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30 Sep Doctor of Business Administration – DBA – The New MBA?

Did you know that the US produces over 90,000 MBA graduates per year? And that the UK, the second largest producer, produces over 10,000 MBA graduates per year? Perhaps you signed up for an MBA thinking it would make you special but have found that in reality nearly everyone you work with also has an MBA? Indeed it could be said that the MBA has become a victim of its own success. No longer is the MBA a passport to promotion and financial success – it is now the minimum entry qualification for the company.

In a poll by the Association of MBA’s 1300 respondents suggested that the reason they took an MBA was as follows: To obtain a business qualification (82%); To improve job opportunities (79%); For Intellectual stimulation (70%); To increase salary (67%) To obtain general skills (64%); To change career direction (61%); and, To increase self-confidence (52%). Unfortunately many graduates will discover that the chances of increasing their salaries or improving job opportunities upon graduation will not be realised. Indeed the substantial costs associated with taking an MBA has to be written off since companies will not see the MBA as a particular advantage over experience or other qualifications.

Enter the Doctor of Business Administration (DBA). The DBA is a professional qualification that is designed to enable practitioners who already have a postgraduate degree such as an MBA to extend their learning and make a contribution to the body of knowledge of their practice area. Since the DBA is a practical course that requires candidates to research an area of business practice it is usually offered as a part time course for practising managers.

What is the difference between a DBA and a PhD? The DBA is a doctorate designed for experienced professionals based on the research of managerial issues. In contrast the PhD emphasises the development of new knowledge and theoretical perspectives. The DBA is a widely recognised qualification equivalent in standing to a PhD. As LJM University state, “Put simply, a PhD makes a contribution to knowledge whilst a DBA makes a contribution to knowledge in practice, in both cases this being new knowledge.” According to the University of Surrey in the UK, “The DBA is right for today’s business world. It is often better received in business than a narrow PhD Doctorate. This is because the approach is broader and the thesis takes a practical subject as its basis for the research study.”

Typically a DBA is undertaken in two stages. The first is the taught component consisting of a number of business and research methodology modules designed to help the candidate develop both in-depth business knowledge and an understanding of the research process at the doctoral level. This stage can take one to two years and the candidate is usually required to produce and defend a research proposal. The second stage is the research component during which the candidate is required to produce a piece of original research with an emphasis on applied knowledge within the work environment. This can take between two to four years. Some institutions allow candidates to produce three separate papers rather than one thesis, the three papers being bound together and submitted for assessment as one piece of work once completed. The bound work is then sent for external examination and viva (defence). A successful candidate must be able to demonstrate the contribution that their research makes to management practice.

The DBA is offered by many universities around the world. However, when choosing a course it is important to ensure that it is from a recognised university – look for accreditation from European organisations such as EQUIS and EDAMBA, or from the American AACSB. The application process will usually involve the potential candidate completing an application form and research proposal. The proposal will ensure that the university can supervise your area of business practice, an important consideration if you work in a highly specialised field. It should also demonstrate that you have a basic knowledge of the research process. Candidates should already have an MBA or equivalent business Master’s degree and be able to demonstrate that they have experience of management at a senior level, or substantial professional experience. Non-native speakers of English would normally be expected to have an IELTS level of 7.0 or equivalent.

The DBA is therefore a natural progression for those who have completed their MBA. It builds on the foundation of an MBA and adds much more. It is exclusive and very few managers have one. As a result the Doctor of Business Administration is set to replace the MBA as the ‘must have’ qualification in corporate life – and unlike the invisible MBA, it allows you to put ‘Doctor’ on your business card! What better way to stand out from the crowd?

Hugh O’Connell

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