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What’s the Difference Between a DBA and a PhD in Management?

Consider your career goals when choosing which doctorate in business to earn.

What’s the Difference Between a DBA vs. a PhD in Management?

In one year, the world can generate a gross global product of more than $87 trillion dollars.1 That’s a lot of business. It also means there’s a lot of value in having an in-depth understanding of business administration and business management. The question is, if you want to acquire in-depth knowledge, which degree would be most beneficial: a Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) or a PhD in Management?

To answer this question, we turned to Dr. Douglas Campbell, a core faculty member in Walden University’s online DBA degree program, to share his expert insights below:

The Core Differences

Should you earn a DBA or a PhD in Management? The answer depends on your interests and career goals. Both degrees represent the highest level of academic achievement, and both degrees are highly respected in both the academic and business worlds. However, there are differences. The DBA is considered a professional doctorate, and the PhD is an academic doctorate. Both are advanced research degrees that involve conducting original research, analyzing data, and producing important findings.

PhD research is focused on developing theories, addressing a gap between theories, or addressing a gap in the general body of knowledge. The PhD may be more appropriate if you are focused on a faculty career in higher education or a career as a researcher in a research center.

In contrast, DBAs focus on real-world organizational and business problems and involve original and secondary research to explore, examine, and address those problems. The DBA is primarily for those focused on a career in business and consulting. However, many DBAs do teach in colleges and universities.

PhD and DBA Curriculum Differences

In both the online PhD in Management and DBA degree programs, the coursework will help you develop a more sophisticated understanding of the foundations, theories, research, and developments within the field of business, management, and leadership. At Walden, both programs include a special emphasis on effecting positive social change. However, the curriculum is significantly different in some ways.

The PhD in Management curriculum is different because it includes:

  • The evolution of the field of business management and its relationship to human and societal development.
  • The evaluation management and systems-thinking principles at the core of the design and evolution of organizational and social systems.
  • The appraisal of the relevance of emerging management theories and practices from an interdisciplinary and social change perspective.
  • The identification of gaps in the general body of knowledge and in theoretical research with the general discipline of management.

DBA degree curriculum is different because it includes:

  • The formulation of effective solutions to complex, real-world problems common to the practice of business and management.
  • The development of individual currency in the scholarly and professional literature and practices associated with business, management, and leadership.
  • The application of current research and literature to practical problems found in business and organizational management.
  • Designing rigorous research that contributes not only to the professional body of knowledge of business and management, but also to solving real-world problems that can contribute to positive social change.

Program Differences

Walden’s online PhD in Management and DBA degree programs both require you to take advanced business and research courses, and spend time conducting an in-depth research study. However, there is a difference in how you earn each degree. For the PhD in Management, you will complete a dissertation in which you conduct scholarly and original research with the goal of addressing a gap in the body of knowledge in the field of business management. In the DBA degree program, you will typically complete a doctoral study in which you conduct scholarly and original research focused on developing a practical solution to a business problem.

Management Career Differences

While both a PhD in Management degree and a DBA degree can help you achieve your professional goals, those who earn these degrees usually take slightly different career paths. For example:

PhD Careers

  • University teaching
  • Professional researcher
  • Consulting
  • Upper-level public policymaking
  • Leadership
  • Policy advocate 

DBA Careers

  • Organizational leadership
  • Upper-level corporate policymaking
  • Consulting
  • Entrepreneur/business owner
  • College and university teaching 

How You Can Earn Your Doctoral Degree

One of the best ways to earn a PhD in Management or a DBA is to enroll in an accredited online business management degree program. Walden’s online DBA and PhD in Management degree programs are accredited by the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP), a global business education accrediting organization. ACBSP accreditation focuses on recognizing teaching excellence, determining student learning outcomes, and a continuous improvement model.2

Walden designs its online management degree programs for working professionals seeking to advance their education and careers. Walden offers the flexibility you need to move toward your goals without pausing your career. So, choose the advanced management degree that meets your interests and goals and get started down the path to becoming the thought leader and innovator the business world needs today.

Walden University is an accredited institution offering online PhD in Management and Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) degree programs. Expand your career options and earn your degree in a convenient, flexible format that fits your busy life.


Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission,