The Differences between PhD and DBA

The PhD and the DBA are both research-based degrees. The DBA is a professional doctorate for managers and the PhD is a professional doctorate for academics. They both include of course work period and research work period. The PhD and DBA are of equivalent academic standard and rigor. Both are recognized internationally as research degrees.

In general, the focus of a PhD program is to develop new theory, whereas the focus of a DBA program is to apply theoretical knowledge to the advancement of business practice. Both PhD and DBA programs require original research culminating in the creation and defense of a dissertation.

The PhD is the most common doctorate degree for those who wish to pursue academic careers. However, the degree is also used as for advanced consulting, research, or business/public administration careers. Often, PhD students choose an area of specialization such as management, finance, economics, marketing, or tourism. The goal of the PhD is to provide a combination of research skills training, exposure to the latest business research and original theoretical research, which will help students to grow as “Professional Researchers”.

The DBA is designed to provide business executives with competencies needed to pursue business/public administration careers that require more advanced research skills and qualifications. Some DBA programs may also be pathways into careers in academia. The goal of the DBA is to offer a combination of research skills training, exposure to the latest business research and original applied research, which will help students to grow as “Research Professionals”.

The DBA dissertation could place emphasis on the managerial implications of what the DBA research project has found, and not put so much emphasis on the theory. The DBA dissertation would be more rigorous, more in-depth, and aim for broader understanding of the type of problem.  The DBA dissertation would be expected to draw conclusions and provided implications for a wider audience than just on firm.

Entry into a DBA usually requires an MBA degree or the equivalent, as well as significant management/professional experience. In contrast, entry into a PhD program usually requires only an MBA or the equivalent with no work experience of any kind.

The DBA dissertation is usually shorter than a PhD dissertation. The DBA dissertation is approximately 40,000 words in length and the PhD dissertation is approximately 50,000 worlds.

In NUM, the DBA is 12 credits and the PhD is 18 credits and the approach and process are a bit different. The following diagrams illustrate the approach and process of DBA and PhD at NUM:


  1. Perry & Cavaye (2002). Australian Universities’ Examination Criteria for DBA Dissertations. International Journal of Organizational Behavior, Volume 7(5)
  2. University of Wollongong in Dubai: PhD or DBA-What’s the Difference? 
  3. Official Website of AACSB International (2011)
  4. Instituto de Empresa: DBA Program in Management