The rising demand for DBAs

Oct 11, 2023

5 min

Today’s global business environment has led to rising demand for more advanced qualifications. Aston University’s Geoff Parkes explains how a DBA degree can help leaders meet employer demands and identify cutting-edge solutions to business problems.

In recent years, the Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) has emerged as a prestigious qualification that equips aspiring business leaders with the skills and knowledge necessary to address complex challenges in the corporate world. Delivered online, Aston University’s Executive DBA programme is designed to accommodate professionals’ busy schedules and exemplifies the flexibility and relevance that DBA degrees offer in today’s dynamic business environment.

Turning theory into practice

DBA programmes, like their doctoral counterparts, require candidates to delve deeply into advanced business topics and contribute to their chosen field through original research presented in a thesis. What sets DBA graduates apart is their ability to bridge the gap between theory and practice. They are trained to apply their extensive knowledge directly to real-world business problems, making them invaluable assets to their employers. While DBA students are generally not inventing new theories, they are applying existing models in innovative and creative ways that contribute new knowledge both to academia and practice.

Universities and business schools that offer DBA programmes will have a cadre of academic supervisors and faculty who can combine scholarly rigour with practical business experience. This is what students look for in their choice of institution.

According to the Global DBA Survey from Compass, the typical DBA candidate boasts an impressive 15 years of professional experience on admission to the programme. It’s the norm for DBA students to complete their research while holding middle or senior management positions, showcasing their commitment to career advancement and expertise development. In fact, a DBA candidate’s thesis is usually directly related to a live work issue that requires this level of rigour.

Rising educational expectations

In the rapidly evolving business landscape of the 21st century, businesses worldwide are seeking leaders who can seamlessly navigate new challenges without extensive training. While a bachelor’s degree coupled with professional experience was once sufficient, the demand for more advanced qualifications has grown substantially. For many, the Master of Business Administration (MBA) has therefore supplanted the Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) as the requisite ‘entry-level’ degree, with DBA degrees elevating candidates even further.

A recent report from EFMD Global found that DBAs are on a growth trajectory, with 86 per cent of institutions offering the qualification expecting an increase in enrolments in the near future. Career advancement and reputation are key growth factors for those seeking to study the qualification. The main driving motivations are the transformation of careers (cited by 81 per cent of respondents), the ambition to achieve the recognition of ‘Doctor’ (cited by 76 per cent) and the need for research with managerial impact (71 per cent).

Business as an international language

The proliferation of DBA education globally is a relatively recent phenomenon, with many programmes established in the last decade. This trend is not confined to a specific geographic location – the aforementioned Global DBA Survey from Compass indicates that 42 per cent of programmes are based in Europe, 28 per cent in North America and 22 per cent in Asia. DBAs are demonstrating their ability to impart business knowledge that transcends borders.

Moreover, the survey highlights an 80 per cent increase in demand for DBA programmes worldwide, with no region experiencing decreased interest and significant growth in the Middle East and Asia. Aston University’s Executive DBA programme, with its flexible distance learning approach, exemplifies this global trend.

Taking an academic approach to business

Contrary to popular culture perceptions, business leaders rely on a foundation of knowledge acquired through rigorous academic and professional development. A guide in US News & World Report outlines the various stages of a typical DBA online programme, emphasising that candidates undergo multiple phases of research and evaluation to become workplace-ready executives. The journey includes:

Research methods: DBA programmes commence with research methods courses that equip students with essential skills for business research. These practical courses introduce students to valuable sources and questions, preparing them for their thesis projects.

Thesis and defence: After completing research methods courses, DBA candidates propose their doctoral theses, refining them with faculty supervisors. Supervisors ensure that thesis topics are original and contribute knowledge to the field. Candidates then conduct research and present their findings in a viva, which determines whether they have met the required standard for a doctorate.

Benefits of DBA completion

DBA graduates stand to enjoy several benefits, including:

1. Increased salary: DBAs command significantly higher salaries compared to other business degrees. PayScale data reveals that while graduates of a bachelor’s degree in business earn an average of GBP£34,000, MBA graduates earn median salaries of £52,000. DBA degree holders stand to earn even more, in executive positions that might include operations director (£87,989), vice-president (£92,800) and finance director (£102,078).

2. Multiple career paths: Unlike PhD programmes that primarily prepare students for academic careers, DBAs offer participants the flexibility to pursue both academic and business careers. Aston University’s Executive DBA programme, in line with global trends, focuses on preparing students for senior management roles. DBA candidates align their research projects with their career paths, showcasing their advanced knowledge and expertise in specific domains.

In conclusion, the rise of DBA programmes is driven by the growing demand for advanced business education, the globalisation of business knowledge and the need for leaders who can integrate academic rigour with practical expertise. DBA graduates are well-equipped to meet employer demands and explore innovative solutions to contemporary business challenges, making them invaluable assets in the ever-evolving world of business.

Dr Geoff Parkes is DBA programme director and associate professor in marketing and strategy at Aston Business School, Aston University. Following a career in industry, he graduated with a DBA in 2015

Discover Aston University’s online Executive DBA programme

Aston University is a public research university situated in Birmingham, England. In 2020, Aston University was named ‘University of the Year’ by the Guardian and ‘Outstanding Entrepreneurial University’ in the Times Higher Education Awards. Aston was also shortlisted for ‘University of the Year’ in the Times Higher Education Awards 2021

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