Earning a Doctorate in Business Administration Online

Earning a doctorate in business administration online positions students for a variety of professions. Graduates may work in academia, for research-based organizations, or as business consultants, depending on the doctoral degree path they choose. Whether seeking a Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) and preparing a business industry career or a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Business Administration to pursue careers in academia, earning a doctoral degree in business administration online can provide a stepping stone to career advancement. Students with a master's degree from an accredited college or university, as well as professionals with business experience, make ideal candidates for an online doctorate programs in business administration. Learn more about what earning an online DBA is all about and the career and salary potential for graduates.

What Can You Do with an Online Doctorate in Business Administration?

Online doctoral programs in business prepare students for careers as high-level executives, economists, researchers, strategic planners, and research associates or analysts. In business administration, there are two distinct degree paths that can help guide students to their ideal career. Both paths will cover advanced business administration concepts and prepare students to conduct and analyze research, however the desired career outcomes for each set of curriculum is very different:

  • Doctor of Business Administration (DBA):

    This doctoral degree path is designed for professionals planning to work in the corporate world. DBA holders will apply practical theories from existing research to their daily work. Companies seek executives and leaders with knowledge of proven business methods to improve company operations. Think tanks value strong research and analytical skills for examining specific business-related issues. If this sounds exciting, earning an online DBA may be the best choice.

  • Doctor of Philosophy, Business Administration (Ph.D.):

    This academic-based doctoral program is geared towards online business administration students interested in teaching at the university level or conducting original research. Those who aspire to work in a university as a professor of business while pursuing their own research about best practices in business or as a department dean should pursue the online Ph.D. in business administration.

For DBA students, careers span a diverse set of industries. The skills and theories learned in a DBA program can be applied in any industry where people conduct business. Here are some common occupations for DBA graduates:

Top Executive

Annual Median Salary: $104,700
Projected Growth Rate: 8%

Executives oversee an organization and ensure it meets its goals. They hire department heads, oversee finances, identify efficiencies, and manage products. These executives possess significant work experience and hold certifications from top associations. Companies often seek executives with at least a master's degree, so a doctorate in business administration can make you more a more competitive candidate.

Management Consultant

Annual Median Salary: $82,450
Projected Growth Rate: 14%

These professionals analyze organizational efficiency. They conduct onsite interviews, analyze data, observe the work environment, and recommend changes based on their findings. They mostly work as independent contractors who bid on work. Management consultant experience leads to high-level jobs that require graduate degrees which typically come with higher pay. Requiring the doctorate makes DBA online programs valuable.

Organizational Development Director

Annual Median Salary: $117,627
Projected Growth Rate: N/A

Directors manage a staff that coordinates employee development programs. They communicate company goals, develop action plans, recommend change, and oversee the department budget. Companies desire candidates with a significant level of experience and a doctoral degree from an accredited college or university.

Source: BLS/PayScale

The Top-Paying Industries for Chief Executives

Pipeline Transportation of Natural Gas

  • Employment: N/A

  • Percent of Industry Employment: N/A

  • Annual Mean Wage: $276,290

Textile Furnishing Mills

  • Employment: 50

  • Percent of Industry Employment: .10

  • Annual Mean Wage: $262,190

Agents and Managers for Artists, Athletes, Entertainers, and Other Public Figures

  • Employment: 50

  • Percent of Industry Employment: .19

  • Annual Mean Wage: $255,720

Communications Equipment Manufacturing

  • Employment: 230

  • Percent of Industry Employment: .27

  • Annual Mean Wage: $250,660

Insurance Carriers

  • Employment: 2,700

  • Percent of Industry Employment: .23

  • Annual Mean Wage: $250,060

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Traits of a Successful Business Administration Professional

Successful business administration professionals understand analytics, training, and project management software. These leaders possess experience in strategic planning and allocating resources. They effectively communicate with employees, show empathy, and solve problems. They rise as planners and analysts who can summarize objectives and outcomes, develop curriculum, and lead discussions. At work, they stand out as creative thinkers who gather and analyze data, stay current on business trends, and develop training and teaching programs. They solve complex problems by using sound judgment and decision making to critically think through an issue and find solutions. Key skills include:

Critical Thinking
These professionals analyze subjects or problems with a reasoned and logical approach. They identify the pros and cons of a solution or approach and use objective analysis to reach conclusions.
Complex Problem Solving
Individuals evaluate complex issues, develop options, and implement solutions. They tackle problems that offer multiple solutions and develop plans to monitor and evaluate the solution. Critical thinking skills are crucial to their success.
Active Listening
These professionals engage in conversations with employees. They listen to suggestions, refrain from interrupting, and ask questions. These individuals spend time to understand all points of view and show attentiveness through verbal and nonverbal cues.

