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DBA vs. Ed.D.: Which Leadership Degree Should You Pursue?

Doctoral degrees are becoming increasingly common for organizational leaders in a variety of industries. The demand for executive leadership, critical thinking and research and analysis skills is growing rapidly. A professional doctorate degree is an ideal way to gain these skills while applying them to real-world business challenges. 

The demand for doctoral education is evident both in the number of professionals completing these degrees and the projected demand for professionals with a doctorate degree. 

According to leading labor market analytics firm EMSI, completion of doctoral degrees increased by 13.8% between 2012 and 2020. Occupational demand for doctoral or professional degrees is expected to grow by 7.8% by 2031. 

If you’re interested in advancing to leadership positions, a doctorate may soon become essential. However, which doctoral degree will set you up for success?

As you research which doctorate degrees fit your career aspirations, a Doctor of Business Administration (DBA), or a Doctor of Education in Organizational Leadership (Ed.D.), may be on your short list. Let’s look at these two different degrees and how they compare, making it easier for you to choose the right degree for your career advancement. 

DBA: Doctor of Business Administration 

A DBA is a terminal business degree that provides practical, leadership-level research, writing and presentation skills that can be directly applied in the workplace. DBA coursework and dissertation focus on helping you identify, define and solve a pressing business issue or gap.

Let’s look at how a DBA can help you prepare to lead and who this degree is the best fit for.

Advantages of a DBA Degree for Aspiring Leaders

Gain strong, cross-disciplinary knowledge and research acumen in the major business functions of organizations.

  • Develop an understanding of key business dynamics and outside influences like globalization, economic markets and government regulation. 
  • Conduct in-depth research in organizational strategy and performance to drive business innovation and improvement. 
  • Apply existing research to solve real-world problems facing organizations and industries.

Downside of a DBA for Aspiring Leaders

  • May provide too broad of a curriculum if you want to focus your career in a specific field, like education.
  • May be too focused on bottom-line business results and quantitative analysis for professionals looking to advance people-focused leadership skills.

A DBA is the best fit for aspiring leaders who want to:

  • Manage corporate initiatives to increase competitive advantage and profitability.
  • Bring innovative business administration leadership practices to the classroom at the collegiate level.
  • Research, analyze and generate solutions across a wide variety of business disciplines.


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


Ed.D.: Doctoral Degree in Organizational Leadership

An Ed.D., or Doctor of Education, degree may be more flexible than you think. Some universities, like Franklin University, offer an Ed.D. in Organizational Leadership, which can be applied to the education field or many other industries. This degree draws on best practices in leadership, helping you build your competency as an effective leader to solve real-world problems and impact change within an organization.

Let’s look at how an Ed.D. can help you prepare to lead and who this degree is the best fit for.

Advantages of an Ed.D. Degree for Aspiring Leaders

  • Provides a focus on servant-leadership and other leadership competencies necessary for management of resources, projects and performance at a variety of institutions.
  • Gain an interdisciplinary understanding of leadership, with the ability to focus the degree in PK-12 or higher education if desired.
  • Become a change agent that can harness knowledge of both hard data and human behavior to make difficult decisions.

Downsides to an Ed.D. Degree for Aspiring Leaders

  • May not be focused enough on core business practices for a career in a specialized business function.
  • May feel too geared toward education and people leadership skills, instead of generating bottom-line business results.

An Ed.D. is the best fit for aspiring leaders who want to:

  • Develop the skills to provide effective leadership within complex organizations, including for-profit and nonprofit industries, as well as the public sector and the military. 
  • Advance to the highest levels of leadership in academic institutions from PK-12 to postsecondary institutions. 
  • Research well-known leadership theories and present-day leadership trends to affect positive change.
  • Prepare for a career teaching and training the next generation of educational and mission-driven leaders at the collegiate level.

6 Ways to Compare a DBA vs. an Ed.D.

Now you have a strong understanding of both the DBA and Ed.D. degree programs, as well as their distinct advantages and disadvantages. Let’s compare these degrees one-to-one to better understand how each degree prepares you for unique career paths.

Choose The Right Leadership Degree For Your Career Aspirations

Choosing the right degree path is crucial to advancing your career. However, choosing a university that fits your needs as a doctoral student is just as important.

Franklin University offers both an online DBA degree and online Ed.D. in Organizational Leadership degree that meet the needs of busy working professionals. Our doctoral programs can be completed in as few as 3 years and allow you to transfer up to 40% of the credits needed to complete your degree.

If you’re an aspiring education leader or want to become an executive of a mission-driven organization, our online Ed.D. in Organizational Leadership will prepare you to become a change agent within your organization. Through multi-disciplinary learning and applied research, you will be prepared to provide data-driven, human-centered solutions to your industry. 

If you want to drive innovation in an increasingly global and competitive marketplace, our online DBA degree can prepare you to become a next-generation business leader. Through a broad-based business administration curriculum and focused dissertation, you will have the skills to evaluate the big picture and details to solve pressing business challenges.

Explore the advantages of earning your doctorate degree at Franklin University and how we empower you to reach your career goals.

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