile of DBA candidates

People who opt for a DBA are usually older than PhD students, in their 30s or 40s or even older. DBA candidates have many years of work experience, most of them have jobs in upper management positions and often, they have already pursued an MBA as well.

Both doctoral degrees PhD and DBA lead to a doctor’s title and are equal in status, standing and international acknowledgement. So none of the degrees has an inferior rank or prestige, they are just targeted towards different goals.

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