Last Updated: Jun 11, 2019
By TBS Staff
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, online DBA programs prepare students for executive positions in business. The earning potential for top executives with a doctorate of business administration is significant. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), top executives earned a median annual salary of $104,980 in 2018, with chief executives making $189,600. Earning a doctor of business administration online may be a convenient and flexible way to attain this kind of earning potential.
As business sectors like technology and healthcare continue to expand, talented business leaders continue to grow in demand and value. With a number of quality schools offering DBA degree online programs, earning a doctorate of business administration has never been easier or cheaper. Online DBA 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.
Table of Contents
- Program Rankings
- Business Admin Doctoral Program Overview
- Business Admin Doctoral Program Accreditation
- Business Administration Careers
- Paying for Your Degree
The Best Online Doctorate in Business Administration Programs
Online Doctorate in Business Administration Program Ranking Methodology: We selected the degree programs based on the quality of program and range of courses provided, as well as school awards, rankings, and reputation.
Methodology for College Rankings
The motto of TheBestSchools.org is Finding the best school for you. Here is how we do it:
The value of any ranking list of schools and/or degree programs depends on having a methodologically sound assessment of each school’s/program’s characteristics, especially insofar as these can be objectively measured. A college or university is a complex entity, with numerous factors to consider, and distilling these down to the place where meaningful comparisons can be made to form a defensible ranking list becomes part science and part art.
To meet this challenge—and thereby provide you with the most useful and insightful educational rankings on the Internet — TheBestSchools.org formulates our rankings based on five informational categories (six, when considering online schools). The major metrics and qualities for which we rank are these (with expanded, detailed considerations and weights listed):
1. Academic excellence based on a school’s curriculum generally or within the selected discipline [weight = 25%]
- Weighs school against known leading schools in that discipline
- Weighs number of core curricula listed as advanced courses within that discipline and compares against introductory courses
- Weighs school’s curriculum against known knowledge needs of major employers in that discipline
- Considers number and types of specializations offered within that discipline
- Considers faculty expertise in that discipline
- Considers range of electives within that discipline
- Considers quality of online environment offered to students (if applicable), particularly within that discipline
2. Strength of faculty scholarship [weight = 25%]
- Considers education background of the faculty
- Considers years of faculty experience both inside and outside of academia.
- Considers faculty membership and leadership within relevant, prominent associations
- Considers academic papers published by faculty in relevant, prominent periodicals
- Considers awards and recognitions given to faculty members from prominent organizations and from other sources
3. Reputation [weight = 20%]
- Considers a school’s reputation among academic peers and employers regarding the following:
- “Freshness” of academic knowledge
- Adaptability to changes in employment sectors
- Suitability of graduates for the workplace
4. Financial aid [weight = 10%]
- Mandatory: Requires full accreditation from an agency endorsed by the U.S. Department of Education and listed on the federal register to accept student federal financial aid
- Considers range of school-sponsored financial aid such as scholarships and grants
5. Range of degree programs [weight = 20%]
- Considers range of degree levels: associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral and professional
- Considers range of degree subjects offered, such as art & design, computers & technology, education & teaching, criminal justice, and business
6. Strength of online instruction methodology (if applicable) [weight = 25%; subtract 5% from each of the above for online schools/programs]
- Considers the following of the online classes:
- Types of online technology used to deliver content
- Pedagogy style: asynchronous, synchronous, or both (depending on the degree)
- Extent and quality of the online, community learning environment, including options for communication, interactivity, and collaboration between students and also between students and instructors
- Variety, breadth, and depth of coursework, and its support, including project options and online tutoring
- Considers the following of instructors:
- Extent of training for teaching within an online learning environment
- Amount of timely, consistent feedback to students
- Extent of collaboration with prospective employers to ensure suitability of instructional materials for achieving desired skills
- Ratio to number of students in a class
- Number and quality of internships in a student’s geographical area for applicable degrees
Because students tend to review a variety of information when choosing a school, the weight a student gives any one criterion will vary. For instance, it’s not enough to offer a carefully constructed ranking of great schools if many are too expensive or too difficult to get into.
To better serve the needs of prospective students, we are therefore increasingly offering filters that help you better use our rankings to find the schools that match your specific needs. These supplement our ranking criteria and include:
- Public or private status
- Acceptance rate
- Retention rate
- Graduation rate
- ACT/SAT requirements
- Cost in-state / out of state
- Undergrad, grad, or both offered
Get the best rankings here AND get them to suit your personal needs. That’s TheBestSchools.org advantage!
If you have any questions about our ranking methodology, please contact us.
Citations: For a broader account of our ranking methodology, especially as it relates to TheBestSchools.org’s underlying educational philosophy and, in other ranking articles, looks beyond academic excellence (as here) to such factors as return on investment or incidental benefit, see our article “Ranking Methodology: How We Rank Schools at TBS.” Reputation of schools and degree programs can at least in part be gauged through the school or department’s publishing activity, citations, and desirability. At TheBestSchools.org, we keep track of such social and peer validation: “Making Sense of College Rankings.” For nuts-and-bolts information about colleges and universities, we look to the National Center for Education Statistics and especially its College Navigator. Insofar as salary and inflation data are relevant to a ranking, we look to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Finally, nothing beats contacting schools and degree programs directly, which our researchers often do, with the result that all the entries in this article should be considered as belonging to this citation!
1. Liberty University Online
The online DBA program at Liberty University emphasizes practical hands-on application. All 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 doctor of business administration online 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.
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. Students return six week later for a second weekend residency. All other coursework is available online.
The part-time doctor of business administration online 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.
3. Johnson & Wales University
Providence, Rhode Island
The online DBA program at Johnson & 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 doctor of business administration online 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 organizational development to prepare for their dissertation. The doctor of business administration online program’s courses are mostly asynchronous but often include at least one synchronous component to encourage student engagement.
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 doctor of business administration online program requires 57 credits, including 12 credits of directed research for a 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.
5. 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 in the doctor of business administration online program also complete concentration courses in either marketing, management, or accounting.
6. 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 doctor of business administration online 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.
7. 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 on to the next.
8. 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 doctor of business administration online 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.
9. 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. Contrary to 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 doctor of business administration online 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 – Chicago is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
- Its College of Business is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP)
10. 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. The doctor of business administration online 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.
11. 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 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 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.
12. 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 wish.
The 58-credit curriculum includes a 16-credit research core; 17 major credits; 12 credits of electives; and ten credits of dissertation requirements. On average, students earn their doctor of business administration online 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 by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
- Its business programs are accredited by the International Accreditation Council for Business Education (IACBE)
13. 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 systems, and leadership. Baker’s unique online DBA programs also allow students to create their own specialized field of study.
Most students graduate from the 60-credit doctor of business administration online 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 worldwide context, and corporate and personal ethics.
- Baker College is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
- The school’s Business Administration programs maintain specialized accreditation from the International Assembly for College Business Education (IACBE)
What Else Can I Expect From an Online Doctorate in Business Administration Program?
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Every online DBA program is different, offering unique courses, academic timelines, residency demands, and dissertation requirements. Though programs may differ from school to school, most online doctor of business administration programs seem to share certain key features. 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 organizations. Students also learn how to predict trends that may affect their organizations 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 learn 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, as well as 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 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 determine 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 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 and Salaries
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 doctor of business administration online programs come from a business background and have earned either an MBA or a bachelor’s degree in business. Candidates typically 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 highly demanding and may require frequent travel to meetings and conferences.
- Median Annual Salary: $104,980
- 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: $113,300
- Projected Growth Rate: 9%
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: $104,340
- 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: $78,470
- 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: $85,660
- Projected Growth Rate: 11%
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
Business Administration Professional Organizations
Professional business organizations allow students earning their doctor of business administration 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 specialized 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 doctor of business administration online.
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 inquire 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.