What is the Difference Between a Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) and a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Business?

Confident looking female DBA candidate
Confident looking female DBA candidate

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The Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) and the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in business are both doctoral degrees that allow students to engage in advanced study, examinations, and research projects surrounding business administration to earn the highest credentials in business education.

Although the DBA vs. PhD in business have similarities, each doctoral degree is designed for distinctive target groups, aligned with unique career goals, and results in varying outcomes.

Marymount University’s Online Doctor of Business Administration in Business Intelligence prepares graduates for real-world problems within their organization and teaches professionals how to lead at the highest level in data analytics.


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DBA vs. PhD At-a-Glance Comparison

What are the similarities and differences between a DBA versus PhD in business? The following chart outlines what you should expect from two business doctoral programs to help you determine which program outcome, format, coursework, and requirements align with your profile and goals.


Doctor of Business Administration

PhD in Business Management

Program Focus

The DBA is a professional degree that teaches students how to transfer theoretical knowledge to a real-world business setting. 

The PhD in business is a theoretical research degree that allows students to develop original research related to business theory and models.


DBA students intend to:

  • Enhance their ability to solve business-related problems in their role
  • Contribute to their management skills
  • Gain critical skills through research methods
  • Become a thought leader in their industry
  • Network to build international connections

PhD students intend to:

  • Further their research abilities
  • Pursue journal publications
  • Learn business theory and academic applications
  • Gain the certification necessary to teach in academic institutions
  • Teach their knowledge to future business students

Student Profile

Designed for mid- to senior-level professionals with a proven history of job experience in a business management position

Designed for younger students and mid-level professionals with limited work experience who have recently completed a graduate degree in business

Program Format

The DBA program can be completed either on-campus or online.

The PhD in business program can be completed either on-campus or online.


The DBA program allows students to complete coursework and select a final research project. The coursework may include:

  • Introduction to Business and Management Research
  • Applied Research Methods
  • Qualitative and Quantitative Research Methods
  • Professional Development and Research Impact
  • Research Proposal and Qualifying Report

The PhD business program allows students to select their area of study and complete a dissertation in the following areas:

  • Accounting and Management
  • Marketing
  • Strategy
  • Technology and Operations Management

Program Length

The Marymount DBA can be completed part-time, without career interruption, in three years or less. (Most DBA programs take three years of full-time study to complete.)

The average PhD in business takes approximately four to five years of full-time study to complete with limited part-time options.


A DBA student must demonstrate relevant work experience, complete a research project, and write a dissertation in their program.

A PhD business student must write a dissertation in their program.

Learn more about the DBA vs. PhD in business and discover the next step in your professional journey.

How To Choose Between the DBA vs. PhD?

The first step to determining whether the DBA or PhD business degree is right for you is to outline your career objectives. Ask yourself questions that align with the key differentiators above:

  • Program focus: Am I interested in applying research to a real-world setting or producing original research for future business models?
  • Outcomes: Do I want to work in a business, government, or non-profit setting and solve organizational problems, or do I want to teach business theory to students?
  • Student profile: Am I an experienced executive with years of job experience or a business student in the academic setting?
  • Program format: Do I prefer to learn online or on-campus?
  • Coursework: What are the key skills I’m interested in learning?
  • Program length: How much time do I want to dedicate to my continued education?
  • Requirements: Do I have the necessary prerequisites?

DBA candidate interviewing for a job

Why Pursue a DBA in Business Intelligence?

Business Intelligence (BI) is one of the fastest-growing industries and according to LinkedIn’s Emerging Job Report, artificial intelligence (AI) and data science roles continue to propagate across nearly every industry. Roles as a Data Scientist (37 percent annual growth), Artificial Intelligence Specialist (74 percent annual growth), and Data Engineer (33 percent annual growth) are growing at unprecedented rates.

Earning a DBA with a specialization in business intelligence will expand your understanding of business theory in the context of a digital landscape and allow you to transform organizations for the future.

Make Decisions Based on Data

Data-driven decision-making is a top priority for business leaders. In 2021, 40 percent of organizations aim to increase data-driven marketing budgets and 64 percent of marketing leaders “strongly agree” that data-driven strategies are crucial in today’s economy.

A DBA in Business Intelligence teaches students how to use business intelligence tools to solve problems and gain groundbreaking insights. The hands-on coursework teaches DBA graduates how to:

Innovate in a Changing Economy

The Business Intelligence Market was valued at USD 20.516 billion in 2020 and is expected to reach USD 40.50 billion by 2026. The emergence of Big Data and the introduction of advanced analytics makes professionals with a DBA in Business Intelligence essential for the modern workforce.

