How Many Years Is A Doctorate Degree In Business Administration (PhD / DBA)?

When I tell people that I am a Business Professor, they often wonder how long it actually takes to get a doctorate in business administration at a major research university? Most people got this fairly wrong (this was me when I started as well), and most of the web sites on the inter-webs are somewhat misleading in how long it actually takes. Generally, the belief is that a doctorate degree in Business Administration takes 3-4 years, which is on the short side. But, really, how many years is a doctoral degree in Business? A Doctorate Degree in Business Administration takes anywhere from 3 to 7 years to complete. A PhD in Business Administration tends to be a bit longer than a Doctorate of Business Administration degree. If you want to know some more differences between a PhD and a DBA, I have a post of these similarities and differences. But, the norm is usually around 4-5.5 years. Of those that finish their PhD, here are my estimates from my experience (and what do I know anyway 🙂 ):
  1. <5% complete a doctorate in business within 2 years.
  2. 5-20% complete a doctorate within 2-4 years.
  3. 20-80% complete a doctorate within 4-5 years.
  4. 80-90% complete a doctorate within 5-6 years.
  5. 90-100% complete a doctorate within 6-8 years.
As you can see, it is highly unusual to take 3-4 years to get a doctoral degree in business, and the norm is closer to 4-5.5 years. Some people may take 6 to 7 years. Keep in mind this is all of the people that actually complete a doctorate degree in Business Administration. At most programs (and this is my experience again – no hard evidence), the attrition rate before completion is anywhere from 10-30% of those who start their doctorate program never complete it. Where do these people go? Most people don’t ‘fail out’ of their doctorate degree, but find that research in business does not match with their personality and choose to do other things. They simply just learn that doing a PhD in business is not that fun for them. This is good, but it is a fairly tough career, and the quicker you know that it is not for you, the better off you will be. Also, if you think you are going to be in it for the long term, you should plan that the doctoral degree will take longer than you think. You should plan to hunker down with major life investments. You can see my post on buying a home in grad school.

Why Does It Take 4-5.5 Years To Get A Doctoral Degree In Business?

The length of time that it takes to complete a doctoral degree is usually related to the rigor of your program of study. More rigorous programs usually take longer than less rigorous programs, but of course, this is a general rule, and their are always exception to the rule. Some forms of research generally take longer than others. For example, if you expect to do ethnographies (going into the workplace for several months as a fly on the wall), you will likely take a bit longer than other people.  Yes, these small choices about research matters, and most people underestimate how long things will take. By the way, there is actually a psychological bias that we all have called the planning fallacy. Anyway, if you are interested in more ideas about choosing methods in your PhD in Business Administration, I have a video on research methods:

What is the Normal Process of A PhD In Business Administration.

While a PhD program may vary across different schools and the programs within each school, a doctorate degree in business administration usually involves several broad stages of the PhD: 1st Year: In the first year of a PhD in Business, students will do you a broad overview of business and statistics courses. You will also do coursework on research methods and the philosophy of science. These are really fun topics if you like this kind of thing. By the way, if you are interested in picking courses for a doctorate in business or other business grad school programs, check out the video below. It provides a fairly good analyses of how to choose your graduate school courses. Of course, this is your career, so you choose whatever you want to choose.  By the way, this would be a good time to decide if the PhD in Business Administration is right for you. You can also choose what you are interested in. It is very common for people to switch around and try different things at the end of the 1st year of the program. If you are interested in learning more about switching to different specializations in the PhD, you might want to watch video about what kind of PhD will make you most competitive in the job market: 2nd Year: In the second year of any PhD program in business, you will generally have to do area specific courses (for me – strategy and innovation) and finish the comprehensive exams. Comprehensive exams are tough, but if you are interested in the PhD in Business Administration, you will have to take the comps. Sorry, folks. 🙁 Here is a video about comprehensive videos in a PhD of Business Administration program might be like for you. To be honest, I actually did enjoy mine after I got through all of the work aspect of the comprehensive exams: 3rd Year: In the third year, candidates for a PhD in Business (ie. Management, Finance, etc) will work on a paper and their dissertation proposal. This is the year that can add a lot of value to you. If you work wisely, you can be very productive in this year. You can write a paper or two during this time. (Check out this guide post to writing research papers, which is a work in progress). However, don’t work on anything in this year, this could really hold you back as a scholar. 4th and 5th Year: In the final years of a Doctorate in Business, students will go in the job market and complete their thesis in their chosen field in a doctorate in business program. What is the job market? That is where you actually get a job as an assistant professor, or take a job as a post-doc. By the way, post-docs are becoming increasingly more common. As you can see when you ask how many years for PhD, it makes sense that it will take at least 4-5 years to complete. If you are lucky, you can finish the PhD in 4, but more than likely, you will take 4.5-5. It is not unusual to see a doctoral degree taking longer than 5 years, particularly if the student flounders for year or encounters obstacles in the PhD. By the way, the biggest thing that I always say that harms students from doing good research is life. Darn life – it always gets in the way. 🙂 That is the complete answer to how long it actually does take to get a PhD in Business Administration. Note that this is just my ramblings, and everyone’s experiences are difference and unique. That is the one thing about a PhD, it is a very personal journey that only you can choose. By the way, this is all part of my r3ciprocity project, in which I am trying to give back as much as I can as ways to thank all of the people that have helped me become a professor. I created a sharing economy proofreading software, and continue to put out videos to help others advance their careers as well. The goal with r3ciprocity is to solve problems that are relevant to behavioral and organizational sciences, and to eventually generate enough profits that I can create scholarships for graduate students and help others. Yes, its a pipe-dream, but dreams do come true. 🙂

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David Maslach

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  1. Pingback:Tips For Applying To PhD Programs (In Business Administration) - R3ciprocity

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