A doctorate in business administration can prepare you for lucrative positions in many fields, including academia. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates that the median salary for postsecondary business teachers exceeded $80,000 in 2017, which is more than double the median salary for all other occupations. The BLS estimates that chief executives earn significantly more, with a median salary of roughly $183,000 in 2017.

If you hope to teach at a college or university, you should consider earning a Ph.D. in business administration. This degree emphasizes the development of research skills and largely prepares you for jobs at academic institutions, such as lecturer, professor, or dean. Conversely, a doctorate in business administration (DBA) focuses on management and leadership and readies you for roles such as chief financial officer or chief operating officer.

Should I Get a Doctorate in Business Administration?

If you want to teach and conduct research at the postsecondary level, you should pursue a Ph.D. in business. Most students who seek this degree do so directly after earning their master's degree in a related field. Due to teaching support responsibilities, the need to conduct original research in order to write a thesis, and the benefits of working closely with your faculty adviser, many schools require Ph.D. students to earn their degree on campus and on a full-time basis. However, some institutions do offer online and part-time Ph.D. programs in business.

If you want to take on senior leadership roles in the public or private sectors, you should instead consider a DBA. These programs cater to mid-career professionals who want to expand their areas of expertise and develop new, practical skills. While DBA programs often feature coursework in research and analysis, they do not always require students to complete a thesis or serve as a teaching assistant. As such, you may find it easier to earn your DBA online or without leaving your current job.

Regardless of the path you choose, a terminal degree in business provides more than just academic benefits. While earning your DBA or Ph.D., you can strengthen your professional network, making it easier for you to find new opportunities or call upon the experience of your former classmates to help solve a problem. Many graduate schools of business offer internship and job placement programs, and an advanced degree can make you more competitive in the job market.

What Can I Do With a Doctorate in Business Administration?

A doctor of business administration degree qualifies you to take on almost any leadership role in the business world, including upper-management positions like controller and treasurer, and executive-level roles like chief information or chief human resources officer.

Ph.D. programs in business typically prepare you for careers in academia. You may choose to work as a research associate, focusing largely on collecting and analyzing data about business operations and initiatives, or you may prefer to teach, taking on roles like instructor or adjunct lecturer. Many Ph.D. graduates opt for tenure-track positions such as professor or dean.

Top Executive

Top executives, like general managers and chief executive officers, determine organizational strategies and oversee all aspects of a business's operations. The exact nature of their work varies depending on the size of their organization. Executives at large corporations typically hold at least a master's degree in business administration.

Median Annual Salary: $104,700

Projected Growth Rate: 8%

Postsecondary Teacher

Postsecondary teachers instruct students and conduct research at colleges, universities, and other institutions of higher education. They also perform a variety of administrative duties, such as advising students or making recommendations regarding faculty hiring. Most schools require candidates for these positions to hold a doctorate in their field.

Median Annual Salary: $80,300

Projected Growth Rate: 15%

Administrative Services Manager

Administrative services managers plan and direct various administrative functions of an organization. For example, they may lead an operations department, take on responsibility for maintaining a company's facilities, or coordinating its supply chain. An advanced degree may improve your job prospects or earnings potential in these roles.

Median Annual Salary: $94,020

Projected Growth Rate: 10%

Financial Manager

Financial managers take on the responsibility of ensuring the financial health of their firm. In smaller organizations without a chief financial officer, they may act as the most senior financial official and advise the chief executive on matters of revenue, expenses, investments, and taxes. Many employers now prefer to hire candidates for these jobs with an advanced degree in business.

Median Annual Salary: $125,080

Projected Growth Rate: 19%

Medical or Health Services Manager

Medical and health services managers, also called healthcare executives, oversee either medical facilities such as hospitals or a group of physicians working in private practice. Most of these managers hold at least a master's degree in a field like business or public administration and complete coursework in healthcare management.

Median Annual Salary: $98,350

Projected Growth Rate: 20%

How to Choose a Doctoral Program in Business Administration

Choosing a DBA program can seem like a daunting task. To make the process more manageable, try to ask yourself the questions below to help identify your top priorities and narrow your search.

Many Ph.D. in business programs require up to three years of full-time study, and most students need two to five additional years to conduct their research and write a thesis. Because they do not always require a thesis, some students finish DBA programs in as few as three to four years.

