In my field (business administration) there are two main terminal degrees. One is a DBA (doctorate of business administration) and one is a PhD (business admin, economics, etc.). A DBA is focused on the application of theories (within a business) as opposed to the generation of new theories.

Is there any published research on the perception between these two terminal degrees? I'm concerned that a DBA is viewed as a "poor-man's PhD." While I am interested in what hiring committees think I am also concerned about the perceptions across academia.

  • I think your publication record, conferences you gave talks and letters of recommendation (to name a few) will have far greater impact on a hiring committee than the actual title of your degree. And if you are so worried, why not go with "PhD in XX" and get it over with? (Assuming that if you ask, you have some the ability to pick the actual title.)
    – user8458
    Commented Dec 7, 2013 at 2:59
  • @user11852 I agree with the first part of your comment, not the second half. Once you go down one route, it's hard to pull back and do the other one if you change your mind. Better make the right decision at the beginning.
    – Nobody
    Commented Dec 7, 2013 at 4:13
  • @scaaahu: Sorry, I did not express myself accurately probably; I agree with your point. I am just saying that, given the OP can pick one or the other and seeing that no other differences are stated between the two terminal degrees (eg. different granting institutions, supervisors, teaching load, etc.), why wouldn't the OP just go for the "PhD" and not worry?
    – user8458
    Commented Dec 7, 2013 at 14:06
  • @user11852 You are making the assumption that this is for myself. I must advise my students and, therefore, I would like to know how the two options are viewed.
    – earthling
    Commented Dec 8, 2013 at 5:40
  • In that case, as I said originally, what you achieve during your doctoral studies is hugely more important than the three letter acronym you get upon their completion. Choice of institution and supervisor should concern a potential applicant more. Do you have any evidence about the "poor-man's PhD" characterization for DBA? (I can judge only having met "PhD", "EngD" (and "Dr. Rer.Nat.\Ing.") and nobody batted an eye in those cases.)
    – user8458
    Commented Dec 8, 2013 at 14:24

1 Answer 1


While the experience that individual has gained throughout the course of their career is the best indicator of whether an individual has earned the respect of their peers, my impression is that the PhD title is generally more recognized with the public at large (basically those unfamiliar with how advanced degrees are awarded within academic institutions). This is purely a social construct that isn't germane to the field of advanced study.

I see the issue as someone calling a chiropractor a "Doctor" even though there is no award of an MD, or not understanding that a D.O. and an M.D. are basically the same thing.

Now, some universities in Europe do not traditionally award a "PhD" because they have a different three letter acronym for their doctorates. That does not mean that the individual is any less accomplished, its just a different system than the one in the US.

Perhaps one way to explain it to your students is to note what other fields have a similar award. In law, there are Juris Doctorates and PhDs; and in art there are MFAs and PhDs. The primary distinction appears to be what you have already recognized, that one is more about application than research.

To be a bit snarky, there are some fields of study altogether that do not get much appreciation, education being the main one with the award of the D.Ed. I do see some eye rolling when that one comes up, but I've also seen eye rolling from guys in the so called "pure" or "hard" sciences and their opinions of anyone in the humanities or "soft" sciences.

As to directly answer your question, Yes, there are published articles discussing the "perception" of one degree over another. I took a quick stroll on Google Scholar and found a number of published, peer-reviewed articles discussing this very question.

Here is one titled, "Doctoral Differences: Professional doctorates and PhDs compared".

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .