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What is the difference between a PhD and a DBA?

Being the Business School of Selinus University, which also delivers PhD programs, we are often asked what is the difference between a PhD and a DBA program. Granted that, in our case, both programs are offered by Research and in distance learning; generally, the two degrees are considered equivalent in terms of academic value. Both theses have to meet the requirement of originality and innovation. However, there are some important distinctions that must be kept in mind.
One of the main differences is that the PhD (Doctor of Philosophy) program is considered an academic program and has a theoretical orientation, while the DBA (Doctor of Business Administration) program is considered a professional degree with a practical orientation. This difference mainly affects the research, which is approached in a different perspective: the PhD one with a more theoretical and academic focus, the DBA one, instead, with a pragmatic focus related to a more strategic and operational vision.
Students who decide to pursue a PhD, typically come from a master's program where they have already developed a thesis; however, the master's thesis usually does not have the "originality" requirement as the PhD does. Once the master's thesis is completed, the student who wants to continue his or her research in the same field of study, often on the same topic, so as to investigate beyond the theoretical boundaries, chooses to pursue a PhD program by pushing further into research, developing new theories, new models or frameworks. Often, through the completion of the master's thesis, the student develops an insight or awareness of the topic relevance; through a doctoral (PhD) program, he or she wishes to further examine and explore the topic scientifically.
In contrast, business people usually experience real managerial problems in their workplace; they devise strategies, build hypotheses for change, lead men, analyze financial investments. In short, they experience innovation through practical experience. A businessman, a manager, a professional, realizes that there may be a better way to deal with a given problem, a more efficient one. So he/she sees the practical need for a better solution, researching the problem from a pragmatic perspective. His or her DBA thesis will then be geared mostly toward investigating the global knowledge of business management to find a practical solution to a given problem.
Side notes
Historically, the MBA degree was considered the final degree in business studies. After that, those who wished to complete a PhD had to do so in business or another faculty. Business faculties simply did not meet the demand for doctoral-level studies. Most PhD programs at the time also had a requirement for a second or third language, and this was considered superfluous by the business schools. As a result, to satisfy both the new PhD candidate in business and the traditional academic stakeholders, North American schools decided to create the Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) program. This program would essentially meet the practical needs of business people and eliminate the language requirements at the doctoral level.
Since then, the DBA has grown as a doctoral degree, spreading around the world to an extent that it became equivalent to the PhD. However, the applied nature of the DBA persists, and many executive managers opt for this degree over the more academic PhD.

The thesis
In this context, the PhD thesis and the DBA thesis take on a different structure. The PhD thesis is traditionally based on a 6 chapters format that includes: introduction, literature review, methodology, data analysis, summary, conclusion and further study. In this thesis model, the PhD student demonstrates his or her mastery of the relevant topic and literature, as well as an excellent understanding of the various research methodologies that can be used to address the research question or hypothesis. Typically, this includes a desk and field research components. The data are then analyzed and implemented with new theories, models or frameworks being developed, so that conclusions and recommendations for future studies are highlighted. The student's main role is to examine theory and any "literature gaps" in order to develop new abstractions that fill these gaps.