Online doctorate of business administration: the pinnacle of business education

By Clare Kaufman

The doctorate in business administration or DBA features advanced leadership training for business professionals looking to take the next step in their careers. The Graduate Management Admission Council reports that the growing interest in business doctorates reflects the increasing complexity of global business, the amount of data that corporations must analyze, and the sophistication of technology and various financial products. These factors are all raising the bar for business leaders, who are seeking management education beyond the MBA.

The online doctorate in business administration

For business professionals, the options beyond the MBA are the Doctor of Business Administration, or DBA, and the Ph.D. in Business Administration. The two degrees overlap somewhat, but are distinct in focus; the DBA is a practitioner degree for business executives, and the Ph.D. is an academic qualification designed for scholarly researchers and business school professors. The DBA is established in Europe and is becoming more widespread in the United States.

The online DBA is an advanced program designed for senior-level executives looking to develop their knowledge and business acumen through formal research training. In applying scholarship to practical business problems, DBA students develop their ability to grasp big-picture issues and develop effective systems for global enterprise.

Online doctoral programs in business administration accommodate busy executives with a flexible, self-paced learning format. The degree typically takes three years to complete, but self-paced online doctoral programs may extend six years or more, depending on the student's time commitment. Admission requirements for the Doctorate of Business Administration include a bachelor's degree and a master's in business administration or a related field such as an MBA or M.S., from accredited institutions.

Courses and degree requirements for Doctorate of Business Administration

The online DBA program combines advanced instruction and applied project work. Business courses at this level focus on leadership and business strategy, and topics include the following:

  1. Emerging markets
  2. Global economic systems
  3. Executive decision making
  4. Business ethics and social policy
  5. Managerial economics

Specialization is a common feature of online doctoral programs in business. Areas of specialization include operations and supply chain management, marketing research, innovation management, and corporate finance or accounting.

In addition, the online doctorate in business program includes instruction in quantitative and qualitative research methods, including statistical analysis. Doctoral students apply these research skills in an independent project focusing on an applied business problem. Some programs require a written dissertation or scholarly paper describing the project's methodology, research findings and analysis.

Career paths for online doctorate in business administration graduates

Online doctoral programs in business administration attract senior executives who want to expand or improve their leadership. Here are some common career paths for doctoral-level graduates.

C-level executive roles, including chief executive officer, chief operating officer, chief financial officer and chief information officer or chief technology officer: Chief executive earnings vary widely depending on the size and type of organization. The Bureau of Labor Statistics lists a mean 2010 salary of $173,350, but between stock options and bonuses, most CEOs earn much more. Salary.com reports a U.S. base salary average of $703,855; with bonuses factored in, the total annual compensation average is $1,128,128.

Senior management roles, including VP and general manager of operations, marketing, engineering, finance or another business sector: The BLS reports a mean 2010 salary of $113,100 for general and operations managers.

Academic jobs, such as business school professor: While the Ph.D. is the preferred qualification for academic posts, some business school professors hold the practitioner DBA. Salaries vary widely, since teaching is often a part-time role for practicing business professionals. The BLS estimates that full-time postsecondary teachers of business earned a mean salary of $85,470 in 2010.

Notable business leaders with doctorates

Business doctorates are common in the ranks of European C-level executives. According to Bloomberg Business Week, an estimated 58.5 percent of executives in Europe hold doctoral degrees, compared to 5.6 percent in the U.S. Notable names with a DBA or Ph.D. in business include Klaus Kleinfeld, CEO of Alcoa and former CEO of Siemens AG, who holds a Ph.D. in management from the University of Wuerzburg. Sumantra Ghoshal used his DBA to forge a career as founding dean of the Indian School of Business in Hyderabad and former Robert P. Bauman Chair in Strategic Leadership at the London Business School. Michael Raynor, bestselling author of "The Innovator's Solution" and expert on business management practices, earned a DBA from Harvard Business School.

Online Doctor of Business Administration programs allow MBA graduates to take their professional training to the next level. Advanced education, such as a DBA, is a key to opportunity in today's global job market.

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