The DBA vs. the MBA: which is right for you?

 Mark Stoddard, Director of Operations at AMBA, talks about the similarities and differences between the Master of Business Administration (MBA) and the Doctor of Business Administration (DBA).

How does the profile of the DBA student differ to that of the MBA student, if at all?

The profiles of Master of Business Administration (MBA) and Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) students may be similar, in that both demand substantial relevant work experience alongside academic qualifications; however DBA students will generally be more senior than their MBA counterparts as an MBA (or other masters-level management degree) is usually a pre-requisite for enrolling on a DBA course.

That said, the DBA should not be seen as a natural extension of the MBA. This is because its rigorous research focus would only appeal to - and be relevant for - a small number of MBA graduates.

AMBA’s DBA guide refers to the “continued confusion in the market regarding the definition and value of this degree” but are there any indications that demand among prospective students for a DBA is picking up?

The DBA is certainly becoming more popular and more business schools are launching such programmes. However, in terms of demand, the number of people wishing to complete a DBA is always likely to remain relatively small as the DBA targets senior executives but also demands at least four years of part time study - the number of people that can commit to this will always be limited.

Are there any countries where the DBA is really taking off and why?

The DBA has the strongest presence in the UK and Australasia, where there has been a historical focus on excellence in doctoral level management education. Alongside this, we’re seeing growth in DBA enrolment in mainland Europe, partly because it is seen as a means to address qualified faculty shortages to transition practitioners into the academic world (while this is not the primary function of the DBA, it can be used for this purpose).

Is there any merit in some people who, in years gone by, would have naturally opted for an MBA now going straight to DBA instead?

Not really - they are very different products with different aims and outcomes. Both are practical and underpinned by academic rigour, however, in general terms, the DBA is more research-focused than the MBA, which is more content driven.  

It is widely accepted that an MBA boosts your employability – in that context, what are the advantages of the DBA?

The DBA aims to bring high level research to bear on solving unique and complex management problems. It is therefore about developing innovators and change agents for a wide variety of organisations. In addition, it can also assist practitioners in transitioning into a part time (or even full time) faculty role at a university or business school. The DBA should enhance a career but is not designed to be a career booster in the same way as the MBA.

Does AMBA offer accreditation for the majority/all of the business schools and academic institutions offering DBAs?

Only schools that have an AMBA accredited MBA are eligible for DBA accreditation. Currently only nine schools offer AMBA accredited DBA programs.

These institutions are:

  • Mark - This article is very helpful. Having recently completed an MBA, I opted for a dissertation project and really enjoyed the research element, I have been thinking about doing a DBA. When my colleagues and I discuss it, the main questions are "what does that mean for one's career"  and "do you want to be an academician". Whilst I am not currently thinking of transitioning from a practitioner to academic, I quite like the angle of being able to solve complex business problems. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this subject.