Business culture has always glorified the rash and impetuous entrepreneur, the one who makes decisions from the gut and takes the bull by the horns – and who definitely doesn't spend years in school earning a PhD. The problem is, in the 21st century, where globalization, regulation, massive corporations, and collaboration are the norm in business, that hot-headed genius is as likely to crash and burn as to soar – sometimes taking a whole company or industry with him. The modern world of business needs leaders with expertise, experience, and a studied awareness of all the factors involved in decisions major and minor, and that's what a Doctor of Business Administration or PhD in Management can provide.
Ranking the Best Online Management PhD Programs
Doctoral degrees in business are still a fairly new concept, but they have rapidly become core elements of business higher education in the 2000s, and they can be crucial to career building. A good business doctoral program has many sides, but the element most crucial to success is a curriculum that brings together research and application. Business PhD students should learn to conduct wide-ranging and focused research into everything from market trends and regulations to their competitors' weaknesses and their own employees' strengths. Then, they should learn to apply what they learn to real-world business strategies, preferably with the guidance and mentorship of an experience, expert faculty.
There are a wide variety of online business doctorate programs now (as our comprehensive Best Online DBA ranking – the most complete ranking on the internet – demonstrates). But there are any number of specializations available today, such as project management, marketing, and finance – and, of course, management and leadership. DBA and Management PhD students are usually well-established, experienced working professionals who need to deepen and develop their skills to be the best leaders they can be. Online Management PhD programs can be the ideal way for the working student to transform their career, without sacrificing the one they already have.
The PhD Management distance learning programs ranked by Online PhD represent the best online management doctoral programs out there. Most are fully online; some may require brief residencies on-campus, usually no more than a few days out of the year. Institutions are ranked according to three factors:
- Cost (from IPEDS data)
- Reputation (from Niche rating)
- ROI (from College Scorecard data)
All of the institutions included in the Best Online Management PhD Programs are fully accredited, either by their regional accrediting agency or by the DEAC.
1. Grand Canyon University – Phoenix, AZ
One of the best-known names in online higher education, Grand Canyon University began as a traditional Christian liberal arts college in 1949, founded by the Southern Baptist Church to provide Baptists in Arizona a college of their own. In 2004, facing financial problems, Grand Canyon became the first for-profit Christian college in the US, giving the college the funds and resources to grow. Today, GCU serves nearly 20,000 on-campus students, and more than 60,000 online students, and in 2018 the university was approved by the Higher Learning Commission to return to non-profit status – stronger, and more accessible, than ever.
As one of the nation's leading Christian online universities, GCU's online DBA in Management is a perfect representation of Grand Canyon's opportunities. This doctorate in management distance learning program is intended to prepare working professionals for leadership with advanced knowledge in areas like planning and research, decision-making and problem-solving, and, of course, management. GCU's online management doctoral program also incorporates the dissertation throughout, with mentoring from the very first course, to make developing a dissertation project more manageable – which means more successful.
Degree: DBA in Management
2. University of Southern Mississippi – Hattiesburg and Long Beach, MS
Founded in 1910 as Mississippi's first teacher's college, the University of Southern Mississippi's original mission was replacing an outdated system of traveling teaching instructors with modern, systematic teacher education. Today, Southern Miss is a large, public research university of nearly 15,000 students, but it remains committed to bringing the most current, socially-responsible education the the people of Mississippi. Southern Miss focuses on the real needs of the people, with top-notch professional programs in areas like education, nursing, and business to build Mississippi's professional workforce.
USM's online PhD in Human Capital Development is a unique program available nowhere else in Mississippi. This PhD Management distance learning program provides students with the knowledge and skills they need to guide and direct the development of employees in a variety of settings, from government agencies and military to healthcare, nonprofit, and industry. This hybrid program combines brief 3-5 day classes with fully online content for the best of both – human connection in a stimulating, "think-tank" atmosphere, and convenient, flexible online coursework. With one of the best online PhD management programs in the South, Southern Miss is shaping the future of work in Mississippi and beyond.