Online DBA programs offer extraordinary convenience and flexibility, allowing students to balance their studies with other personal and professional obligations. On-campus programs may better serve students who appreciate the structure and support of learning in a more traditional classroom setting.

While doctoral programs in business at elite universities may appear more expensive than lower-ranked institutions, they often come with higher paying fellowships and work-study opportunities. Online programs may also allow you to avoid additional costs associated with your education, such as room and board.

Some students want to specialize in a discipline like healthcare management, but not all schools offer coursework in this area. Make sure your program's curriculum aligns with your professional interests.

While location is not an important consideration for online learners, students who plan to study on campus should think about factors like commuting, cost of living, and job opportunities.

What's the Difference Between a Ph.D. and a DBA?

As discussed above, a Ph.D. in business typically prepares students for careers in academia, while a DBA prepares students for leadership and management roles in business practice.

In Ph.D. programs, students typically take multiple courses in statistics, research methods, and research design. After completing their core business coursework, students choose a dissertation topic and work closely with their faculty adviser to conduct original research. Students usually take anywhere from two to four years to complete their research and write their dissertation or thesis. When finished writing, these students must successfully defend their dissertation before a faculty committee in order to earn their degree.

Although they often feature some limited coursework in quantitative or qualitative research methods, DBA programs usually do not require a dissertation. Instead, students typically complete a capstone project in the final year of their studies in which they apply their learning to a real-world issue faced by a company or industry.

Programmatic Accreditation for Doctoral Programs in Business Administration

Accreditation ensures that DBA programs meet certain educational standards and adequately prepare their graduates for management and leadership roles in business. If you attend an unaccredited program, future employers may not recognize your degree, and other schools may not allow you to transfer your previously earned credit. You may also not qualify for certain financial aid opportunities.

Three types of accreditation exist: regional, national, and programmatic. Most nonprofit schools receive regional accreditation, while the majority of trade, vocational, and for-profit schools receive national accreditation. Programmatic accreditors operate within a particular discipline, such as nursing or law. The Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP) serves as the most prominent programmatic accreditor in business.

Determine whether your program holds regional, national, or ACBSP accreditation by checking the Council for Higher Education Accreditation's online database.

Doctorate in Business Administration Program Admissions

When selecting students for Ph.D. in business programs, schools largely examine your academic qualifications. They typically ask to see GMAT scores and transcripts from your undergraduate program and, if applicable, graduate studies. They may ask for references from your former professors and ask you to write an overview of your planned research area -- both to determine whether to admit you and to match you with a faculty adviser if accepted.

In accredited DBA programs, admissions teams place more weight on your professional experience. Many schools require students to have at least three years of relevant experience, as well as a master's in business administration or a similar advanced degree. Online DBA programs tend to require standardized test scores less frequently.

After submitting your application packet, you should expect to interview with an admissions officer. After your interview, a school chooses to either admit you, deny your application, or place you on a waitlist.


  • Degree: For DBA programs, you must hold a master's in business administration or related field. Some Ph.D. in business programs admit students with just a bachelor's degree in business, finance, or economics.
  • Professional Experience: DBA programs often require at least three years of relevant professional experience, though they may prefer candidates with more. Ph.D. programs usually do not require professional experience.
  • Minimum GPA: GPA requirements for both DBA and Ph.D. programs vary based on the selectivity of the institution. Typically, you must maintain at least a 2.5 or 3.0 GPA during your undergraduate and graduate studies.
  • License: No schools require licensure for admission into DBA or Ph.D. programs, though candidates with professional certifications, such as Certified Public Accountants, may enjoy a competitive advantage over their peers.

Admission Materials

  • Application: Graduate schools of business typically do not use any sort of common application. This means you must prepare unique applications for each program to which you apply. Start your application well in advance of the deadline to give yourself time to collect all necessary materials.
  • Transcripts: You must submit transcripts from your previous undergraduate and graduate studies. To get copies of your transcripts, contact your school's registrar. This may require a small fee, and you should allow for several weeks for schools to process these requests.
  • Letters of Recommendation: Most schools require three letters of recommendation. Ask former professors and supervisors to write your letters, and give them at least two months to write their letters.
  • Test Scores: Many schools require students to submit GMAT scores as part of their application. While schools often do not set a minimum score, this can dramatically impact your admissions prospects. Consider retaking the GMAT if you receive a particularly low score.
  • Application Fee: Most schools charge a modest application fee, usually $50-$150. Military personnel, veterans, and individuals with demonstrated financial need may qualify for application fee waivers.

