In an age of rapid globalization and digital transformation, postgraduate studies are an obvious means to differentiate job applicants. Indeed, it has been claimed that increased competition for fewer managerial leadership positions has resulted in an increased need for continuing higher level education.
In today’s world of ever-increasing technology and demands for innovative enterprise, the need to generate new knowledge and processes is paramount, and the traditional road to innovation is through higher learning. Institutions that are leading the way in the quest to become innovative have done an about-face from being research- and publication-focused to becoming entrepreneurial and outward-focused in their efforts to encourage market-relevant research that can be commercialized.
DBA or PhD? Which to choose?
It depends on your career goals and specific interests. First, let’s clear up the distinction between an MBA, DBA and a PhD in Business Management. A doctorate is the pinnacle of academic study. For an athlete it’s like competing in the Olympics, for a footballer it may be like playing in the World Cup. The distinction is that most institutions indicate that the PhD prepares one more for academia and scholarship—an ‘academic’ doctorate; while the DBA prepares one to apply theoretical knowledge in business practice—a ‘professional’ doctorate.
So, the PhD candidate will most likely have their sights set on becoming a university professor, while the DBA candidate is thinking of a career in management consulting, education, entrepreneurship or business leadership.
Another major differentiator between the DBA and PhD is that the latter is usually undertaken through full-time study, while the DBA is often completed while holding down a full-time job. Time and cost—higher degrees are expensive—may determine which degree best suits your lifestyle choices.
Aligned to this, PhDs and DBAs usually have different target groups and motivational impetus: the PhD is often a continuation of full-time undergraduate studies, leading to a life in academia, while the latter is often taken up as a professional qualification following significant work experience—and an earlier MBA.
Both the DBA and PhD may take between three and five years to complete, usually involving two years of course work followed by a research project that may take at least a year or two to complete. While most doctoral programs allow candidates up to seven years to complete their research and submit a dissertation, the DBA tends to offer a more flexible approach for the person who chooses to continue with their full-time career while juggling other responsibilities.
Compared to the MBA, the DBA—of course—puts the holder a couple of rungs ahead of the MBA graduate on the knowledge and qualifications ladder.
A Better Manager?
When deciding on higher education routes, people sometimes ask whether a particular qualification will help them to become a better manager of people. With a few specific exceptions, it remains true that the higher one advances in an organization, the more one is faced with challenges rooted in people and strategic management issues. For this reason, the DBA is better suited to those business leaders wanting to remain immersed in the continuous improvement of organizational effectiveness.
DBA candidates usually bring with them significant experience in managing organizations and an understanding of the problems and opportunities that come with management.
Frequently, senior managers rise in an organization because of some technical ability, often in accounting and finance or related to the core competence of the business, for example in engineering or some branch of information technology. The tendency of these managers is to be task-oriented, whereas the job of organizational leadership requires someone who is people-oriented.
So, is the DBA More ‘Relevant’?
Tertiary institutions are increasingly concerned with the application and commercialization of their knowledge and research outputs. As one program puts it, the emphasis is increasingly on effecting positive social change. Both DBA and PhD programs claim to do this but differ in their approach. While PhD programs tend to focus on the evolution, evaluation and appraisal of the field of business management and its relationship to human and societal development, DBA coursework tends to focus on providing effective solutions to the problems and gaps arising from such evaluation and appraisal.
Towards Innovation, Enterprise and Entrepreneurship
It would seem from this that one of the primary reasons to follow the path of a DBA is if one is first and foremost concerned with business in the real world. This is not to suggest that academics are divorced from issues arising in commerce and industry; on the contrary, the relatively recent upsurge in their interest in what constitutes an ‘entrepreneurial university’ speaks to academia’s acknowledgement that there is much added value to be gained by seeking partnerships with the business sector to commercialize aspects of their research output.
And here’s the kicker: economic development—the ‘third mission’ of universities after teaching and research—fulfills the mandate of the entrepreneurial university and is supported by the DBA program.
Acknowledged as requiring the same level of academic rigor as a PhD, the DBA program is more in tune with today’s requirement for higher education institutions to produce graduates who are employable and focused on business problem-solving.
The EU Business School recognizes these trends in its wide variety of MBA specializations, and in its internationally accredited DBA program offered from the Geneva campus. Find out more about EU’s programs, and how they can help boost your career, here.