Degree: PhD in Human Capital Development
3. University of Maryland University College – Adelphi, MD
The University of Maryland University College is one of the most unique institutions of its kind. Founded in 1947 as the University of Maryland's continuing education division, UMUC began farther back, with evening classes offered in the 1920s, and became a fully independent institution in the University of Maryland system in 1970. That's only one unique part – a fully independent university centered on professional education for working adults. UMUC really came into its own as an online educator, though, and with more than 90,000 online students, stands as one of the largest online colleges in the world.
UMUC's online Doctor of Management degree is an intensive program for busy professionals already working at the executive level, giving already motivated students a deeper grounding in management theory, decision-making, research, and leadership. The Doctor of Management is designed to turn managers into better leaders, with applied research, a supportive cohort structure, and access to some of the finest business and management experts in the world. All coursework is fully online, except for a 2-day on-campus residency at the start of each term. A 48-credit program with reasonable tuition costs, the UMUC Doctor of Management changes lives and careers.
Degree: Doctor of Management
Format: Online with Residency
4. Bellevue University – Bellevue, NE
A private institution in eastern Nebraska, Bellevue University began in 1966 as the only college in Nebraska was a focus entirely on education for working adults. A pioneer in adult education, Bellevue remains committed to providing the most convenient, flexible, accessible, and affordable higher education options for working adults in Nebraska. That commitment led Bellevue to become a pioneer in online education as well, and today the university serves more than 10,000 students, more than 80% over traditional college age. Bellevue is also ranked one of the top 10 online educators in the nation by U.S. News & World Report.
Bellevue's online PhD in Human Capital Management degree program provides students with the most current research and best practices in developing and guiding employee development. Intended for working professionals, this PhD Management distance learning program incorporates original research and experienced faculty to give students an immersive and interactive educational experience. With its dedication to practical adult education, Bellevue keeps tuition costs reasonable, giving PhD management distance learning students a low-debt, high-yield investment in their career.
Degree: PhD in Human Capital Management
5. George Fox University – Newberg, OR
Founded in 1885 by Quaker settlers in Newberg, OR, George Fox University continues its long affiliation with the Society of Friends and part of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. From its small beginnings, GFU has grown into a comprehensive doctoral university, offering a full range of degree types in a wide variety of subjects. As Newberg has grown into a highly populated suburb of Portland – it is now Oregon's second-largest city – so has George Fox University grown into one of the largest private universities in the Pacific Northwest. Its suburban location has also increased GFU's focus on adult education, including many fully online degree programs.
In order to meet the demand for experienced and well-trained executives that Portland's growth has created, GFU's online DBA in Management degree program offers working professionals a convenient way to earn the highest degree in business. GFU's online management doctoral students include working professionals, academics, and working professionals who want to become professors or researchers. All coursework is fully online; student need only attend a short on-campus residency twice a year. With GFU's Quaker mission, the DBA Management program emphasizes Christian ethics and service, with a focus on the leadership responsibilities of executives and administrators.
Degree: DBA in Management
Format: Online with Residency
6. Wayland Baptist University – Plainview, TX
The oldest college in the High Plains of Texas, Wayland Baptist University began in 1908, offering classes for elementary to junior college students at a time when the region around Plainview, TX, had no public schools. In time, the elementary and secondary programs were no longer needed, and the school developed into a college, then a full doctoral university. With its mission to provide educational opportunity, Wayland Baptist has steadily been a pioneer, including becoming the first college in the South to voluntarily integrate. Today, that same spirit has made Wayland Baptist a leader in adult and online education, ranked as one of the top regional universities in the West.
Wayland Baptist University's online Doctor of Management degree program is designed to give working professionals the deep understanding of applied business research, analytical decision-making, and management theory necessary to excel as a leader. The 60-credit program – including a comprehensive exam and research project – is delivered entirely online. Students follow a cohort model, progressing through the same courses together in a scheduled sequence, building a network of support and reinforcement. Short 11-week terms add to the convenience and flexibility of Wayland's program, ensuring that students will succeed.
Degree: Doctor of Management
7. Argosy University – Orange, CA
Founded in 2001 from the merger of three schools, Argosy University's mission from the beginning has been to provide working adults and traditional undergraduates alike an opportunity to earn a degree conveniently. A regionally-accredited, for-profit institution, Argosy provides a wide selection of degrees, both undergraduate and graduate, in a wide variety of formats: on-campus, online, and hybrid. With its primary focus on working adults, Argosy is best known for their professionals degrees in areas like business and nursing. Originally owned by the Education Management Corporation, after complaints and suits from students and regulatory agencies Argosy was bought by the Pentecostal Christian education group known as the Dream Center Foundation, with plans to transition Argosy into a nonprofit university.
Online education is one of Argosy's strong suits, and Argosy's online DBA in Management is designed to bring master's degree-holding professionals and executives to the highest level of expertise in their field. With a concentration in management, students work through 15 research credits, 18 core credits, 12 concentration credits, and electives, completing the degree with an original research project. Argosy's online management doctoral curriculum combines organizational behavior, talent development, change management, and other crucial skills to help current professionals take on the next stage of leadership. Fully online classes help working adults keep their current jobs while they prepare for the future of business.
Degree: DBA in Management
8. Eastern University – St. Davids, PA
Founded in 1925 as an interdenominational seminary, Eastern University is a comprehensive doctoral university affiliated with the American Baptist Church. Eastern became an independent institution from the seminary in the 1950s, eventually growing into a full university and purchasing the seminary in 2004 (now called Palmer Theological Seminary). As a Christian university, Eastern's mission focuses on educating students to be responsible and ethical servant leaders in their profession, but the university is open to people of all faiths. Eastern is ranked in the top tier of regional universities by U.S. News, and has been named a best value by Money magazine.
Eastern's online PhD in Organizational Leadership degree program is focused on transformational leadership, guiding students in using original, incisive research to become better, more ethical, change-driving leaders. While many students may be planning leadership careers in a church setting, Eastern's PhD management distance learning curriculum is extremely adaptable and intended for use in a variety of settings, from nonprofit and B-corps to the private sector. All coursework is fully online; students will attend three brief residencies at Eastern's St. Davids, PA campus. Students of faith will find the Eastern University online management PhD programs perfectly suited to service leadership.
Degree: PhD in Organizational Leadership
Format: Online with Residency
9. Sullivan University – Louisville, KY
A private, career-centered university in Louisville, KY, Sullivan University was founded in 1962 as a one-year career training school. Over the next half century, Sullivan developed into a business school, college, and university, becoming the first for-profit school to earn regional accreditation through the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools – the highest level of accreditation. With its carefully designed "stairstep" curriculum, Sullivan specializes in leading students upwards through their career from associate's to graduate degrees, while simultaneously working from entry-level to managerial roles.
Sullivan University's online PhD in Management degree program is built for working professionals who want to increase their research and theoretical skills, and put those skills into practice in the higher levels of leadership. With an emphasis on conducting original research and developing useful reports, Sullivan PhD Management distance learning students work directly with faculty advisors for support, guidance, and mentorship; students may even co-author academic publications with faculty. With a highly focused program built on practical use of knowledge, Sullivan's online Management PhD program is a convenient entry to leadership.
Degree: PhD in Management
10. California Intercontinental University – Irvine, CA
Founded in 2001 by education entrepreneur Dr. Shaan Kumar, California Intercontinental University was built from the start as a cutting-edge, innovative online university. With its operations based in the tech and startup hub of Irvine, CA, CIU is focused on 21st century business, entrepreneurship, and management, committed to diversity, ethics, and academic excellence. CIU is accredited by the Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC), an accrediting agency approved by the US Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.
The CIU online DBA in Entrepreneurship and Business Management degree program focuses on the brains of leadership – analysis, strategy, critical thinking, and, above all, putting planning into action. With a concentration on entrepreneurship, students learn to both perform original research, and to put that research into practice, building skills that will adapt to many different fields and many different leadership roles. This 60-credit, fully online management doctoral program can be completed in just 2 years, at a low tuition rate that can help make CIU a solid career investment.
Degree: DBA in Entrepreneurship and Business Management