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DBA Degree and Your Career: What Can You Do with a DBA?

It’s one thing to earn a DBA degree. It’s another to know what you can do with a DBA degree–which is why knowing more about it comes in handy.

Even if you already know that earning a DBA can be as challenging as it is rewarding, you still might have some questions.

Questions like:

  • What is a DBA?
  • How is a DBA different from a Ph.D.? 
  • Why should you earn a DBA if you’re already in a high-responsibility career? 
  • What are the benefits of having a DBA? 
  • What can a DBA do for your career long term? 
  • What are the job titles, career paths and salaries for those with a DBA?

Luckily, here are the answers to these and other questions so you can figure out what you can do with a DBA.

Earning a doctorate is challenging and rewarding, but do you know what to really expect? Download this free guide for tips and insights to help you prepare for success.

What is a DBA?

A DBA or Doctor of Business Administration degree is an advanced credential for management-minded individuals who want to perform at the highest level. This degree can be completed in as few as three years with approximately 58 credit hours. A high-quality DBA degree program will help you develop and advance your leadership skills. You’ll gain knowledge and skills in such areas as organizational leadership, change management, and organizational culture and behavior. You’ll also advance your research and communication skills, so you’ll be better prepared to give voice to thoughts, findings and ideas that can transform your organization.

It’s no surprise that a DBA can enhance your current career path or open up new (and unexpected) ones.

“The DBA is designed to give leaders the opportunity to take the next step,” says Wendell Seaborne, Ph.D., Dean, Doctoral Studies and Academic Research at Franklin University. “For those that already have an MBA, the DBA lets them build upon what they learned 10 or 15 years ago while taking MBA courses.”

But the DBA is not a proverbial golden ticket. Instead, earning a DBA gives you the opportunity to add solid work experience to your natural talent, which, in turn, deepens your expertise so you stand out among your peers.

DBA vs. Ph.D.: What’s the difference?

Both the DBA and the Ph.D. are research-intensive degree programs, and both represent the highest possible level of educational achievement.

A DBA is ideal for anyone looking to create transformational change through advanced research, analytical and leadership skills. If you opt to get your DBA, your career choices might include chief executive, operations manager, analyst or consultant.

Those looking at a Ph.D. are likely to teach the next generation of business leaders or conduct original research. Ph.D. career choices include business professor or researcher.

Choosing between a DBA and a Ph.D. has a lot to do with what your career goals are. If you’re interested in solving real-world business challenges, then the DBA might be best for you. If, on the other hand, you’re looking to become a business professor or work as a researcher of some type, you might want to consider getting your Ph.D.

“A DBA is a very application-oriented degree, whereas a Ph.D. is a research-oriented degree,” says Dr. Seaborne. “If you want to come up with a theory that answers questions in the larger marketplace, then pursue a Ph.D.. If, however, you want to solve a practical problem in your company today, the DBA is the degree you’ll want to pursue. The DBA student will become very familiar with the theory that the Ph.D. is developing and take those theories and apply it to their specific business situation. Most DBAs that come into our program have identified a business issue, problem or gap and use that as the basis for all their DBA program research and writings.”

Benefits of the DBA Degree

A DBA is also an excellent way to make a mark in business and your career, as well as stand out among your peers. Employers recognize that those who hold the DBA designation have the high-level skills they need, including leadership, communication and technology, as well as real-world problem-solving and decision-making capabilities.

DBA graduates, too, recognize the DBA for what it is: A far-reaching, proven credential that opens up unlimited opportunities for professional impact and personal reward.

Higher Leadership Roles

“There are both tried-and-true and exciting career opportunities that the DBA opens up,” says Dr. Seaborne. “Because the DBA skill set gives graduates the ability to research and frame a question in order to solve issues, it really takes them to new levels. From C-level in any field to finance to marketing to training to the CEO of an organization, the DBA equips graduates to lead at the highest levels.”

Mastery and Performance

A DBA also can enhance or extend your career–even if you already have an MBA (Master of Business Administration). That’s because earning a DBA gives MBA grads an opportunity to brush up on what they learned while taking their MBA courses 15 or 20 years ago. 

The right DBA program will prepare you to investigate and understand what current literature says about a topic, as well as help you understand how to apply current research-based theories to solve an actual organizational problem. In addition to improving your research skills, the DBA helps hone your writing and presentation skills, making you a more clear and concise communicator.

Career Transitions

If you’re looking to change your career or industry in any way, the DBA could help make it happen.

“The ease or difficulty of a career transition depends on which industry you’re switching to,” says Dr. Seaborne. “Some industries are fairly closed to individuals who don’t have 20 years of professional experience. Other industries, however, are more open so that if you have the right skill set but another background you could still be put on the executive track. Technology, for example, has traditionally been a field for industry veterans while retail is more open to those from other professional backgrounds.”


Perhaps the easiest transition, says Dr. Seaborne (and one he made himself), is to go from business to academia. (Be mindful that some research-based universities will require the Ph.D. over the applied doctorate.)

“The doctorate is the way to play at the university level,” he explains. “If you truly want to teach in a master’s degree-granting institution, the doctorate can give you the ability to do that. Most accrediting bodies prefer educators to hold a degree higher than what’s being taught so being doctorally qualified helps you stand out.”

5 Top-Paying DBA Degree Career Positions

What can you do with a doctor of business administration degree? Plenty! Here’s a look at five popular and well-paying career choices for DBA graduates. 

Keep in mind that the salaries listed below include all education levels, including doctorate degrees.

1. Chief Executive
Median Annual Salary: $98,980
Job Outlook to 2031: 6% growth
Responsibilities: Determine and implement organizational initiatives and lead senior management

2. Training and Development Manager
Median Annual Salary: $120,130
Job Outlook to 2031: 7% growth
Responsibilities: Plan, coordinate and oversee an organization’s skills- and knowledge-enhancement programs and training

3. Management Analyst/Consultant 
Median Annual Salary: $93,000
Job Outlook to 2031: 11% growth
Responsibilities: Assess strengths, weaknesses and opportunities and recommend solutions to to enhance performance and competitive advantage

4. Organizational Management Leader
Median Annual Salary: $102,450
Job Outlook to 2031: 8% growth
Responsibilities: Understand organizational goals and creatively align human and capital resources to influence behavior and achieve results

5. College or University Educator 
Median Annual Salary: $79,640
Job Outlook to 2031: 12% growth
Responsibilities: Plan and implement curriculum, and teach and evaluate students in order to help them expand their skill set and knowledge in a particular subject matter or discipline

Step Into Your Future with a DBA

Earning your professional doctorate in business administration can help you go further and deeper in your expertise–and your career. 

Whether you enroll in an online or on-campus DBA degree program, just be sure you’re learning how to research and apply theoretical concepts and constructs to solve real-world business challenges.

“There’s never been a better time to set yourself apart with new and relevant capabilities,” says Dr. Seaborne. “The right DBA degree program enables you to achieve highly sought-after proficiencies that will literally change the way you approach the business of business.”

Free Guide:
How to Complete Your Doctoral Journey
Discover common pitfalls and the 5 key metrics that will help you finish your doctorate degree.