DBA programmes: the next step for MBAs and MBA students

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Learn about pursuing a Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) degree upon MBA completion

A doctoral degree designed for future executives provides a natural progression for working professionals who have, or are pursuing, their MBA degree. It is an opportunity to gain advanced knowledge of critical business issues and engage in a research experience that can transform one’s career trajectory.

Designed for business leaders

The purpose of the DBA is to prepare executives for the rigours of the global economy with a focus on actionable business and management research that can be applied in their current roles and organisations.

Unlike a PhD, a DBA is designed for working professionals in private sector industry who are seeking to build the skills to solve complex business problems while remaining in their current roles. U.S. News and World Report found that the average PhD. candidate took 5.8 years to complete their work, whereas a DBA student may take as few as four years.

A 100% online programme such as the executive Doctor of Business Administration from Aston University – one of CEO Magazine’s top ranked DBAs – allows for full- or part-time study at an individualised pace of completion.

Real-world significance

John Blakey of the Trusted Executive Foundation wasn’t always a published author giving keynote speeches at leadership conferences. It is a new role that he has grown into because of his decision to pursue a DBA.

‘The programme is suited for self-motivated, driven, experienced business leaders who want to challenge themselves intellectually to go to the next level,’ he says. ‘What it has developed in me is that attention to detail, that real grasp of becoming an expert in a topic. It made me question things, analyse arguments at a deeper level.’

‘One of my aims was to publish a book on leadership,’ he continues. ‘Halfway through the programme, I was approached by a publisher who wanted to publish the work based on the research that I’d done. It catapulted me into the limelight in terms of thought leadership.’

Blakey says he chose the online executive DBA from Aston University because he ‘knew of its reputation, and international standing in terms of its research capabilities.’ Aston’s Business School is triple-accredited by AMBA, AACSB and Equis, ranking among the elite 1%.

Focused on research

As the terminal step in business management education, a DBA programme allows students to specialise in a niche topic with a deep dive into tightly focused subject matter. U.S. News & World Report details the distinct approach to completion in this way: ‘DBA candidates spend their initial semesters learning how to conduct academic research before focusing their attention on dissertation research and writing. This executive doctoral path tends to abstain from other obligations to produce high-end business research.’ 

The goal, as we can see from John’s experience, is to learn how to apply research in order to become a respected leader who can impact business operations within their own organisation … and beyond.

Built on academic partnerships

A comprehensive DBA programme will partner each of its students with an assigned academic research supervisor based on specialised knowledge and compatible interests. It is important to understand the student-to-academic ratio to ensure a high degree of personalised attention.

‘We’ve tried to put together supervision packages that cover a variety of areas of research activities,” explains Dr Ann Davis, Blakey’s supervisor at Aston University. ‘You may have one supervisor who is focused on the particular field of research that you’re doing and another supervisor who is perhaps more focused on the particular methodologies that you want to do.’

Global influence and impact

Salary and career potential

Another feature of a robust programme is the opportunity to engage in discourse with peers from around the world. There are many benefits to being part of an international cohort of students from various business sectors and geographies, as each individual offers a unique perspective and source of information (and inspiration).

Each degree level in business administration features a significantly higher average salary. In fact, 85% of surveyed professional doctorate graduates stated their degree facilitated their promotion or career change.

PayScale found an average salary of £34,000 for bachelor of business graduates, while MBA graduates earn median salaries of £52,000, making the DBA degree a great value for business professionals. DBAs can earn the following averages for executive positions:

  • Operations director: £87,989
  • Vice president: £92,800
  • Finance director: £102,078

The advantage of the DBA is that it can prepare you for any of several executive roles, depending on your area of focus. Aston University, for example, offers academic research supervisors that specialise in working with professionals in accounting, law, economics, finance, entrepreneurship, marketing, strategy, operations, information management, and work and organisational psychology.

Ideal next step for MBAs

MBAs who are seeking to further their knowledge and careers should invest some time in exploring the possibilities of a DBA programme. The same can be said for MBA students who want to plan ahead for “what’s next” in accomplishing their educational and career goals.

Since the DBA is a private sector degree there is no worry about university funding or institutional grants as you would typically see with a PhD. Many employers are happy to share the costs of advanced study, especially as DBAs are in high demand around the world.

It’s never too soon to ask about – and never too late to consider – this potential next step for career growth and advancement. Not to mention the prestige that comes with achieving doctoral status as a business professional and thought leader.

For more information on the Aston University executive DBA visit the Aston website

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