Ben Maples  · Dec 5th 2023

Looking for one of the best degrees available in Business Administration? Then the DBA is the thing for you.


A DBA is one of the highest honours that can be bestowed upon a student and yet, it remains one of the most unknown degrees offered by a university.

While most generally tend to assume that an MBA is the highest possible qualification achievable in Business Administration, it’s plain to see that the DBA is even more valuable and is even considered to be on par with a PhD.

DBA definition

What is the DBA?

The DBA is the Doctor of Business Administration. Though it is known colloquially as the DBA, it is also known as the D.B.A., Dr.B.A. or the DrBA. It is a postgraduate research doctorate that is awarded to students for advanced study, examinations, any project work and for general research in Business Administration.

The DBA is also considered to be a terminal degree in Business Administration. A terminal degree is a degree that has two potential outcomes, which are:

  • The highest degree that is awarded in a certain area.
  • A degree that is awarded to a student that completes a specified amount of coursework, but does not go on to doctoral work.

Though not all professions relating to business administration require students to have a DBA, some professions, such as becoming a tenure-track university professor or a postdoctoral researcher in the field of business administration do require you to have the DBA.

Those hoping to achieve a DBA must submit a significant project, usually a dissertation (or thesis), which has a body of original academic research that is worthy of publication in a peer-reviewed journal. Candidates will also be required to defend the work before a panel of expert examiners.

There are two sections in the DBA:

  • Phase 1: Follows a sequence of taught modules on very specific topics and subjects. This generally looks into the world of management theory and business practices. There is also practical training provided.
  • Phase 2: This is a largely independent phase, one which focuses specifically on independent research. This is when you will properly implement your research proposal and will carry out a project that leads to you being able to write your dissertation or thesis.

These phases will have different teachings provided by the university that you are applying to, but you will always have two phases to study.

What is the difference between a PhD and a DBA?

A DBA as a postgraduate degree is held in the same regard as a PhD and is generally seen as being an equivalent to it as well, despite this, there are a number of important distinctions to make between the two qualifications.

A DBA is offered purely in Business & Management subjects, whereas a PhD is offered in all subjects where academic research has been conducted. The DBA is a professional doctorate, whereas the PhD is an academic research doctorate.

A PhD is mainly a project of independent research, whereas a DBA is taught units as well as independent research. Though a DBA can be studied as part of a full-time course, it is generally studied as a part-time degree or as a distance learning course.


What is the difference between a DBA and an MBA?

Both the DBA and the MBA are qualifications relating specifically to business administration. The DBA is the more advanced degree and therefore offers a much higher level of qualification than the MBA (which is often an entry requirement for the DBA).

While the MBA is Masters degree (NQF Level 7), it is still behind the DBA, which is a professional doctorate (NQF level 8). The MBA requires students to embark on a practical project or a placement as well as completing a dissertation (or thesis), whereas the DBA requires students to conduct extensive research for an overall thesis or dissertation project.

What do I need to study a DBA?

You will normally need to have some professional experience prior to starting work as well as having the relevant qualifications, which are, in this case either:

  • An MBA.
  • Evidence of a promising research project that is related to the business school or university you are applying to.
  • Significant and relevant professional experience.

Overall, the academic requirements for a DBA are fairly flexible, as it is possible to study a DBA without first having achieved an MBA, provided you have the relevant professional experience.

Conversely, qualifications such as the GMAT or the GRE are not necessarily required in order to study the DBA, but will certainly help you out a lot. If you are an international student, you may be required to provide proof that you speak English, as this is the most common language that the qualification is taught in.

How do you apply for the DBA?

The application process has been known to change depending on the university and their university entry requirements, however, you will normally need to provide all or some of the following:

  • Appropriate academic and/or professional references.
  • Evidence of qualifications.
  • A personal statement.

Along with these three things, you will also be asked to provide a research proposal that is then accepted by the university you are applying to.

DBA course

What is a DBA research proposal?

Your DBA research proposal must show that it is original (as in, never been researched before), is worthwhile and is practical.

Your research proposal should also draw on the professional experience you have as well. Your research proposal should be an extension of all that you have experienced all that you have learned.

How long does a DBA take?

The majority of DBAs are studied on a part-time or distance learning basis. This is mainly because the students studying the qualification are usually gainfully employed and are therefore unable to commit to the qualification full-time.

With this in mind, it usually takes around four and six years to complete the DBA and has been known to take longer than that in some instances.

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