Exploring the rising demand for DBAs

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Dr Rakesh Bissoondeeal investigates at the rise of DBA courses and explains how the qualification can help aspiring business leaders meet employer demands and explore cutting-edge solutions to business problems

The Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) has been described as the highest honour bestowed on business academics.

DBA degree programmes, like other doctoral programmes, ask candidates to research advanced business topics before delivering their theses. DBAs are invaluable to their employers because they are trained to turn theory into practice. A DBA online programme like the Executive DBA from Aston University can be completed part-time around your work schedules.

DBA graduates are in high demand because of their extensive training and experience. The Global DBA Survey from Compass found the average DBA candidate held 15 years of experience when admitted to programmes. These candidates pursued their degrees while working middle or upper management jobs. For prospective students, it is worthwhile to consider the other factors in the growing demand for DBA graduates.

Rising educational expectations

Businesses throughout the world are looking for talented leaders who can jump into new challenges without much training. In the past, a bachelor’s degree plus the professional experience was sufficient for an aspiring executive to make their way to the top. In the 21st century, major corporations look for leaders who have shown their business acumen through graduate programmes. An MBA has taken the place of the BBA as an entry-level degree with a DBA degree setting any candidate apart from the pack. 

The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) has gathered statistics on business degree completion since the 1970s. In the 21st century, the number of bachelor’s degrees in business conferred grew by 30.9% from 2001 to 2016. NCES also published statistics showing a 38% increase in master’s degrees in business over the same period.

DBA degree holders remain a relatively rare breed compared to professionals with BBA and MBA degrees. The academic rigour and specialisation pursued in DBA courses provide good simulations for the pressures of running competitive businesses. A DBA degree is also worthwhile because it is the highest degree conferred in the discipline. Executives in need of career changes or boosts won’t be outdone by completing a DBA programme.

Business as an international language

The expansion of DBA education around the world is a relatively recent trend. Compass’s Global DBA Survey found a majority of programmes were founded in the previous decade. The DBA phenomenon is not restricted to a single geographical location. Compass determined that 42% of the programmes are based in Europe, 28% in North America, and 22% in Asia. These statistics point to the ability of DBA courses to impart business knowledge that crosses borders.

The Global DBA Survey found that 80% of programmes worldwide saw increased demand for DBA programmes. There wasn’t a single region that saw a decreased interest in DBA courses with significant upticks from students in the Middle East and Asia. This rising need for DBA graduates has led to the creation of programmes from the United Arab Emirates to Peru. Aston University’s Executive DBA is an example of a programme that allows flexibility through distance learning.

Taking an academic approach to business

The popular culture view of business leaders is that they rely on emotion and intuition to make major decisions. In the real world, however, executives accumulate knowledge through trial-and-error methods and continued professional development. Senior business leaders might exude confidence to the public but rely on decades of experience to reach that point.

U.S. News & World Report provides a good overview of how a typical DBA online programme works. Multiple stages of research and evaluation place a DBA candidate through enough tests to produce a workplace-ready executive.

The following stages of DBA candidacy provide business research that is original and valuable to a candidate’s employer:

Research methods

DBA degree programmes start with research methods courses that help students understand the challenges ahead. A research methods course refines a student’s knowledge of business research by presenting valuable sources and questions. Each course is practical because the instructor asks students to use new skills to prepare for their thesis projects. An online methods course is also helpful because it is not bound to a university’s library or in-person services.

Thesis and defence

By the conclusion of research methods courses, DBA candidates are ready to propose their doctoral theses. Each candidate works with a faculty advisor to refine their thesis proposal for approval by the school. Advisors are tasked with ensuring that thesis topics are original and advance research in the field. DBA candidates proceed to conduct research and write their findings for presentation to a jury of faculty members. This jury determines if the thesis has met the school’s standards for graduation.

Benefits of DBA completion

In addition to taking advantage of the aforementioned trends, DBA graduates also enjoy the following benefits of their hard work:

Increased salary

Each degree level in the business administration features a significantly higher average salary. 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

Multiple career paths

The doctoral route is usually pursued by students who want academic careers. A Ph.D. in business or another field is focused on university teaching and advancing academic research. DBAs, however, have opportunities to pursue academic and business careers. A DBA demonstrates the intellectual foundations sought by business departments at major universities.

The Executive DBA programme offered by Aston University and other universities typically focus on preparing for senior management positions. In fact, the Global DBA Survey determined that a majority of programmes and students saw career advancement as their main goals. Respondents told Compass that they were interested in specialised learning and refining their leadership skills. 

DBA candidates pursue research projects that complement their career paths. For example, a graduate student working in international finance can study a particular market or regulatory mechanism to show their advanced knowledge.

DBA courses help professionals meet employer demands and explore cutting-edge solutions to business problems.

Dr Rakesh Bissoondeeal, is DBA Programme Director at Aston University

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

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