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PhD vs. DBA: What’s the Difference?

Updated on March 29, 2023.

The Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in business and the Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) 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 PhD and DBA have similarities, each doctoral degree is designed for distinctive target groups and aligned with unique career goals, resulting in varying outcomes.

Marymount University’s online Doctor of Business Administration in Business Intelligence program 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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PhD vs. DBA At-a-Glance Comparison

What are the similarities and differences between a PhD and DBA in business? The following chart outlines what you should expect from the two business doctoral programs to help you determine which program’s 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 PhD vs. DBA and discover the next step in your professional journey.


How to Choose Between a PhD and a DBA

The first step to determining whether the PhD or DBA 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 nonprofit 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


PhD vs. DBA: Salary, Job Opportunities and Outlook

A business professional who has completed an advanced degree can find new and exciting job opportunities, a promising job outlook and a higher earning potential. Consider a few figures concerning the PhD vs. DBA salary range, as well as the job forecast.


Job Opportunities for PhD in Business Graduates

Several career opportunities are open to those pursuing a PhD in business. Some common career trajectories include:

  • Business professor
  • Economist
  • Management consultant


Job Outlook and Salaries for PhD Graduates

Job forecasts vary for different roles that PhD graduates might pursue. Positions for management consultants, for instance, are predicted to increase by 11% between 2021 and 2031 according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). For postsecondary instructors such as business professors, the BLS predicts 12% growth between 2021 and 2031. While salaries also vary, the median annual salary for those with PhDs in business administration was approximately $103,000 in December 2022, according to Payscale.


Job Opportunities for DBA Graduates

DBA graduates gain access to a wide range of business roles and job opportunities. Many become management consultants working in professional, scientific and technical services, while others are self-employed. DBA graduates often work in the following roles:

  • Business intelligence analyst
  • Organizational development director
  • Human resources director


Job Outlook and Salaries for DBA Graduates

Outlook and salaries vary according to the position. The BLS predicts that positions for operations research analysts, including business intelligence analysts, will increase by 23% between 2021 and 2031. For training and development managers, including organizational development directors, the BLS predicts a 7% growth between 2021 and 2031. According to Payscale, business intelligence analysts made a median annual salary of approximately $71,900 in February 2023, while organizational development directors made about $123,000 in March 2023.


Why Pursue a DBA in Business Intelligence?

While there are many benefits to earning a PhD, a DBA specializing 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. 

Consider some of the main reasons to choose the DBA path:


1. Make Decisions Based on Data

Data-driven decision-making is a top priority for business leaders. An Invesp report noted that 40% of organizations aimed to increase data-driven marketing budgets and 64% 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:

  • Employ statistical methods to optimize business operations
  • Use microeconomic and macroeconomic approaches to solve business problems
  • Build a sophisticated platform to facilitate data-driven insights for an organization
  • Visualize data through industry software
  • Advocate for ethical data collection, privacy and transparency


2. Innovate in a Changing Economy

The business intelligence market is projected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 12% between 2023 and 2038. 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 can 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 nonprofit 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


3. Commit to Ethical Leadership

Governance, privacy and data ethics are top-of-mind for leaders using data to drive organizational decisions. 

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 can 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


4. 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 and visually, as well as in writing


Benefits of Studying a DBA in Business Intelligence 

Between a PhD and DBA, furthering your education in business intelligence will benefit you and the organization you work for in various 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 
  • Become an impactful leader in your industry or use your skills to explore new industries
  • Prioritize ethics, privacy and moral leadership to create a better future for your team and your consumers
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 program 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 worldwide.

As a student, you can:

  • Complete your DBA in three years online through a part-time, 36-credit-hour program
  • Tailor your coursework to your goals and benefit from an 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 uphold ethical, socially responsible leadership

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


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  • Curriculum
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  • Application process
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An admissions advisor will be in touch to answer your questions and help determine if Marymount is right for you.

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