DM vs. PhD vs. DBA Overview | Weatherhead

DM vs. PhD vs. DBA Overview

What is the difference between professional doctorate degrees such as the DM, DBA and PhD degree? Which one should you pursue for your desired career path? Can you still work while pursuing a degree and what kind of work can you seek after finishing a degree? We hear your questions, and we are here to help.

Multiple doctoral degrees in business management are available, which all intend to integrate relevance and rigor in their academic and teaching missions. Three such degrees are the Doctor of Management (DM) degree offered by the Weatherhead School of Management, the Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) degree offered by many business schools around the country and the PhD in Management: Designing Sustainable Systems (PhD: DSS) offered by the Weatherhead School of Management. Each of these degrees focus on applying evidence based research to solving real world problems.  The DM and DBA focus more on practical outcomes and implications of research (practitioner-scholar) while the PhD: DSS focuses more on academic or scholarly outcomes (scholar-practitioner).

One way to characterize these professional doctorate degrees and how they differ from a “traditional” academic PhD degree is the following:

  • The DM practitioner-scholar looks to make a contribution by applying or developing focal theory; the traditional PhD scholar seeks to make a contribution with generalized theory;
  • The DM practitioner-scholar is a problem solver; the traditional PhD  scholar is a theory developer;
  • The DM practitioner-scholar asks how do I get over this hurdle?  While the traditional PhD scholar asks, how do I understand and explain this hurdle better?  
  • The DM practitioner-scholar draws upon integrative education; the traditional PhD scholar draws upon highly specialized disciplinary education. 

Career options for the practitioner-focused degrees allow the graduate to consider opportunities for new and expanded responsibilities in their organizations, or use their new skill set as consultants, or for transitioning into academic settings to teach either full- or part-time while conducting practitioner focused research. Each of the three degrees have unique aspects to consider.

The DM Degree

The DM degree was established at Case Western Reserve University in the Weatherhead School of Management in 1995 as the first practitioner-scholar degree in management schools that combined relevance of real world issues with the rigor of scholarly methods and theories to produce evidence-based explanations to problems of practice. To accomplish this goal the curriculum balances content classes in business management, including leadership, ethics, innovation, sustainability, and strategy with an equal emphasis on mixing qualitative and quantitative research methods to understand and explain real world problems. DM graduates have successfully anchored their careers in practice and / or teaching in all fields and disciplines of management that focus on advancing the use of research methods and theory in understanding and shaping practical business problems. About 70% of the DM graduates have some affiliation to academic institutions and research and teaching.

The DBA Degree

A Doctor of Business Administration Degree (DBA) degree (sometimes also called Executive DBA) is comparable to a DM Degree. DBA curricula often emphasize more on business applications and functional disciplines and may have less of a focus on teaching rigorous research methods. 

However, both the DM and the DBA are designed for experienced working professionals who desire to influence the future of business management as leaders in organizations, consultants and professors, while continuing to work and go to school full time.

The primary outcome of both of the DM and DBA degrees is practitioner-scholarship. Such scholarship is driven by identifying problems of practice; i.e., problematizing everyday recurring issues in organizations, and producing through systematic application of research methods evidence and research knowledge that contributes to solving these problems. The DM and DBA degrees are typically three-year residency based programs requiring 10-15 years of business management experience. The number and length of the residencies and the level of on-line elements in the programs vary significantly.

The PhD in Management: Designing Sustainable Systems

The PhD in Management option in the DM programs at Weatherhead is a degree program offered as an option for qualified DM students who want to further the theoretical impact of their research while connecting their research to practice. This degree option has additional research requirements and it takes a minimum of a year to conduct the necessary research for the PhD in Management: DSS degree. The option is meant for DM students who have strong interest in advancing quality academic research around real world problems. The PhD: DSS graduates are expected to make significant contributions toward academic scholarship in a specific field or discipline in ways that have significant implications to practice. Due to this dual focus, the PhD in Management: Designing Sustainable Systems students are often referred to as scholar-practitioners.  The PhD: DSS option prepares graduates for academic teaching and research careers and offers strong opportunities for research based management consulting.

The DM Programs – both DM and the PhD in Management: DSS – are steadfast in the focus of recruiting and training well-accomplished practitioners to undertake thoughtful, rigorous research that has a high degree of relevance.