PhD or DBA anyone?

After the MBA programme, you will probably feel as if you never want to study again! This is understandable, given the hard work that you have just put yourself through. However, for those interested in pursuing further studies at a more advanced level, there are two qualifications that may suit MBA graduates.

The PhD or Doctor of Philosophy is a research qualification that usually requires a minimum of three years full-time study, or around 5 - 6 years part-time study. The PhD is usually awarded on the basis of the candidate producing a piece of original research that makes a contribution to the literature. This is usually a contribution to theory. Unlike an MBA degree, it is common for PhD programmes to contain no formal classes or examinations (although there are some exceptions). In most cases, the student will be appointed a supervisor. The student is responsible for identifying the research topic and for designing the research methodology by which to undertake the research, in consultation with a supervisor. The PhD Study usually results in the student producing a written thesis of around 70,000 to 100,000 words. The thesis is then sent to external examiners. Upon successful completion of the thesis and passing the examination process, the student is then entitled to use the title "Dr" before his or her name.

Why undertake a PhD?
There are many reasons for people to undertake a PhD, such as:

  • Examine a problem in depth. For example, perhaps the student has many years of commercial experience and has identified what they believe to be a fundamental problem in the execution of organisational change programmes. A PhD would be an opportunity to investigate the issue in depth.
  • Become an academic. The PhD programme is the traditional qualification for those wishing to pursue a career in academia. The PhD signifies that the candidate has mastery of a particular discipline area and is able to conduct and publish research at the highest level.

What is a DBA?
The DBA or Doctor of Business Administration is a postgraduate qualification which exposes the student to advanced coursework and dissertation. Unlike the PhD, the student will study a variety of subjects at advanced level, and may have to produce assignments and sit for formal examinations before proceeding to the dissertation stage. Although the DBA qualification is relatively new in South Africa, it is well established and recognised throughout the world, including Harvard University, which has long offered a DBA qualification.

Why undertake a DBA?
The DBA is designed for senior business people to build further upon their knowledge and experience and examine an organisational problem in depth. Unlike the PhD, the DBA is applied in nature, in that the candidate will probably be expected to demonstrate their knowledge in a practical business oriented way, as demonstrated in the form of a dissertation. Although the DBA dissertation does not involve the same focus of research as a PhD, the award is at the same level, and as such, standards are particularly demanding. With MBA qualifications being almost the norm in many organisations, the possession of a DBA is a useful means by which to differentiate oneself in the job market. It should also be noted that although the PhD is the traditional route into academe, leading business schools would probably be very interested in individuals with appropriate business experience, harnessed with a DBA.


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