Business professionals hoping to advance their careers or branch out into academia should consider earning a doctor of business administration online. Students can earn either an online Ph.D. in business or an online doctor of business administration (DBA). Both are terminal degrees. While a Ph.D. prepares business professionals for postsecondary teaching positions, a DBA prepares students for executive positions in business. The earning potential for top executives is significant. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), top executives earned a median annual salary of $103,950 in 2016, with chief executives making $181,210.
As industries like technology and healthcare continue to grow, business leaders and teachers will become more valuable than ever. With a number of quality schools offering DBA programs online, earning a doctoral degree has never been easier. DBA online programs not only let you study from the comfort of your home, but also allow you to pursue your degree without sacrificing your current job.
For career information, skip down:
- What Else can I Expect from an Online Doctorate in Business Administration Program?
- Accreditation for Online Doctorate in Business Administration Degrees
- Online Doctorate in Business Administration Careers
- Paying for Your Online Doctorate in Business Administration
The Best Online Doctorate in Business Administration Programs
1. Liberty University Online
The online DBA program at Liberty University emphasizes practical hands-on application. All of Liberty's programs are rooted in the school's Christian tradition, and DBA students learn how to apply biblical lessons to business practices. Students pursuing the doctor of business administration online can choose from twelve specializations, including healthcare management, non-profit leadership and management, and supply chain management and logistics.
Students typically complete the 60 credit program in four years. Liberty's DBA is available entirely online, with the option to participate in weekend or week-long intensive courses on the main campus in Lynchburg, Virginia. Intensive courses offer distance learners an opportunity to meet with their cohort and learn from their professors face-to-face. Liberty allows students to transfer in up to 12 hours from an MBA specialization. Learners with relevant work or life experience may also be eligible for credits.
Liberty University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).
2. Drexel University
The online executive doctorate program in business administration at Drexel University is specifically designed for current business executives who want to learn more about addressing complex issues in the industry. The program blends online modules with face-to-face weekend residencies. Consequently, students should be able to commute to the school's campus in Philadelphia a couple times each year. At the beginning of each term, students must attend three days of on-campus events and face-to-face courses; six week later, they return for a second weekend residency. All other coursework is available online.
The part-time program requires two and a half years of study, including the time required to write and defend the dissertation. Courses include driving innovation and design, challenges of a data driven economy, and corporate growth and risk strategies.
Drexel's LeBow College of Business is regionally accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB).
3. Johnson & Wales University
Providence, Rhode Island
The online DBA program at Johnson and Wales University is designed for professionals who want to advance their career in private business, nonprofit administration, healthcare, higher education, government, or the military. The 54-credit program is available fully online and follows a cohort model, meaning that students move through the program at the same pace as their classmates. Students usually earn their doctorate in three years. Each semester includes two eight-week sessions.
After a mandatory online orientation, students complete one three-credit class at a time. Core courses include contemporary leadership issues, executive decision-making, and innovation and change. Students also take courses in research and organization development to prepare for their dissertation. The program's courses are mostly asynchronous but often include at least one synchronous component to encourage student engagement.
Johnson and Wales University is regionally accredited from the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC).
4. Saint Leo University Online
St. Leo, Florida
Located north of Tampa, Florida, Saint Leo University offers dozens of business programs, many of which are available online or through satellite campuses. The online DBA program explores topics like global perspectives in human resources, history of applied management theory, and organizational behavior and social responsibility. Students also choose between a teaching track or consulting track.
The program requires 57 credits, including 12 credits of directed research for the dissertation. Within their first term of study, students complete an orientation course that introduces the program's technology, assesses the student's level of business knowledge, and outlines the program's expectations and core values. Both tracks require a practicum. Students in the teaching track teach either an eight-week online course or the first eight weeks of a face-to-face course.
Saint Leo University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC). Its business programs are accredited from the Accreditation Council for Business Schools & Programs (ACBSP).
5. Golden Gate University
San Francisco, California
One of the only online DBA programs in the Bay Area, Golden Gate University accommodates working business professionals who intend to advance their career or move into consulting or academia. The degree is offered entirely online through the school's eLearning platform, which delivers distance learning courses to more than 5,000 students. Students near the school's San Francisco campus can also choose to attend some courses in person. The school prides itself on its experienced student body, with professionals whose experience and knowledge bolster class discussions.
The 60-unit program consists of a 12-unit foundational sequence, an 18-unit business core, eight units of electives, and at least 12 units of dissertation research. Core business courses explore topics in organizational and management theory, corporate finance, and marketing management. Elective courses include buyer behavior and leadership theory, research, and analysis.
Golden Gate University is regionally accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) Senior College and University Commission.
6. George Fox University
The online DBA program at George Fox University is geared toward business professionals who desire to integrate Christian values into business administration. Students complete most of their coursework online, but attend two on-campus residencies per year. During these residencies, students meet their professors, network with peers, and attend seminars. Residencies take place on George Fox's campus in Newberg, Oregon, an hour outside of Portland. The meetings consist of two four-day sessions in May and another four-day session later in the summer.
Students often complete coursework in three years and take the fourth year to finish their dissertation. Core business courses include faith and spirituality in business, international business, and foundations of management and leadership. Students also complete concentration courses in either marketing, management, or accounting.
George Fox University is regionally accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities and its business programs are accredited from the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP).
7. University of Dallas
The online DBA program at the University of Dallas blends online learning with occasional in-class instruction. Distance learners attend monthly weekend sessions, and should therefore be able to commute to the school's campus in Irving, Texas on a regular basis. The program prepares professionals to enter academia, consulting services, or executive positions.
Students generally complete the program's 61 credit hours over the course of three years. This time frame includes the dissertation and defense. The curriculum consists of 25 credits of core courses, 12 credits of research method courses, a six-credit doctoral colloquia, and 18 doctoral dissertation credits. Core courses include emerging technologies, customer driven innovation, and the sustainable enterprise. Research courses explore the craft of writing and designing applied research.
The University of Dallas is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).
8. California Baptist University–CBU Online
California Baptist University offers a doctor of business administration online for professionals who seek executive or high-level leadership positions. The DBA program is mostly digital, although students are required to visit campus during key parts of the program. Residency requirements include a four day orientation and a dissertation defense.
Students typically complete the 50-unit online DBA program in three years, including the time it takes to write their dissertation. Coursework includes economic theories for decision-making, strategic marketing, and international business in global markets. The program follows a cohort model, meaning students advance through the program along with a group of peers. Learners take one course at a time, allowing them to completely focus on one topic before moving to the next.
California Baptist University Online is regionally accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) Senior College and University Commission.
9. City University of Seattle
City University of Seattle offers its doctorate in business administration in both an online and on-campus format, allowing students to choose the style of learning that best suits their needs. The online DBA uses live chat sessions and an interactive teaching model to support distance learners. Online students attend one hour of live lecture and discussion per week.
The program requires 91 credits. Students may transfer up to four graduate courses into the program. Most students earn their DBA degree online in three to four years. Core courses include financial decision-making, organizational identity and culture, technology implementation, and change management. To prepare for their dissertation, students also complete a five-course research core, during which they learn about topics like research design and methodology. Students then complete an application block consisting of four graduate-level courses and an action learning course. The block culminates in a developmental capstone project.
City University of Seattle is regionally accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU).
10. Concordia University–Chicago
River Forest, Illinois
Based in River Forest, Illinois, Concordia University Chicago offers more than 100 degrees, most of which can be completed online. The school's 60-credit online DBA program features courses in business analytics, financial decision-making, strategic leadership, and global business operations. Unlike in many other online DBA programs, students at Concordia begin developing their dissertation right away, choosing a preliminary topic as soon as they start the program.
Students can usually complete the online doctor of business administration in three years. All students must complete three residency experiences: one during their first term of study, one after their prospectus is complete, and one after they complete their proposal. Students also take nine credits of a specialization in either innovation in health care management or strategic leadership and innovation. Before defending their dissertation, doctoral candidates compile a comprehensive professional portfolio.
Concordia University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and its College of Business is accredited from the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP).
11. Hampton University
The online Ph.D. in business administration at Hampton University prepares students to assume leadership roles in businesses or to enter the field of academia. The program requires two 12-credit summer residency sessions on the school's campus in Virginia. Residencies are four weeks long and take place from mid-July to mid-August.
The 61-credit curriculum examines topics in advanced computer applications, teaching methodology, and organization theory and practice. Tho program may require those who do not possess an academic background in business to take additional prerequisite courses. Similarly, Hampton U may exempt students with relevant professional experience from the six-credit minor requirement. The program follows a cohort format, with new students beginning in July or August. Applicants should score at least 400 on the GMAT.
Hampton University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges; its business programs are accredited from the International Assembly of Collegiate Business Education (IACBE).
12. Wilmington University
New Castle, Delaware
Located in New Castle, Delaware, Wilmington University offers an online DBA, as well as a hybrid DBA. The school is well-versed in eLearning technologies, as all of its courses are web-enhanced. Students earning their DBA online participate in regular webinars and communicate with professors through email, live chat, and discussions on Blackboard. Online students visit campus only once during the course of their studies. During this two-day session, learners consult with faculty about their dissertation.
The 54-credit online DBA program includes 21 credit hours of common core courses, 24 credit hours of program core courses, and nine credit hours of dissertation or research. Courses include global management models, managing innovation and change, and an advanced seminar in managerial finance and accounting.
Wilmington University is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE). The school's business programs are accredited by the International Assembly for Collegiate Business Education (IACBE).
13. Franklin University
The online DBA program at Franklin University refines students' technological, technical, research, leadership, and communication skills. All courses are available online, but students can take some courses on campus if they so wish.
The 58-credit curriculum includes a 16-credit research core, a 17 major credits, 12 credits of electives, and ten credits of dissertation requirements. On average, students earn their doctorate in three years, including the time it takes to form and defend their dissertation. Students can transfer in up to 24 credits, allowing them to graduate even faster. The program features a "no fear" dissertation structure that provides step-by-step faculty guidance through the dissertation process. New students begin work on their dissertation as soon as they enroll.
Franklin University is regionally accredited from the Higher Learning Commission while its business programs are specially accredited from the International Accreditation Council for Business Education (IACBE).
14. Baker College
Located in Flint, Michigan, Baker College offers a flexible online doctor of business administration for students who want to advance their business career without jeopardizing their current employment. Students pursuing their DBA online can choose to specialize in one of five areas: finance, human resources, marketing, management of information system, or leadership. Unlike many other DBA online programs, the degree allows students to create their own specialized field of study.
Most students graduate from the 60-credit program in three and a half years. The first year involves coursework, the second year involves scholarly activities, and the third year involves independent research. Courses in the first year explore topics such as leading 21st century organizations, managing in a world-wide context, and corporate and personal ethics.
Baker University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. The school's Business Administration programs maintain specialized accreditation from the International Assembly for College Business Education (IACBE).
15. National Graduate School of Quality Management
The National Graduate School of Quality Management is unique among online DBA programs in that it focuses on quality systems management (QSM). The online DBA program is fully online except for some in-person weekend courses. The program is based in Falmouth, Massachusetts but is not currently available in Massachusetts or to Massachusetts residents.
The program requires 60 credits of coursework in global quality systems and international standards, QSM in business research and management, and QSM in government research and application. Students typically complete the program 30 months. Students begin working on their dissertation immediately. All learners present at a QSM colloquium or forum at some point during their studies. The program encourages students to publish their original research in a recognized publication.
The National Graduate School of Quality Management is regionally accredited by the Commission on Institutions of Higher Education (CIHE) of the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC).
Honorable Mention Atlantic International University
Based in the tropical city of Honolulu, Hawaii, Atlantic International University offers more than 120 distance learning programs, including an online Ph.D. in business administration. The program equips students with a firm understanding of business theory and management as well as the practical skills necessary to succeed in a competitive industry. Graduates are prepared to enter the business world as administrators or educators.
Like all programs at AIU, the online DBA does not follow a set curriculum. Instead, students customize their program with the help of their advisor. The school recommends specific foundational courses (such as international management, marketing research, and entrepreneurship and new venture creation). AIU offers seven pre-made tracks, including human resources, commerce and economics, knowledge management, and information technology management.
Atlantic International University is accredited by the Accreditation Service for International Schools, College and Universities (ASIC), an independent, international accreditation body.
Honorable Mention William Howard Taft University
The online DBA program at William Howard Taft University is designed for mid-level to senior level business managers who wish to advance in their companies. The program also serves international students who wish to start a business or work with businesses in the U.S. Based in Lakewood, Colorado, the school's DBA program is available fully online.
Unlike other online DBA programs, students follow an independent study format that provides the freedom and flexibility to learn at their own pace. Faculty provide support through one-on-one sessions and regular guidance. Most assignments consist of a reading component and a research project. Before starting their coursework, students must pass a three-hour proctored qualifying examination. Students can complete the 60-credit online DBA in as as few as 27 months. Core courses include business law, designing economic business strategies, and marketing research for managerial decision-making.
William Howard Taft University is accredited from the Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC).
What Else can I Expect from an Online Doctorate in Business Administration Program?
Every online DBA program is different, offering unique courses, academic timelines, residency demands, and dissertation requirements. Despite fluctuations from school to school, certain features tend to appear in most online DBA programs. Students can anticipate certain foundational courses and dissertation requirements.
Curriculum for an Online Doctorate in Business Administration
- Financial decision making: In this course, students learn how to collect and analyze financial data and use their findings to make sound financial decisions for an organization. Students also learn how to predict trends that may affect an organization in the future.
- Organizational development theories and trends: In this course, students learn the ins and outs of reorganizing a company. Coursework pulls from theories like organizational ecology, organizational frames, and lean operational strategy. Students learn how to assess, plan, and implement change in an organization to maximize efficiency.
- Corporate and personal ethics: This course explores the ethical dilemmas inherent to the field of business. Students discuss how to fuse ethics into their corporate strategies, focusing on sustainable business practices, philanthropy, and personal morals. Using contemporary businesses as case studies, students examine how to enact best practices and set innovative standards for ethical business.
- Global management: Students learn how to conduct business on a global scale. Coursework covers variables that affect foreign businesses, including cultural, political, geographic, environmental, and legal factors. Students also learn about international management and international finance and accounting.
- Research methodology and design: This course provides a foundation for students to begin their dissertation. Students learn research methodologies and apply them to research in a business setting. Students identify an area of interest, draft research questions, critique previous studies, and begin designing their own research study.
How Long Does It Take to Get an Online Doctorate in Business Administration?
Students typically earn a doctor of business administration online in three to five years, including the time required to research, write, and defend a dissertation. Programs generally require 60 credit hours worth of coursework. These credits include core and elective coursework, a research component, and the dissertation.
Several factors can affect how long it takes to earn a DBA degree online. Some schools will honor more transfer credits than others. Schools that accept a generous amount of transfer credits allow students to graduate earlier than they would otherwise. Schools that follow an individually paced learning format rather than a cohort learning format may also help students to graduate in less time. Individually paced learning allows students to advance through course requirements at their own speed. In cohort models, students progress through their program as a group of peers, usually taking one class at a time.
Accreditation for Online Doctorate in Business Administration Degrees
When a school is regionally or nationally accredited, it means that an accrediting agency has conducted a review and determined the school meets certain standards of educational quality. Of the two types, regional accreditation is generally considered more prestigious than national accreditation. While most schools and employers honor credits earned at a regionally accredited school, not all regionally accredited schools or employers will honor credits earned at a nationally accredited school.
When choosing an online DBA program, you should check to see that the school is accredited and whether this accreditation is regional or national. Common regional accrediting agencies include the Higher Learning Commission and the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. The Distance Education Accrediting Commission is a common national accrediting agency that reviews online programs. You should also look for online DBA programs accredited by business-specific accrediting agencies like the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business and the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs.
Two organizations oversee accreditation: the U.S. Department of Education (ED) and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). The ED is a government agency responsible for overseeing the quality and progress of educational programs in the U.S. CHEA is an independent organization representing more than 3,000 colleges and over 50 accrediting organizations. While neither entity actually grants accreditation to schools, both organizations review accrediting agencies to determine if they meet certain standards of quality. Both organizations also publish a list of accredited programs for the public's use. To find out whether an online DBA or online Ph.D. program in business is accredited, consult the list of accredited programs on the ED and CHEA websites.
Employment Outlook for Doctorate in Business Administration Graduates
Doctorate in Business Administration Careers
Professionals who earn a DBA online go on to work in a variety of fields, including healthcare, education, government, military, nonprofits, and private businesses. Many people in DBA online programs come from a business background and have earned either an MBA or a bachelor's degree in business. They have experience in finance, management, or administration; many are active business professionals interested in advancing within their current field of employment. Alternatively, students pursuing an online Ph.D. in business administration may enter a career in academia. Below are five careers for graduates who complete an online doctor of business administration.
Top Executive: Top executives manage companies at the highest level. They create plans for success and ensure a company enacts policies, strategies, and operations necessary to achieve its goals. They oversee financial activity, negotiate contracts, appoint employees to key positions, and determine where to cut costs. The position is often stressful and demands frequent travel to meetings and conferences.
- Median Annual Salary: $103,950
- Projected Growth Rate: 8%
Human Resources Manager: HR managers serve as a bridge between an organization's employees and employers. They help recruit, interview, hire, and compensate employees, and communicate with an organization's management about hiring needs. They also handle interpersonal issues among staff, mediate conflicts, oversee employee benefits programs, and manage compensation issues. Many HR managers travel to meet with distant branches.
- Median Annual Salary: $106,910
- Projected Growth Rate: 9%
Economist: Economists analyze data, evaluate economic problems, conduct surveys, and predict economic trends to advise businesses and organizations about financial decisions. When working in the private sector, economists study consumer demand and sales to inform business decisions and maximize profit.
- Median Annual Salary: $101,050
- Projected Growth Rate: 6%
Postsecondary Teacher: Educators with a Ph.D. in business administration can teach business-related topics at a college level. They also conduct research in their field, publish papers or books, and practice their own business on the side. They can work in public or private universities, community colleges, or professional schools. Their schedules vary according to their school's academic schedule.
- Median Annual Salary: $75,430
- Projected Growth Rate: 15%
Financial Analyst: Financial analysts advise businesses and organizations in making financial decisions, specifically in the area of investments. They study stocks, bonds, and economic trends in order to recommend profitable investments or portfolios. They often work more than 40 hours per week.
- Median Annual Salary: $81,760
- Projected Growth Rate: 11%
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
Doctorate in Business Administration Salary
While most top executives earn a generous salary, the specific company greatly affects pay. Top executives working in professional, scientific, technical services, and manufacturing earn significantly more than those working in healthcare and social assistance. The main reason is that professional, scientific, and technical services are often private businesses that can afford to pay their employees more, while healthcare and social assistance programs are nonprofit organizations and usually have smaller budgets. Top executives in the government earn least of all; their salaries are roughly half of what top executives in manufacturing earn.
|Employer Type||Median Annual Salary|
|Professional, scientific, and technical services||$208,000 or more|
|Healthcare and social assistance||$150,340|
Business Administration Professional Organizations
Professional business organizations allow students earning their DBA online to connect with employers and other professionals in their field. These organizations also provide professional development opportunities like conferences, seminars, online courses, and certification programs. Most offer member benefits such as discounts on conferences and courses, access to job boards, and online forums. Members can also access educational resources like podcasts, newsletters, and webcasts. In addition to larger professional organizations, students can join niche organizations that focus on fields like healthcare management, international finance, and e-marketing.
- Sales and Marketing Executives International (SMEI): SMEI is the only international professional association dedicated to sales and marketing. In addition to connecting sales professionals from across the globe, the organization offers online forums and webinars, certifications, a career board, and online courses.
- American Management Association (AMA): AMA partners with several Fortune 500 companies to offer professional growth opportunities for business managers. The association offers seminars, conferences, books, podcasts, and webcasts. In 2017, Training Industry Inc. deemed AMA a top 20 leadership training company.
- American Marketing Association: The American Marketing Association is the largest association of marketing professionals in the world. Members gain access to training programs, a marketer's toolkit, conferences, educational articles, webcasts, and podcasts.
Paying for Your Online Doctorate in Business Administration
Students earning their online doctorate in business administration have many options for funding their education. Students pursuing their online DBA or online Ph.D. should fill out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to determine if they qualify for federal aid. Students should also contact representatives with their department and school to see if any funding opportunities exist. Professionals pursuing an online Ph.D. in business administration can apply for fellowships and scholarships through their school's business department. Unfortunately, these same opportunities do not always apply for students earning their DBA online.
Students' employers may also assist with the cost of tuition, provided that the student plans to continue working for the company. Students should contact their employer to enquire about tuition assistance or tuition reimbursement programs. The flexible schedule of an online DBA program also allows students to continue working to fund their education. Students pursuing an online DBA can also take out loans or apply for grants from third-party organizations.