What Else Can I Expect From a Doctoral Program in Business Administration?

Curricula, concentrations, and capstone or dissertation requirements vary widely from program to program. When researching schools, try to find one with coursework and nonacademic offerings that match your areas of interest and professional goals. Tuition and other related education expenses can also differ greatly across programs and locations.

Concentrations Offered for a Doctorate in Business Administration
Concentration Description Careers
Supply Chain Management and Logistics Supply chain management and logistics serve as an integral part of any business's success. Students concentrating in this area learn to create and oversee supply chains to maximize efficiency. They often take coursework in areas like logistics, total quality management, and operations management. Distribution director, global supply chain manager
Human Resources Across all industries, businesses rely on human resources professionals to hire, train, and support members of their staff. In this concentration, DBA students explore subjects like workforce planning and employment, compensation management, and professional ethics. Students often either take on leadership roles in HR or use their knowledge of this critical field in executive positions. Director of human resources, recruitment specialist
International Business The advance of globalization requires business leaders to possess a clear understanding of international business and the customs, laws, and policies that shape it. Students in this concentration take classes in global financial markets and developing economies. Head of programmes for the World Bank, international business consultant
Information Systems Technology plays a crucial role in communications, operations, finance, and a host of other departmental functions. The concentration gives students a combination of both theoretical and practical knowledge across subjects like enterprise models, IT infrastructure, and human-computer interaction. Chief information officer, senior network engineer
Healthcare Management This concentration offers students a path to leadership roles in hospitals, clinics, and other healthcare settings. It features coursework in areas such as healthcare informatics, legal and ethical issues for healthcare professionals, and the management of human capital in healthcare. Students also often learn about the latest innovations in healthcare technology. Hospital administrator, CEO of nonprofit insurance company

Courses in a Doctoral Program in Business Administration

The classes you take as part of a DBA or Ph.D. in business program largely depends on your specialization. However, most schools require students to complete core coursework that helps to orient them to fundamental business practices and challenges that apply across several industries. The list below includes common foundational courses offered in these programs.

Contemporary Challenges in Business

This course provides a broad overview to the core concepts students encounter during their doctoral studies, including crisis management, change management, innovation, and disruptive technologies and practices. The course draws heavily on both academic literature and the personal and professional experiences of students.

Organizational Leadership

Successful leaders must know how to employ various leadership styles depending on the unique circumstances of a situation. In this course, students explore the relationship between leadership and management, analyze leadership styles, and study and employ leadership assessment tools. The course also emphasizes ethical dilemmas and ways of managing the stress that comes with leadership.

Business Strategy and Innovation

Students in this course learn how to create and implement business strategies that maximize their future firm's efficiency and competitive advantage. For example, students learn to use the SWOT analysis, a tool for identifying strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats associated with a particular business venture or project.

Advanced Microeconomic Theory

Microeconomics provides a means to understand the behavior of individuals and companies as they make decisions regarding the distribution of resources. This course features in-depth instruction on topics such as producer theory, partial and general equilibrium, externalities and public goods, and preference relations.

Research Methods

Whether pursuing an DBA or Ph.D. in business, doctoral students often take courses in statistics and research design. Through both quantitative and qualitative frameworks, these classes help students learn how to effectively collect, organize, analyze, and present research data. Students also hone writing skills in preparation for their dissertation or capstone project.

How Long Does It Take to Get a Doctorate in Business Administration?

DBA programs typically consist of approximately 60 credits, and most full-time students graduate in about three or four years. Part-time students may require five or more years, though schools sometimes place a limit on the total amount of time a student can take to graduate.

Full-time Ph.D. students may take anywhere from four to seven years in order to earn their degree, as these programs often require them to write and defend a research-based dissertation. Some schools offer students the option to complete their Ph.D. program on a part-time basis.

