Online MBA Vs. PhD Programs in Business: What's the Difference

Whether seeking a promotion or a career change, the promise of advanced positions with greater benefits is sufficient motivation for business-oriented individuals to pursue either a master's or doctoral degree. Explore the difference between these two graduate-level options in the following article.

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Online MBA and Ph.D. programs differ in length, curriculum and graduation requirements, among other features. All students in online programs need to obtain appropriate technology before they can enroll in these increasingly popular programs.

Differences Between Online MBA and Ph.D. Programs in Business

The two main differences between online Master of Business Administration (MBA) and Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Business programs are the length of study and the career goals of graduates. Business management students often want to enter the private sector, and they may expect their degree to earn them high-ranking positions with higher pay than those without graduate training. Meanwhile, Ph.D. holders tend to enter academics and may be more interested in heightening their prospects for research publishing and professorial tenure.

Program Specifics


MBA programs often require 30-60 credits, which can be completed in two years or one year in an accelerated program. Some schools also offer part-time study programs for working professionals, which may take longer than two years.

Students in MBA programs analyze and engage in practical business topics relevant to today's business world. Working professionals may immediately apply new skills in their careers. They may even pursue advanced new job titles or income within their company upon the premise that they graduate with an MBA. Students can often focus their curricula on one of a number of concentrations, including:

  • Accounting
  • Finance
  • Management
  • Information technology


A Ph.D. in Business program typically takes 4-6 years or more to complete, plunging students into a world of research and comprehensive studies. Some programs require students to complete on-campus residencies for mentoring and research.

Unlike MBA programs, few doctoral degree programs may be taken on a part-time basis. These programs typically conclude with a dissertation. Ph.D. programs also allow students to specialize in a particular area of business from the start. The options usually offered include:

  • Accounting
  • Management
  • Finance
  • Marketing
  • Operations

Technology Requirements

Whether enrolled in an online MBA or Ph.D. in Business program, there are certain technology requirements that students need to meet. They can vary by program, but schools may specify that students have computers with the following features:

  • An up-to-date Windows or Mac operating system
  • High-speed internet access
  • A certain amount of memory
  • Office software
  • Antivirus software
  • Web camera
  • Headphones and speakers
  • Microphone
  • CD/DVD drive
  • Business-specific programs, like accounting software

Graduate Education Trends

Since 2005, the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) has reported significant increases in the annual number of MBA program applicants. Research showed that full-time MBA programs saw rises in applications for the 2015-2016 academic year.

When choosing between MBA programs and Ph.D. programs, it is important for individuals to consider their educational interests, career goals and the time they are willing to commit to their studies.

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