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MBA Vs. PhD in Business

Apr 22, 2019

Career goals, learning/program formats, and availability of time should be some of the main factors for students considering an MBA or a PhD in Business program. Explore these unique degree programs and learn how to apply for each.

Although a Master of Business Administration (MBA) and PhD in Business both include business study, these degree programs are quite different in nature. An MBA can prepare students for managerial careers in various areas of business, while a PhD in the field is more research-based and meant to prepare students for careers in academia. Learn about some other differences below.

Comparing an MBA to a PhD in Business

Master of Business Administration

MBA programs are designed to train students in leadership, teamwork, and problem-solving skills geared toward the business world and may even include a global perspective. Many of these programs are available in flexible formats for working professionals, such as online, hybrid, part-time, or evening options. They often allow students to further focus their studies in areas such as business analytics, finance, social change and sustainability, healthcare administration, or employment law. Some of these degree programs can be completed in as little as 12 months, may require anywhere from 30 to 62 credits to complete (depending on a student's educational background), and might include an internship experience for hands-on learning.

It is fairly common for MBA programs to require a final capstone course and/or project and may discuss course topics in areas like marketing management, strategic management, international management, leadership, accounting, and negotiation. Graduates of MBA programs may advance in their business-related careers to leadership positions, with former graduates taking on specific job titles such as operations officer, program associate, or executive director.

Doctor of Philosophy in Business

PhD in Business programs combine business study with business research and typically provide students with a wide range in fields of study to choose from, including human resources management, marketing, international business, political economics, and organizational behavior. These are commonly full-time, on-campus programs that may require around 60 credit hours and might be completed in 4 to 5 years. Students in these PhD programs must usually complete a dissertation and may also need to meet other graduation requirements that vary by program, such as summer research papers, field examinations, and teaching or research apprenticeships.

Coursework at the doctoral level is usually customizable within a student's area of interest, but students may take core business courses in topics like econometrics, microeconomics, macroeconomics, research methods, and statistics. The majority of graduates from PhD in Business programs pursue careers in higher education as tenure-track faculty members, but graduates are also qualified to work other teaching or research positions in business.

Common Entrance Requirements

Applicants to MBA programs must have a bachelor's degree and may need to meet a minimum GPA requirement, while PhD in Business programs may accept students with undergraduate or graduate degrees. Applicants to either program typically need to take the GMAT or GRE exams and have their test scores sent to the institution of their choice. Some MBA programs may expect students to have at least 2 years of professional work experience. Applications to either degree program commonly ask students to submit their transcripts, letters of recommendation, resume or CV, and a statement of purpose or essay response. Some online MBA programs may also evaluate students on their potential for success in online learning.

MBA and PhD in Business degree programs typically allow students to further focus their studies in an area of concentration and usually require a final culminating experience. However, PhD in Business programs are longer, are usually more research-based, and require additional responsibilities compared to an MBA program.


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