At the turn of the 20th century, the world was industrializing at a rapid pace. Businesses were growing larger and more complex, with more employees working in more diversified divisions spread across more geographical boundaries.
As a result, demand grew for people who had special training in managing the general operations of a business, which led to the creation and proliferation of the Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree.
More than 100 years later, MBAs have become a commodity that no longer serve organizations’ core needs.
In today’s age of data and information, knowledge has become the most valuable resource. Companies don’t necessarily need more general managers who can assess broad patterns across multiple industries—they need people with deep expertise in specific domains who can analyze data and generate unique insights that lead to better business decisions.
That’s why Doctorate in Business Administration (DBA) holders are becoming increasingly valuable in the modern workplace.
DBA is a professional degree representing the highest level of qualification in management. In contrast to an MBA, it takes students on a different path toward acquiring and using business knowledge.
For an MBA, students spend two years taking a broad range of practical courses to learn about several pillars of business—such as accounting, finance, marketing, leadership, operations, strategy, and ethics—to help them become effective leaders across many industries.
By contrast, DBAs spend up to two years studying academic literature across several domains and up to two additional years designing and executing an original research project: a dissertation focused on one domain. The primary goal of a DBA is to produce scholarly individuals who have deep expertise in a field of management.
When seeking executive-level positions, DBAs’ “Dr.” titles are likely to help them stand out from their peers. DBAs can also pursue high-level positions in areas such as consulting by becoming subject-matter experts—or maintain ties with academia as full-time or adjunct professors.
DBAs’ training gives them diverse career options. The academic literature they read gives them expertise in understanding management theories that can help them analyze real-world situations and differentiate the signal from the noise. A DBA specializing in innovation can assess whether newcomers to a market pose a credible threat as a disruptive innovation to an existing company.
Students then learn advanced scientific techniques in quantitative and/or qualitative methodologies, which trains them in analyzing data to generate valid inferences that their organizations can use for decision-making purposes. Rather than relying on gut feel and graphs, DBAs can use powerful techniques such as sampling data to reduce bias, using statistical regressions to identify the strongest factors that influence an outcome, or designing an experiment to gain 100% certainty over the causal relationship between variables.
Finally, DBAs combine their business knowledge with analytical skills to design and execute original research studies, making them the world’s leading experts in particular domains.
DBAs also stand out because they represent only 2% of all people who hold higher degrees in business. In 2021, more than 250,000 students graduated with MBAs or specialist degrees in business; only 5,000 graduated with doctorates.
While a DBA may represent an attractive option that can be highly valuable to organizations today, they are not necessarily recommended for everyone.
To help you determine whether a DBA is right for you, the most important question to ask yourself centers on whether you’re satisfied with the tools and frameworks you use to analyze data and information to make important business decisions. If you’ve ever found yourself wondering where these frameworks come from—or whether there might be a better way to make decisions—consider applying to a DBA program. These programs are designed to channel deep intellectual interests and passions toward producing business knowledge that’s both theoretically novel and practically relevant.
DBA training may help you develop deeper knowledge than an MBA program will while opening doors to more ambitious careers in industry or academia. While MBA degrees are designed to meet the needs of 20th-century businesses, DBAs can help meet the needs of organizations today—and well into the future.