Differences Among Doctorate Leadership Degrees: Ed.D., Ph.D. and DBA

There are several types of leadership degrees at the doctoral level. Determining which type is right for you depends on your career goals and interests. Below are some definitions and descriptions of three doctorate degrees in leadership and the career paths associated with them.

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)

The distinctive feature of the Doctor of Education is its focus on practical application. Graduates are prepared for hands-on roles. The research component of the curriculum prepares students to design and use applied research to inform a problem of practice. Students in on-campus or online EdD programs complete and defend a dissertation before a committee or panel of examiners, and the dissertation is more focused on original research that includes a practical application of data rather than pure research.

A Doctor of Education can be usually completed sooner than a Doctor of Philosophy, generally within three to four years, making it a more practical choice for busy professionals searching for a work-focused degree.

From business to health care, today there are campus and online Doctor of Education programs — such as Creighton University’s Doctoral Program in Interdisciplinary Leadership — that expand the leadership applications to any field. Historically, Doctor of Education programs had been primarily focused on leadership in education with coursework preparing students for administrative or academic positions such as professor, lecturer, superintendent or principal.

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

The Ph.D. is the most recognized doctorate degree. These degrees are typically for those who want to pursue full-time academic positions (either teaching or research, or a combination of both) in a specialized field. Consequently, the focus of Ph.D. studies is mainly on studying theory and creating original research that adds meaningful knowledge to the field of study. Through a dissertation, students present and defend their work before a faculty panel.

Because Ph.D. students generally need close supervision during their research, they are often required to study on campus. Doctoral students may also be required to work as teaching assistants for undergraduate courses or as research assistants to professors. Consequently, it is less common for Ph.D. programs to be offered online.

In addition, the time to completion for a Ph.D. can be long—usually between four and six years, making this a less practical option for those who are interested in professional applications of knowledge.

Doctor of Business Administration (DBA)

The DBA is an applied, interdisciplinary research doctorate in business administration that is generally considered to be equivalent to a Ph.D. As with a Ph.D., students perform independent research and write and defend a dissertation, which may consist of a collection of empirical research articles. However, instead of theoretical research, DBA’s focus more on applying research to issues in business practice.

Also, DBA's offered by AACSB-accredited institutions prepare graduates not only to compete for tenured academic positions at schools that focus on a balance of research and teaching, but also train them to approach business in more data-driven, analytical ways. Such AACSB DBA accreditation programs are often hybrid programs that allow students to complete the majority of their course work online while meeting face to face several times during a semester. As a result, the opportunity costs, both personal and financial, of a DBA education are substantially lower than those of a traditional PH.D.

Evolve Your Leadership Abilities: Creighton’s Ed.D. Online

Creighton University’s Doctoral Program in Interdisciplinary Leadership is a Doctor of Education online program that offers a broad and interdisciplinary view of leadership that you can apply to a range of industries, especially business, education, nonprofit, military and health care. Taught by faculty members from the arts and sciences, business, education, health and law, the program’s interdisciplinary format brings together high-achieving students from different backgrounds.

Additionally, the dissertation provides the opportunity to use your current workplace as a setting to research and practice leadership skills. By applying what you learn during the program, you will be prepared for a leadership position in nearly any industry — giving you an excellent return on your investment.

Creighton’s online Doctorate in Leadership is also is focused on ethics and built on the University’s Jesuit, Catholic values of social justice, service to others and self-reflection. Graduates of the program become leadership experts with the ability to drive change in their organizations and foster meaningful change in the world.

Learn more about Creighton’s online EdD in Leadership. Call us at 866.717.6365 to speak to a Program Manager or request more information today.