Pursuing a DBA in Business Intelligence will prepare you for new challenges and opportunities in business and government by teaching you how to:

  • Develop a data-driven plan for implementing change in a government agency, business, or non-profit organization.
  • Use machine learning tools to create ethically sound applications of AI in a government or business environment.
  • Use traditional business models for product and service delivery via digital platforms.

Commit to Ethical Leadership

Governance, privacy, and data ethics are top-of-mind for leaders using data to drive organizational decisions. Rachel Roumeliotis, vice president of AI and data content at O’Reilly Media, says, “Data use is no longer a ‘wild west’ in which anything goes; there are legal and reputational consequences for using data improperly.”

Leaders who operate from an ethical foundation create conscious businesses, protect consumers, and gain respect and trust as a result. A DBA in Business Intelligence will prepare you to:

  • Apply ethical theories to leadership challenges.
  • Develop an ethical governance strategy in the context of using tools and technologies like AI and data analysis.
  • Evaluate issues of trust, privacy, and transparency from a business and policy perspective.
  • Research the ethical impacts and potential bias of AI applications.

Apply Research to the Real World

The DBA in Business Intelligence is concerned with using research to address real-world issues. The final research project is specific and can be transferable in an organizational setting. DBA students completing their final project will select their topic and engage in the following:

  • Use scientific thinking to design original business intelligent research.
  • Evaluate ethical considerations when conducting research and eliminate biases.
  • Integrate statistics and research methodology.
  • Communicate their findings verbally, orally, and visually.

Benefits of Studying a DBA in Business Intelligence

Furthering your education in business intelligence will benefit you and the organization you work for in a variety of areas. Enrolling in a DBA in BI empowers you to:

  • Build connections with innovators in your field through an expansive network of alumni.
  • Upskill to meet the demands of organizational needs in the digital age.
  • Enter a higher salary bracket, experience faster career mobility, and enjoy job security in an industry with a growing job outlook (view the salary expectations and job outlook below).
  • Become an impactful leader in your industry or use your new skills to explore new industries.
  • Prioritize ethics, privacy, and moral leadership to create a better future for your team and your consumers.

Job Opportunity, Outlook, and Salary for DBA Graduates

A business professional who has completed a DBA can access new and exciting job opportunities, a promising job outlook, and a higher earning potential.

Job Opportunities for DBA Graduates

DBA graduates gain access to a wide range of business roles and job opportunities. Approximately 30 percent of management consultants work in professional, scientific, and technical services and 17 percent are self-employed. DBA graduates most commonly enter the following roles:

  • Chief executive officer (CEO)
  • Management consultant
  • Organizational development director
  • Senior business analyst

Job Outlook and Salaries for DBA Graduates

DBA grads who obtained full-time employment after graduation earned a median base starting salary of $116,000 per year. A stunning 97 percent of DBA graduates reported receiving and accepting a full-time job offer within six months of graduation.

According to U.S. News & World Report, roles for DBA graduates are projected to grow by 8 percent through 2026, and management consultant roles are projected to grow by 12 percent during the same time.

The growth for roles in business intelligence is even higher. Professionals with C-suite technical skills will see the greatest increases in demand:

  • Artificial Intelligence +160%
  • Data Science +140%
  • Machine Learning Techniques +90%

Marymount online DBA

Advance Your Career With a DBA in Business Intelligence

If you believe a DBA is the right fit for you and your career goals, Marymount University’s online DBA in Business Intelligence program is the next step to advancing your career in a modern business landscape.

Marymount University’s online DBA in Business Intelligence is an interdisciplinary program designed for working professionals that focuses on actionable research, agility in a changing economy, and digital integration.

The program allows professionals to acquire theoretical business knowledge, learn management skills, improve their ability to make informed strategic decisions, and network with thousands of like-minded professionals from around the world.

As a student enrolled in Marymount University’s DBA in Business Intelligence program you can:

  • Complete your DBA in three years online through a part-time, 36-credit-hour program.
  • Develop your research with support from an experienced mentor.
  • Tailor your coursework to your goals and benefit from engaged, supportive faculty.
  • Stay on the pulse of policy development in the digital age and gain direct insight into how government and business interact.
  • Join the Catholic educational commitment to serve others, commit to global engagement, and ethical, socially responsible leadership.

Learn more about Marymount University’s online Doctor of Business Administration in Business Intelligence program.


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