Salary by Experience Level

Chief executive officers (CEOs) possess a range of educational and work experience. They set the organization's vision and spend years working and training in different areas to understand all aspects of the business. CEOs possess a business degree with specialties in areas such as finance and economics. CEOs at large organizations hold advanced degrees from an accredited college or university. They possess significant senior management experience and excel at communicating with employees at all levels.

Pay by Experience Level for CEOs

  • Entry-Level (0-5 Years):

  • Mid-Career (5-10 Years):

  • Experienced (10-20 Years):

  • Late-Career (20+ years):

Source: PayScale

Business Administration Professional Organizations

  • International Institute of Business Analysis: IIBA specializes in business analysis, which analyzes business needs and finds solutions. The organization offers professional development programs, best practices, and skills development programs. The group also holds global events and offers certifications based on knowledge and years of service. Members gain access to white papers, studies, research, and reports.

  • American Business Women's Association: The ABWA unites women from different backgrounds to foster personal and professional growth. This organization provides strong mentoring through local and national events and regional and national conferences. The association also offers a career center and funds national and academic scholarships. Members can pursue continuing education courses with the group.

  • National Association for Business Economics: NABE members work in economics. The group keeps members informed on the latest economic news through a members-only forum. The association offers a consulting service and speaker's bureau and offers members certification in statistics and data, economics strategy, and writing skills for business. The association offers surveys in business conditions, salary, and policy.

Steps to Earning a DBA Online

Each online DBA program preparation process differs since each degree-granting institution maintains its own set of procedures. Students follow these common steps when seeking an online DBA.

number one

Find the Right Program for You

Online DBA programs come in different forms. Distance learning takes the form of online-only classes or a hybrid form in which students take some classes online and some at school. Students must scrutinize program offerings based on their interests. Learners interested in bolstering their business knowledge look at doctor of business administration online programs from accredited colleges or universities. Students with an interest in academia pursue online Ph.D. programs in business.

number two


Applicants should start preparing and gathering information about six months before the application deadline. Students must submit recommendation letters proclaiming their ability to perform doctoral work. They must submit a personal statement that shows their potential as a researcher and scholar. Individuals must gather their academic records, prepare a research proposal, and complete a personal interview. Some schools require students to take the GRE.

number three

Capstone, Dissertation, or Thesis

Students complete a research paper, called a thesis, at the conclusion of their master's degree. They analyze existing research to show how it relates to their subject. The more advanced dissertation, completed at the end of a doctoral program, requires students to develop and prove their own hypothesis. Theses examine broad, general issues. Capstone projects address a narrow and focused topic. Students write these papers to show they know how to report, analyze, and draw conclusions by using critical-thinking skills.

number four

Fellowship or Internship

These opportunities help students further their education in different ways. Academic fellowships award scholarships so students can continue an area of study. Fellowships give students access to the brightest minds in academia. Internships provide a paid or unpaid temporary position in the student's field of study. Students also expand their networks and receive on-the-job training. In both cases, students complete applications that showcase their academic achievements and skills.

Curriculum for an Online DBA

  1. Multivariate Statistical Analysis: Students in this course examine several variables simultaneously to find patterns. This course covers data and modeling, component and factor analysis, hierarchical and K-means clustering, and mixed linear and hierarchical modeling. Students take this course as part of their core curriculum. It remains helpful to students who want to conduct research.

  2. Business Research, Analysis, and Applications: This course focuses on research study design and business research methods. Students analyze and critique research studies. After selecting a hypothesis, learners test their theory using data and statistical analysis. Business research and analysis prove valuable in academia and business.

  3. Seminar in Corporate Finance: This course focuses on corporate finance and current trends, especially capital structure and dividend policy. Students analyze corporate mergers and acquisitions. Current trends include contingent claims analysis and agency theory. The class combines financial theory and practice in financial management. The course remains suitable for finance majors interested in working for corporations.

  4. Economic Theory and Policy: Learners in this course analyze business theory and environmental management. They study the relationship between research and business decision making and study all components a company needs to operate a business. The course examines how business ethics can affect a firm's value, government regulation, the impact of risk, employee compensation plans, and cost-benefit analysis of centralized and decentralized decision-making.

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