Finally, some programs allow students to graduate faster by increasing their course load. Advisers often recommend against this approach unless absolutely necessary, as students can easily find themselves falling behind in their coursework or failing to fully understand key concepts. In addition, students generally must pay the same amount in tuition even if they choose an accelerated course of study.

How Much Is a Doctorate in Business Administration?

The cost of a doctorate in business administration varies from program to program. Elite universities often provide generous fellowships and financial aid to incoming students as a way to attract exceptional candidates. For example, Harvard Business School covers the cost of education for students admitted to its DBA program, which includes tuition, fees, and a living stipend. This translates to roughly $40,000 per year in support for up to five years.

Pursuing a business doctorate at a public university may ultimately prove more expensive. For example, the annual cost of education expenses for DBA students at the University of Missouri-St. Louis totals roughly $32,000 per year. The university does make some financial aid available, but it does not enjoy the same resources as Harvard.

Earning your degree online can help you avoid certain costs, such as paying for room and board or fees associated with on-campus activities. If you or a member of your family have served in the military, you may qualify for discounted tuition at some schools. Many institutions also offer scholarships or aid to individuals with financial need.

Certifications and Licenses a Doctorate in Business Administration Prepares For

Certified Public Accountant

The CPA certification indicates that individuals successfully passed the uniform certified public accountant examination, completed at least 150 hours of postsecondary education in accounting, and hold at least one year of professional experience in the field. Individuals with this certification must regularly meet continuing-education requirements to retain the title.

Certified Management Accountant

Administered by the Institute of Management Accountants, this certification demonstrates expertise in areas like financial planning and analysis and an understanding of and adherence to strict professional ethics. As with the CPA certification, CMA candidates must pass an exam, meet educational and professional requirements, and participate in continuing-education activities once certified.

Chartered Financial Analyst

More than 150,000 professionals around the world hold the CFA credential. To qualify, you must demonstrate your understanding of advanced investment analysis and portfolio management skills through a series of self-directed courses and exams administered by the CFA Institute. The certification process usually takes about four years to complete.

Resources for Business Administration Doctorate Students

U.S. Department of Education

Students need to first fill out the Free Application for Student Aid, or FAFSA, to qualify for financial assistance. While graduate students do not qualify for many grants, they can still secure low-interest student loans from the government.

HBS Working Knowledge

This website gathers research from Harvard Business School faculty and advanced doctoral students to provide a primer for new DBA students to orient or reacquaint themselves with multiple business-related topics.

The Executive DBA Council

This council promotes excellence and innovation in executive DBA programs around the globe. It hosts resources concerning DBA programs and business doctoral education more generally.

The Ph.D. Project

The Ph.D. Project supports students of color as they work to earn their business doctorate. The group curates a comprehensive listing of schools that offer a Ph.D. in business and an extensive database of funding sources for doctoral students.

Purdue Online Writing Lab

To earn a DBA degree, students must know how to write well. The Purdue OWL offers tips and advice on topics such as how to structure a research paper and how to effectively use punctuation.

Professional Organizations in Business Administration

Professional organizations offer a wealth of benefits to DBA graduates. They provide networking opportunities through national conferences and regional events, host professional development and continuing-education resources, and advertise new job opportunities in the field. Some even offer more personalized programming, such as mentorship matching or individual career counseling. The list below includes five of the most prominent professional organizations in business administration.

American Finance Association

The AFA promotes scholarships in financial economics. It publishes the Journal of Finance, hosts an annual conference, and features a job board on its website.

National Association of Black Accountants

NABA creates opportunities for black professionals in accounting and finance. It offers financial education, scholarship programs, leadership training opportunities, and an accounting career awareness initiative.

American Management Association

The AMA provides professional development resources across topics like leadership, communication, project management, and thinking and innovation. Students receive discounted membership and access to online courses, podcasts, white papers, and in-person training seminars.

Entrepreneurs' Organization

EO serves more than 13,000 entrepreneurs around the world. It pairs young entrepreneurs with mentors, gives awards to student entrepreneurs, and offers several executive education programs, including its "EO accelerator" program specifically for recent graduates and new business owners.

American Association of Healthcare Administrative Management

For DBA students who specialized in healthcare management, AAHAM serves as an invaluable resource for research in the field, job opportunities, and networking events. AAHAM also administers five professional certifications.