In the 20th century, a Masters in Business Administration -- an MBA -- particularly from an Ivy League school, almost always guaranteed the recipient a great job. According to several sources, this is no longer the case. A Doctorate in Business Administration -- a DBA -- may be what you need to stay ahead of the competition when looking for a job. There are other good reasons for getting a business doctorate, among them that it's a near necessity for tenure track college teachers. But university DBAs often earn less than corporate MBAs.
Advanced Degrees in Business Administration
The traditional view of MBA vs. DBA programs is that the MBA prepares you for industry and the DBA prepares you for college teaching and research. In the 21st century, opinion about this difference is mixed. The writers for "American Graduate Education" see the primary purpose of the doctorate as preparation for academia, either teaching business students or engaging in a mixture of teaching and research. At Harvard Business School, on the other hand, both MBA and DBA programs emphasize case study, where students solve given industry and management problems; this prepares students equally for careers in business or teaching and research. At one European university, about 90 percent of their DBA graduates enter business, not a university. Outcomes for Ph.D.s in Business Administration -- a different doctoral degree -- are somewhat different.
Ph.D. vs. DBA
If the DBA prepares you for either business or teaching and research, the Ph.D. in Business Administration is still considered primarily a research and teaching degree. If you're interested in entering business, the DBA may suit you better. In a 2012 article in "U.S. News," John Fernandes, president and chief executive officer of the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), notes that newer DBA degree programs are slanted toward those planning a career in business, while Ph.D and some older DBA programs emphasize research and teaching.
Why Getting a DBA Is a Good Career Move
MBAs were once relatively rare in business; now, increasingly, they are commonplace, even "ubiquitous," as Menachem Wecker put it in the "U.S. News" article "Amidst M.B.A. Inflation, Executives Recommend Business Doctorates." The number of MBAs seeking jobs means that, at some corporations, supply outstrips demand. There are far fewer DBAs, though, and that means your DBA degree will likely give you an edge over job applicants with MBAs.
Business leaders do not uniformly consider that the DBA provides a significant advantage over an MBA. For some, it may suggest that the DBA candidate is too theoretical and insufficiently practical. No documentation supports the idea that a DBA earns more than an MBA. The most reliable source of salary information, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, groups salary statistics for all advanced business degrees together.
Other salary data sources make the distinction between the DBA and MBA, but the conclusions to be drawn remain unclear. Lending Tree's Education site, for example, reports that in February 2015, the median salary for a marketing director with an MBA was $117,254. For DBAs working in academia, the site reports a median salary in February 2015 of $62,050. This doesn't mean that you'll earn less with a DBA than with an MBA, although almost certainly an MBA in business will make more money than a DBA at a university. It does suggest that although the DBA may offer you a better chance of landing an industry job in competition with MBAs, how much you earn depends more upon the specific field you enter and the perceived level of your performance than upon your advanced business degree.
Patrick Gleeson received a doctorate in 18th century English literature at the University of Washington. He served as a professor of English at the University of Victoria and was head of freshman English at San Francisco State University. Gleeson is the director of technical publications for McClarie Group and manages an investment fund. He is a Registered Investment Advisor.