In the upper ranks of the business world, thought leaders, chief executive officers and top management officials brainstorm and execute the business strategies that put their companies on the map. In most cases, climbing the corporate ladder into one of these lead positions takes more than job experience; earning a Doctor of Business Administration degree online can help you move toward your goal.
Commonly known by its abbreviation — DBA — Doctor of Business Administration programs occupy the highest tier of academic learning available for aspiring business professionals. There's also another top-level degree, the Ph.D. in business administration, which is geared toward students hoping to join the ranks of university researchers and business scholars rather than C-suite executives. We'll provide info about both options in the sections to follow.
Earning a DBA or Ph.D. in business administration can lead to a number of fast-paced careers in finance, marketing and the broader business world. With an advanced business degree, some of the career options available to you include teaching advanced business principles to students as a college professor, working as a statistician or venturing into the complex and crucial field of global economics.
The abbreviation used to denote Doctor of Business Administration programs can be confusing to some people, since DBA can also stand for "doing business as" in corporate filings and other regulatory and tax paperwork. In an academic context, such as with university advisors and professors, DBA almost always refers to the degree program. When you're filing the necessary forms to create a corporation or other business entity, DBA is likely to mean "doing business as" and refers to the name you've chosen to use for your enterprise.
Some DBA holders may also teach, and some Ph.D.s may work outside of scholarly systems, but the study plans typically angle their material toward one side or the other.
We've laid out some peripheral information so far, but what exactly is a DBA? In simple terms, it's a post-graduate degree program that requires highly advanced study and research of a specialized avenue within the business disciplines.
A large portion of DBA students are established professionals returning to school to expand their knowledge and leadership capabilities. Students in business Ph.D. programs often have professional experience, although some may have followed the degree path upward without spending much time outside of academia.
Once a student begins their program, they tend to study independently as they dig into the finer details of economics, marketing and quantitative analysis. The second stage of an online DBA or Ph.D. in business administration program typically involves in-depth research and preparation for a dissertation or other capstone project that synthesizes what they've learned over the course of the program.
How long do online DBA programs take?
The amount of time you'll spend earning your DBA online can depend greatly on the institution you attend and the schedule of classes you choose to take as you study. Some schools offer DBA programs on an accelerated timeline that allows for degree completion in as little as two years, while others emphasize a four- or five-year model to better accommodate students who continue to work while they earn their doctorates. It's common for institutions to require that DBA students complete all their degree requirements within seven years in order to graduate.
What are the requirements to start a DBA in business administration?
Each institution that offers a DBA or Ph.D. in business administration either online or on campus sets its own admissions requirements, but there are a few things that are likely to be expected by most accredited schools:
Make sure to check in with the admissions department at your chosen school for more details on the requirements that apply to you, and check out our link on how to apply to grad school for more tips.
Why earn a doctorate in business administration?
The doctorate is the highest degree available for a business professional, and it can be very helpful to have that top level of education if the business you conduct has complex strategic needs or requires deep knowledge of advanced concepts. It's also the case that the majority of research positions are only available to candidates with Ph.D.s, so a doctoral degree can be essential for some career paths.
On top of that, statistics from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that professionals with doctoral degrees earn substantially more than their less-educated counterparts. Those with doctorates earned just shy of $98,000 per year on average in 2019, while master's degree holders earned around $20,000 less.
Complete core business courses
Core classwork is part of any DBA or Ph.D. program in business and often includes research skills and other scholarly fundamentals. There has been an increased focus on ethics in business programs over the last several years, so you're likely to take some ethics courses in your first year or two as well.
Choose a specialization and take elective courses
Students typically dive more deeply into their areas of focus as their studies advance. Here's a short list of elective courses that may be available:
The final project in doctoral programs can be related to real-world business cases or theoretical scholarship. A dissertation can require students to stand before a review panel and defend their research and findings.
Residencies, which can include several short stays on campus or regular visits to a place of business, can be a great opportunity to enrich your learning and enhance your business skills. Residencies may be several days or weeks in length, and often allow you to gain experience that can't be given in a single seminar.
Check out this quick list of careers that may be available to graduates with a DBA or Ph.D. in business administration:
Offered by the Project Management Institute (PMI), this senior-level credential is designed to certify advanced professionals who manage multiple projects in a coordinated fashion to promote an organization's strategic goals.
Requirements: Bachelor's degree holders must have 6,000 hours of project management and program management experience; candidates without four-year degrees need 4,500 extra hours of experience in program management.
Exam Format: 170 multiple-choice questions with a four-hour time limit.
How long does the certification last?: Maintaining a PgMP certification requires 60 professional development units (PDUs) every three years.
This credential, issued by the Investments and Wealth Institute, can demonstrate that you have the expertise necessary to skillfully manage investment portfolios for individuals and enterprises.
Requirements: Candidates must complete an approved educational component, either in college or from an independent provider, along with having three years of financial service experience and a solid record of ethical conduct.
Exam Format: 140 multiple-choice questions with a five-hour time limit.
How long does the certification last?: Every two years, CIMA holders must complete 40 hours of continuing education.
Governmental finance can be complicated, and professionals with the CGFM credential from the Association of Government Accountants (AGA) are certified as understanding the special challenges of the field and how to meet them.
Requirements: A bachelor's degree, two years of experience in government financial management and an agreement to abide by the AGA code of ethics.
Exam Format: Three comprehensive exams of 115 questions each, with a time limit of two hours and fifteen minutes.
How long does the certification last?: A renewal fee and at least 80 hours of continuing professional education are required every two years.
The Association for Supply Chain Management (ASCM) provides this credential to professionals specializing in logistics and supply chain dynamics with a global reach.
Requirements: A bachelor's degree, three years of relevant business experience or one of a list of similar certifications.
Exam Format: 150 multiple-choice questions with a three-hour time limit.
How long does the certification last?: CSCP holders must accumulate 75 professional development points every five years to maintain their certification.
Membership in a professional organization can provide networking opportunities, professional development resources and other benefits. Here are a few organizations available to business professionals: