Online DBA Programs and You

Learn the ins and outs of earning your DBA online, including program basics, how to apply, and a complete list of programs in the U.S.

Written by

PhDs.me Staff

Last updated

Feb 12, 2021

The Doctorate in Business Administration (DBA) helps working professionals in business-related fields take their careers to the next level. Designed for senior-level executives, DBA programs often focus on leadership development, organizational change, and the application of research, data, and theory to real-world business challenges. The emergence and growth of online DBA programs has given these professionals a more flexible way to earn their advanced credential, with part-time, accelerated, and both fully online and hybrid solutions from which to choose.

But what’s the right online DBA program for me? How do I find an accredited program I can afford?

This page is a great place to begin. It’s a tool to help you learn how to identify an online DBA program that fits your needs, not the other way around. Need details on admissions? Want to understand the cost/benefit of the degree? How about the best online DBA programs in the U.S. today? Find answers to these questions and more right here. Let’s personalize your road to an advanced degree right here:

List of the Best Online DBA Programs

You know the basics, the details, the application process and the specialties. By now you should know how earning a DBA program online can help you make a career move that matters. You should also know the type of program that makes the most sense, but which school has it? Which have the tuition rates, faculty, and flexibility to make both your DBA and career goals a reality? Here’s a comprehensive list of online DBA programs in the United States for 2020 – 2021.

University of Dallas

The DBA at the University of Dallas (UD) is a 61-credit program delivered in a blended format (both online and on campus), with students attending class one weekend per month. The program takes an estimated three years to complete with 40-60 hours of work per week. The DBA at UD helps prepare students for one or more of the following outcomes:

1

Movement to a full-time or part-time academic position at the college level

2

Career advancement through use of evidence-based research and tools to improve organizational excellence

3

Accumulation of advanced skills in organizational analysis for transition to a management consulting role

As the online AACSB-accredited DBA in the state of Texas, the UD program has a rigorous curriculum focused on applied research and a strong faculty. Each course is led by scholars and business professionals with significant academic, managerial, and/or consulting experience. To keep cohorts selective, the program has a capped admissions process to ensure only the most promising senior-level executives can enroll.

For more information on UD’s DBA program, including details on admissions and talking to a DBA counselor, please visit their page today.

Drexel University

Drexel’s executive DBA is an AACSB-accredited, part-time program to help working professionals research, learn, and solve real-world business challenges. The program comes with a blended learning format, with online modules to promote work/school flexibility and allow students to complete coursework while maintaining a full-time position. Hallmarks of the Drexel DBA include:

1

A world-class faculty. Drexel’s DBA faculty includes scholars and business leaders with experience in accounting, marketing, management, economics, finance, psychology, and more.

2

Applied learning. The programs hands-on learning model gives students real-world experience when it comes to applying research and theory to tangible organizational issues.

3

Small challenging cohorts. Each cohort has 12 to 18 doctoral students from a variety of backgrounds, which gives everyone a chance to learn and receive support from other high-caliber professionals.

4

Mentored dissertations. Students are assigned a dissertation mentor to guide them through the process from start to finish. This begins in year one and finishes with publication of the dissertation.

For additional info or to speak to a Drexel DBA representative, please visit their executive DBA program page.

In Focus: Online DBA Programs

The Doctorate in Business Administration (DBA) gives working professionals the chance to further their business leadership and management skills beyond the MBA. Many graduates use the degree to advance their careers as an executive, a management consultant, or within academia. While the PhD in business is mostly a professor track and can include students with little professional experience, the DBA has broader business application and is for students with 10-12 years of experience and an MBA. DBA coursework often focuses on both theory and application in areas such as executive leadership, business innovation, customer engagement, organizational effectiveness, and more.

Online DBA programs cater to current managers and executives looking to earn a degree while holding a full-time position. Some online programs can be taken fully online, with all communication and collaboration taking place via email, in online forums, or within third-party or proprietary systems. Other programs are mostly online, but may have periodic on-campus requirements, such as in-person exams, a weekly cohort meeting in the summer, and/or a public defense of the student’s dissertation. Whether fully online or hybrid, these DBA options maximize flexibility to help you earn a degree on your time.

Online DBA Program Options

Not all business professionals have the same academic and career needs. Colleges and universities have become increasingly aware of this diversity and continue to add variation to their programs. This includes (but is certainly not limited to) part-time opportunities, hybrid options, and adopting admissions requirements with stronger emphasis on management experience. Here’s a closer look at some of the most common types of online DBA programs:

Fully online DBA programs.

All coursework and communication takes place online. You may be required to attend a summer meeting and/or defend your dissertation in person, but a large majority of the degree program is completed without a campus element.

Blended (Hybrid) DBAs.

The hybrid solution has become increasingly popular at traditional colleges and universities. This option allows the schools to integrate more and more online elements into their traditionally campus programs. In these programs, much of the work and discussion takes place online, although you may be required to attend a weekly 2-3 hour class and meet with advisors on campus about your dissertation and its defense.

Executive online DBAs.

Often accelerated in nature, these programs are designed for busy professionals looking to earn an online DBA as fast as possible. Many executive programs can be completed in as little as two years, although the faster pace may come with a more rigorous schedule or workload.

Online DBAs with no GMAT requirement.

Although many DBA programs look for candidates with MBAs, some accept students with other related master’s degrees. This means the student may or may not have taken the GMAT or GRE in the past. Therefore, some online DBA programs have no exam requirement for admission and look for students with demonstrated excellence in other areas.

Pre-reqs and the Application Process

Different online DBA programs (and types) come with varying prerequisites and application requirements. For example, programs with a focus on leadership development may prefer to admit students with stronger backgrounds as executives. In contrast, programs that concentrate more on furthering business knowledge and innovation may look for cohorts with impressive research or academic backgrounds. Here’s a list of the most important application requirements for online DBA programs, and how each could impact your college choice.

A master’s degree in a relevant field.

A majority of online DBA programs require applicants to hold a master’s degree in a relevant field from an accredited institution. In this case, the accrediting body must be recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.

Evidence of professional experience.

This can vary widely. Some online DBA programs require a certain number of years (usually 5 years) for consideration. Others don’t have a set minimum, but ask applicants to submit a CV or other evidence of professional experience to make their case for admission stronger.

GMAT or GRE scores.

Because a majority of applicants have years of working experience and have been removed from college for years, more and more online DBAs are waiving the GMAT or GRE requirement. Make sure you know what your desired program wants before you start cracking open your study aids.

Video conference interview.

Similar to many MBA programs, online DBA programs often require applicants to interview with one or more business faculty members. These discussions help the interviewers gauge interpersonal skills and overall readiness for a rigorous program.

Other materials.

Official transcripts from past schools, letters of recommendation, and a personal statement about your personal and professional goals.

Online DBA Courses & Tracks

No two online DBA programs are the same, but many have similarities in their standard coursework and specialization tracks. This ensures that graduates learn and grow in ways that work with today’s dynamic economy, but without sacrificing their ability to focus on specific areas more closely aligned with their interests. Below you’ll find five foundational courses typical in an online DBA program:

Foundations of leadership and management

A heavy dose of management and leadership theory and how those theories apply to companies of all sizes and in different industry sectors. Also covers emerging trends in leadership both domestically and globally.

Ethics & business decision-making

Course begins with an examination of historical and current research and theories in ethics and their application to contemporary business issues. Also focuses on the most effective ways to integrate business ethics into company training environments.

Quantitative research in business (multiple levels)

Courses in quantitative research begin with formulating research questions and measurement tools and processes, and then progress to more advanced topics such as designing analytical models and mastering the presentation of conclusions and evidence.

Organizational behavior (multiple levels)

Reading about and researching organizations, including understanding and developing them on multiple fronts. Materials likely focus on human relations, human resource practices, systems, workplace culture, and management theories. Some courses ask students to solve and real-world problem within a real organization (often their own).

Doctoral dissertation (multiple levels)

The capstone project of the online DBA. Begins with the proposal of a problem and progresses through research, meetings with advisors, feedback, defense, and publication. This dissertation process can be rigorous and last for anywhere from one to three years, depending on the program.

A Closer Look at the Tracks

For some online DBA students, picking a track is easy. For executives who’d like a more formal way to grow their companies, focusing on leadership may be a no-brainer. For those who want to teach business at the college level, an academic track makes the most sense. But for a handful of DBA hopefuls, it’s not quite that simple. They may have a broad idea of where they want to go, but a specific track may be somewhat elusive. In this section, we look at three important questions every student should ask before deciding on a track, and then we dive deep into the common DBA specialties, and how they dovetail with specific career outcomes.

Questions to ask before picking a track:

1

What drives you?
When you look at the three core DBA tracks, this question is key. For example, do you want to start or improve your own company or grow in an executive career? Leadership may be the way to go. Want to help other companies solve problems at scale? A consulting track might make sense. Interested in shaping tomorrow’s business leaders? Research the academic track.

2

What drains you?
Answering this broader question can be equally as critical. If you’re not sure which track is best for you, you can at least identify one that’s not. Pose those same questions from the previous paragraph, but from this angle instead.

3

What’s your desired career outcome?
The online DBA is a long-term commitment. It takes time, energy, and money for tuition and fees. If you don’t know what you want now, think about 5 (or even 10) years from now, and how each DBA track could help you get there. If you could paint your perfect career picture, what would it look like? More on this below.

Online DBA Tracks & Career Outcomes

Just about every leader will (or should!) tout the importance of entering a project with the desired outcome in mind. This keeps everyone focused on a clear and common goal throughout. When vetting online DBA program tracks, this same mentality can be tremendously helpful. Is there a specific position you want to fill? Do you want to start a global business or run a health-related non-profit? Start by listing your career goals – even if they’re relatively unformed – and then match them to potential program tracks. Here are a few examples to get you started:

Example career goals:

CEO, CTO, Executive Vice President

Tracks to match

Corporate leadership, organizational leadership

Details: These tracks aim to shape graduates into more effective and well-rounded executive leaders, and put them in position to transform organizations in competitive business environments. On an individual level, these tracks often start with personal leadership analysis and reflection, i.e. assessing strengths and weaknesses to create a development plan throughout the program. Branching out, the track covers issues such as balancing financial needs with fiscal responsibility, community relations and networking, and research methods in preparation for a solution-focused dissertation.

Sample classes:

  • Leadership theory in a global economy
  • Dynamic systems with multi-dimensional thinking
  • Leading people, processes, and technologies
  • Financial decision-making for leaders
  • Business research I, II, III

Example career goals:

Managerial consulting, corporate trainer, client development

Tracks to match

Organizational analysis, applied research

Details: These tracks have a strong concentration on data analysis, strategic thinking, systems analysis, and process implementation. Knowledge and skills in these areas position graduates to become effective senior-level consultants, helping client organizations address and solve critical business and organizational issues. Students must also master communication and presentation skills, as well as teamwork and group dynamics to help build solid relationships with internal teams and external clients. Like most DBA tracks, dissertation focus will be more practical in nature and involve solving a real business problem within a client organization.

Sample classes:

  • Organizational behavior and culture
  • Organizational systems theory & application
  • Strategic thinking
  • Performance analysis

Example career goals:

Start a business, run a non-profit

Tracks to match

Entrepreneurship, business finance/funding

Details: Coursework usually concentrates on what it takes to start and grow your own private business or non-profit. This can begin with researching and studying how to find and develop business ideas in business plans, the finance and economics behind entrepreneurship, the social and culture implications of running a business, and leadership and change management within organizations small and large.

Sample classes:

  • Entrepreneurship & innovation
  • Entrepreneurial funding
  • Social entrepreneurship
  • Organizational change & leadership

Those online DBA tracks can be applied to a wide range of industry sectors, which makes them attractive options for students. However, many colleges and universities allow further specialization in areas such as accounting, marketing, human resources, healthcare management, insurance, and construction, among others. These more narrow tracks give seasoned professionals a way to hone specific skills to grow within a specific career or company.

Program Length & Graduation Specs

The time to complete your online DBA depends on the type of program you’re in and the calendar followed by your college (quarter or semester). In general, earning a DBA online should take between two and four years (~60 program hours), with the first half of the program focused on primary coursework, and the last half on your major and your dissertation. Here’s a quick look at a common online DBA timeline from day one to graduation.

Example online DBA program (semester-based):

Year
1

18 credit hours in 6 required classes. Students focused mostly on acclimating to the program.

Year
2

18 credit hours split between required classes and major classes. Students should have a dissertation topic in mind. Some programs may require students to have a loose dissertation idea upon admission, based on a problem statement or purpose.

Year
3

18 credit hours split between major classes and preparing for dissertation work. Students should be ready to hit the ground running with their dissertation proposal by the end of the year.

Year
4

6 credit hours for dissertation completion. This includes proposal, research, drafting, revision, public defense, and publication.

Total credit hours: 60

Paying for Your Online Doctorate in Business Administration

Before investing time, energy, and your hard-earned money into higher education, always run a cost/benefit analysis. Specifically, how much will the program cost and do I think I’ll get that money back in career advancement and salary potential? It’s never an easy answer, but you can always start by looking at the basic costs of an online DBA and go from there. And if that’s not enough, there are several ways students can reduce their costs, including financial, grants, and scholarships.

Online DBA Program Tuition

Tuition for a doctorate in business administration varies by program type and quality of school. Check out the standard tuition rates for five of today’s most popular online DBAs.

SchoolCost per CreditTotal CreditsSubtotal
Johnson & Wales University$85054$45,900
California Southern University$49560$29,700
Grand Canyon University$65060$39,000
University of Dallas$1,62561$99,125
Franklin University$74858$43,384

In addition to tuition, online DBA students may find a handful of other fees as they progress through their program. This is pretty standard, however, so a grocery-sized list shouldn’t scare you. Make sure when you’re researching potential online DBA programs, you get a full list of the fees you’ll face from application through graduation. Here’s an example list:

  • Application fee: $75
  • Registration fee: $100
  • Records fee: $200/semester
  • Transfer credit fee: $175/credit
  • Graduation fee: $300

Accreditation & Your DBA Online

One of the most overlooked and undervalued characteristics of an online DBA is accreditation. Unfortunately, the growth of online learning across the U.S. has led to a number of accrediting bodies claiming the ability to vet higher education programs. For your online DBA, there are two specific accreditations you need to worry about:

Regional accreditation

This is the primary accreditation recognized by the U.S. Department of Education, and it signifies that a school, its programs, and its faculty have all been thoroughly examined by experts. For more information on the major regional accrediting agencies for higher education, visit the Department of Education’s accreditation page.

Business school accreditation

The most prestigious accreditation in business academics comes from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB).