5 Career Options for an Online DBA

You’re thinking about a Doctor of Business Administration or PhD in Business, but you’re not quite sure; maybe a doctorate in business is overkill? Steve Jobs dropped out of college, right? The question is, what can you do with an online DBA or PhD in Business that you can’t do without it? The answer is: a lot. Whether you’re shooting for the executive suite or dreaming of life in a think tank, a doctorate in business can give you the skills, connections, and credentials to make it your way.

What Kind of Business Doctorate Should I Get?

There are two main choices for a doctoral degree in business, and the one that is right for you really depends on your career goals. That could be influenced by your current career path or job (do you want to keep on the same route, or take a sharp turn?), or by your specialized interests (are you doing something no one else is doing?). You’ll want to mull over two questions:

Do you want to:

Work in Research or Teaching? For those of you interested in doing research, analysis, or teaching, the PhD in Business may be the best choice. A PhD is a more academic degree, focused more on reading, study, and writing than on the actual day-to-day work of management. The PhD would be right right choice for future professors, analysts, writers, and theorists.

Work Directly in Business? The Doctor of Business Administration is a relatively new degree type, a professional doctorate focused on advanced skills and knowledge for leaders and administrators. The DBA is designed for people working in the field – C-level executives, entrepreneurs, and consultants.

You may also find that a more specialized doctoral degree, like a doctorate in finance or a doctorate in marketing, opens up career options.

Should I Get a DBA Online?

Many AACSB-accredited online DBA programs are becoming much more common than they used to be, simply because there is a growing demand. Virtually no one goes straight through college to a Doctor of Business Administration (if you have, congratulations, 28-year-old doctor!); usually, you’ve been working in business for a while, maybe a long while, before deciding that a doctorate will help your career.

Online DBA programs allow busy working professionals to earn their doctorate on their own time, without having to put their career on hold or relocate. In many cases, colleges and universities can make online programs more affordable as well; some schools even provide fully-funded options for online doctorates. By designing convenient, flexible online doctor of business administration programs, universities fill a need in the job market, and increase their enrollment – everybody wins online.

What are the Jobs for Doctor of Business Administration Graduates?

Do a quick Google search on jobs for DBA graduates, and you’ll find a wealth of opportunities, and once you have your doctorate in business, they’ll be open to you. To get a good sense of the field, Online PhD Programs has divided up the DBA job market into 5 main areas.

1. Academic Careers

Obviously, the first choice for a doctorate in business is an academic career. Business schools have never been bigger, and one of the unique qualities of business education – unlike, say, history or mathematics – is that business schools highly value teachers who have worked in the field over those who have simply been to school to learn to teach. That’s a good thing for working professionals who are going back to school online to earn their doctor of business administration; the real-world work experience shows you know business from the inside out, while the DBA or PhD shows that you have the academic expertise as well.

While many business schools reach out to their industry partners to recruit working businesspeople to teach classes, if you want to move into a higher administrative position within academia, you won’t get anywhere without a doctorate. It’s a function of the field – higher academic degrees are necessary for higher administration. So if your goal is the academic world, you may be able to teach with an MBA and real-world experience, but if you want to become a department chair, dean, or VP, go get that doctorate in business.


  • Professor/Instructor
  • Department Chair
  • Dean
  • Vice President/Chancellor

2. Executive Officers

In academia, a doctorate is a prerequisite for getting into administrative positions, but even in the business world, it’s becoming more and more common for major corporations to expect their chief executive officers to have doctoral degrees. It’s a simple matter of competition; to stand out from the crowd of other ambitious colleagues clamoring for the corner office, a DBA comes across as a statement of purpose. The doctorate tells companies “Not only have I done my time and made accomplishments in business, I’ve also honed my knowledge and skills to the highest degree – literally.”

If you’re in upper management, or even a vice president, and have your sights set on CEO, CFO, COO, or other higher executive positions, an online DBA program may be right for you. The DBA, as a professional degree, focuses on practical, research-tried and market-proven knowledge and skills, and in most cases, you’ll be able to apply what you’re learning immediately. Most online DBA programs even allow you to design research projects directly related to your current career. New skills = new accomplishments = new, impressive lines on your resume. With as little as a few months of online courses, you can be ahead of the pack.


  • CEO
  • CFO
  • COO
  • Executive VP

3. Think Tanks and Research

There’s a place where academic research, government, and the private sector meet, and whether you call them policy institutes, research institutes, or (as they’re almost universally known) Think Tanks, they are some of the most influential organizations in America. There are an estimated 2000 think tanks in the US, focusing on a wide variety of topics, including arts and humanities, science and environment, and national security and foreign relations, but by far the most think tanks are focused on economics and policy. Conservative, liberal, progressive, and libertarian, think tanks run the gamut; some are nonprofit, and some are funded by industry, often with specific policy goals.

A good DBA or PhD in Business program should focus on skills in research, analysis, and communication, including writing and speaking, and those are precisely the skills that think tanks are looking for. Business and economics think tanks do research on topics related to business and government, publish reports and white papers, write policy recommendations (and, in many cases, the text of actual Congressional bills), and often include a lobbying wing to get their voice heard on Capitol Hill. Now, it’s worth mentioning that most of these organizations are concentrated in the DC metropolitan area, so if this is your career goal, hope you’re ready for life inside the Beltway.


  • Research Analyst
  • Research Associate
  • Strategic Planner
  • Project Manager
  • Executive Administrator

4. Government Agencies

As we all know, the business of America is business – and that means American government, too. You don’t need a DBA to run for office – you don’t technically need any education at all, or basic common sense, for that matter – but to work for the government in a professional capacity, a doctorate in business can be an asset. There are numerous government agencies where a DBA can shine:

  • Department of Agriculture
  • Department of Commerce
  • Department of Housing and Urban Development
  • Department of the Interior
  • Department of Labor
  • Department of State
  • Department of the Treasury
  • Department of Transportation
  • US Patent and Trademark Office

All of these government agencies are places where the skills in research, analysis, problem-solving, and management that you learn in a doctor of business administration program can be put to good use. While some federal and state government positions are by appointment – meaning you need to have some connections to the people in charge to get there – most are by hire, just like any other job. And just like with executive positions in business, a DBA demonstrates your full command of business, finance, markets, or whatever your specialization may be.

5. Independent Consulting

Consulting is nice work, if you can get it (in the immortal words of the Gershwin brothers). The trick, of course, is getting the work. Consultants are typically hired by businesses looking for an outside expert who can assess their strengths and weaknesses, solve a particular problem, or implement a new way of doing business. Independent consulting takes a confident entrepreneurial spirit, a proven track record of accomplishment, and a real, deep expertise that you can adapt to a variety of situations, since you’ll essentially have a whole new job every few weeks or months.

Those are all qualities you can develop as an online doctor of business administration student, and in many ways, they are the qualities that DBA programs were invented for. Now, a successful consulting gig also requires connections. There’s no getting around that; once you’re well established, businesses may come to you, but when you first strike out on your own, fishing for consulting jobs isn’t going to yield much of a catch. You need connections – people who know you, know your expertise, and know what you can bring to their business.

You make those connections in your professional life, including coworkers and previous employers, but networking is another one of the biggest benefits of a DBA program. When you become part of a DBA cohort, even an online DBA program, you make connections with the professionals who are in the program with you; with the professionals who are teaching the courses; and with the industry partners that any good business school has built relationships with.

That means when you hang up your shingle and declare yourself an independent consultant, you’ll have a whole professional network of potential partners you can call and say “I’m open for business!”