Best Online Ph.D. in Business

December 2, 2021 • 6 Min Read

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Find a program that’s right for you.

Online Ph.D. in business programs train learners for academia careers or senior leadership positions. Applicants typically need an MBA or a similar degree. Many universities accept transfer credit and require a minimum 3.0 GPA. Some schools grant conditional admission on a case-by-case basis.

Students pursuing a Ph.D. in business choose a concentration. Options include project management, health services, and information technology. Enrollees complete core curriculum and then take advanced courses. Some programs include a comprehensive exam, doctoral dissertation, and defense.

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Frequently Asked Questions About a Ph.D. in Business

true Q. How long does it take to earn a Ph.D. in business?

Full-time students can complete online Ph.D. programs in business in 3-4 years. Part-time enrollees may need longer. Top programs offer full- and part-time options.

true Q. What do you learn in a Ph.D. in business program?

Students earn a Ph.D. to specialize in a business subfield. Degree-seekers hone research, communication, and teamwork skills. These and other skills prepare learners for academia careers.

true Q. What is the difference between a Ph.D. and a doctorate?

Professional doctorates appeal to learners planning to stay within their field and not teach at the college level. However, both degrees feature similar academic requirements, such as a dissertation.

Why Get a Ph.D. in Business?

Online Ph.D. in business programs prepare enrollees for diverse careers. Graduates may work as postsecondary teachers, budget analysts, or chief executives. These professionals earn salaries that exceed the national median. Other benefits of earning a Ph.D. in business include feeling personal satisfaction and networking with like-minded peers. Pursuing an on-campus or online Ph.D. can also help students explore new career paths.

Online learning offers many advantages. Learners can attend top programs without relocating. Most online Ph.D. in business programs run asynchronously. This format allows students to complete coursework around other responsibilities.

How Much Does a Ph.D. in Business Cost?

The cost of a Ph.D. in business varies by school and program length. Doctoral degrees cost an average of $114,300, according to Students can save money by attending public, in-state schools. Private, out-of-state universities often charge higher tuition.

Learners can complete the FAFSA to determine their financial aid eligibility. Students may qualify for federal grants or low-interest loans. Enrollees can also apply for scholarships and grants to help pay for their education. Some employers offer tuition-reimbursement programs. These programs help students earn a degree without accruing debt.

Additional Online Student Fees

Online learners do not pay for campus housing or meal plans. However, they should budget for expenses such as books and course materials. Online students may also need to buy new computers or upgrade their internet. Learners can save money by researching student discounts from computer companies.

Some online Ph.D. programs in business charge graduation fees or online learning fees. Other potential expenses include commuting to campus for seminars.

How Much Do Business Majors Make?

Many graduates with a Ph.D. in business work as college lecturers or professors. These professionals earn median annual salaries of $88,010, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Employers in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and California pay the highest salaries. Transportation, storage, and distribution managers earn median annual salaries of $96,390. Employers in the District of Columbia and Delaware pay these managers the highest wages.

Students can increase their salary potential by specializing in fast-growing fields. Some options include accounting, public policy, and finance. Learners can work with academic and career advisors to research job trends and projections.

Courses in a Ph.D. in Business Program

Learners attending online Ph.D. in business programs complete core courses in areas such as micro and macroeconomics. These courses impart the research and teaching skills needed for academia careers. Students take specialization courses after completing core courses.

See below for common courses in finance specializations. Keep in mind that programs' curricula vary despite similar learning objectives. Prospective students can learn more by reviewing programs' websites and course catalogs. Advisors can also provide details.

  • Advanced Microeconomics Theory

    This course requires learners to apply mathematical concepts when analyzing microeconomic principles. Enrollees study consumer behavior and resource allocation best practices. They also examine welfare economics' impact on individuals. Coursework covers uncertainty theory's role in personal decision-making. Degree-seekers take this course after passing introductory micro and macroeconomics courses.
  • Economic Strategies for Firms and Industry

    Students take this course to hone their managerial skills. Coursework involves making conclusions from real-world examples. Analyzing business leaders' successes and failures prepares learners to apply sound decision-making skills in the workplace. Enrollees hone the research skills they need for their dissertation.
  • Graduate Macroeconomic Theory

    This course introduces students to the field's history and different schools of thought. Degree-seekers compare classical and Keynesian economics. Coursework helps learners understand the historical and social trends affecting macroeconomic processes. Students use their knowledge from this course as a foundation for their finance concentration.

Specializations for Business Students

A specialization helps online Ph.D. in business students become experts in a business subfield. Some schools call their specializations concentrations or tracks. Students choose their specialization when enrolling. Graduation requirements include taking upper-division coursework. Learners' specialization influences their dissertation.

Many top online Ph.D. programs in business offer the three specializations below. Keep in mind that curriculum focus and graduation requirements vary among schools. These differences impact the academic experience and graduate outcomes. Learners should review their prospective schools' websites closely before applying. They should also speak with an admissions advisor.

  • Accounting

    Learners complete coursework in economic theory and corporate finance. They also take courses in research seminars in accounting. Like degree-seekers in other specializations, students take preliminary exams before starting their dissertations. Many graduates teach at the university level, start businesses, or work as top executives at large corporations.
  • Management of Organizations

    Students select a macro or microeconomics track. Macro degree-seekers analyze economic sociology and organizational culture. Micro learners research how gender and ethics affect business interactions. All students take courses in teaching business and introduction to psychology. Graduates may work for technology startups, universities, or laboratories.
  • Real Estate

    A real estate concentration prepares learners to research the latest trends in housing, capital markets, and urban economics. Enrollees take many courses alongside their peers specializing in finance. Coursework covers asset pricing theory and empirical asset pricing. Students complete a real estate seminar. Graduates may work for universities, the Federal Reserve Bank, or the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Career and Salary Outlook for Business Majors

Salaries for Ph.D. in business graduates depend on their specialization, position, and employer. High-paying careers include top executive, postsecondary teacher, and economist. Learners can explore these and other opportunities with a career advisor's help.

The BLS projects the three careers below to grow 8-13% from 2020-2030. Click the embedded links to learn about each job's responsibilities and how to enter the profession.

  • Top Executives

    Job titles for top executives include chief executive officer, operations manager, and university president. These professionals oversee organizations, approve contracts, and appoint managers. Top executives also develop long-term financial plans and increase efficiency. Professionals in this role hold a terminal degree and many years of work experience.
  • Postsecondary Teachers

    These professionals educate students at colleges or universities. They advise degree-seekers, create curricula, and serve on school committees. Many educators also perform original research and present findings at conferences. Schools offering tenure-track positions limit applicants to those with a doctorate. Becoming a tenured professor takes about seven years.
  • Economists

    Top economist jobs require a Ph.D. Workers use the skills they honed in graduate school to research economic trends, analyze data, and present findings to stakeholders. Economists also write essays for academic journals. These professionals may work for federal and state government agencies, consulting companies, or insurance companies.
Salary Potential and Growth Rate
Career Median Annual Salary Projected Growth Rate (2020-30)
Top Executives $107,680 8%
Postsecondary Teachers $80,560 12%
Economists $108,350 13%

Source: BLS

Best Online Ph.D. in Business

Baker College true View School Profile Flint, MI 25%

Graduates interested in pursuing a doctorate of business administration may complete the entirety of their coursework online with the Baker College Center for Graduate Studies. All of Baker College’s campuses offer the services students require to make their aspirations a reality, whether it's academic advising, tutoring, or career advisement. At Baker College, students are ensured one-on-one time with their instructors, as class sizes are averaged at 25 students, and most instructors have had many years of real-world experience. Courses are able to stay up-to-date with Baker College’s Advisory Board, which is made up of professionals and employers specific to a field of study.

Concordia University-Chicago true View School Profile River Forest, IL 49%

Concordia University Chicago offers an excellent opportunity for graduates who wish to further their education with a doctoral program in organizational leadership. Because this program is offered through both online and on-campus courses, students will be able to build a personalized academic plan that will fit into their schedules. The faculty at Concordia University Chicago is aware of the financial burden an academic career may cause, and is proud to offer numerous financial aid opportunities to students that exhibit excellence in their studies. Incoming freshman are able to transition comfortably into their upcoming academic careers with Concordia University Chicago’s Jump Start orientation program.

Indiana Wesleyan University true View School Profile Marion, IN 70%

Students interested in completing their doctorate in organizational leadership may wish to apply for the academic program at Indiana Wesleyan University. Split between on-campus and online coursework, this PhD program allows students the flexibility necessary to work their studies into their busy lives. Indiana Wesleyan University disperses thousands of dollars of institutional aid in the form of grants, scholarships, loans, and veterans benefits every year. There are nearly 40 student clubs and organizations at Indiana Wesleyan, including intramural sports and performance arts. Student services include a health center, career center, recreational facilities, and academic advising.

Johnson University true View School Profile Knoxville, TN 62%

In 1893, Johnson University became a residential academic institution and a correspondence bible college. Today it offers degree programs at three campuses and online. JU’s PhD in Leadership Studies interdisciplinary degree program is offered entirely online. Doctoral students can choose from concentrations in Educational Leadership, Organizational Leadership, Philosophy and Theology of Leadership, and Missional Leadership. The leadership core classes are made up of global studies, leadership studies and theory, organizational studies and theory, intercultural behavior, worldview, and communication. Students culminate their doctoral studies with preparation and defense of a dissertation reflecting independent research.

National Graduate School of Quality Management true View School Profile Falmouth, MA
Our Lady of the Lake University View School Profile San Antonio, TX 27%

Our Lady of the Lake University was founded by the Sisters of the Congregation of Divine Providence in 1895. Today, it enrolls more than 300 doctoral students across a range of programs representing the pinnacle of academic attainment. The interdisciplinary Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Leadership Studies program prepares graduates for roles in business, education, and healthcare fields, among others. Requiring completion of 75 semester credit hours, the PhD centers around a 4-5 year-long course sequence and concludes with the student’s delivery and defense of a dissertation. Applicants must hold a master’s degree.

Pennsylvania State University View School Profile University Park, PA 86%

Located on the Pennsylvania State University-Main Campus, the Smeal College of Business has offered degree programs since 1953. Its PhD Program enrolls only a limited number of students each year. Doctoral students benefit from the college’s research centers and institutes dedicated to the study of supply chain management, commercial real estate, and B2B marketing. PhD students are expected to complete graduate-level courses in research methodology in addition to their choice of concentration among options in accounting, finance, management and organization, marketing, supply chain and information systems, or real estate. Students assist faculty members in projects leading to jointly authored papers.

Southern New Hampshire University View School Profile Manchester, NH 59%
University of Charleston View School Profile Charleston, WV 41%

The University of Charleston was established as Barboursville Seminary in 1888. Its original enrollment of 25 students has grown to more than 2,400 students today. The university’s Doctor of Executive Leadership degree is offered entirely online except for an annual residence at the Charleston campus each year. General curriculum includes studies in leadership, decision-making, ethics, collaboration and the international business environment. Five research courses are required in methods, data analysis and interpretation. Students are also required to complete two proseminars and a dissertation. Applicants must hold a master’s or first professional degree for consideration.

University of Maryland-University College View School Profile Adelphi, MD 4%
University of Minnesota-Twin Cities View School Profile Minneapolis, MN 73%

The PhD in Business Administration degree at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities is directed by the Carlson School of Management, founded in 1919 as the University of Minnesota School of Business. Students in the PhD can choose from concentrations in Accounting, Finance, Information and Decision Sciences, Marketing, Supply Chain and Operations, Strategic Management and Entrepreneurship, Work and Organizations. During their first two years, students are expected to complete a minimum of 40 semester credits along with 20 hours per week in assigned teaching assistantships. Milestones include a preliminary and oral exam, and a dissertation proposal and final defense.

University of the Cumberlands View School Profile Williamsburg, KY 45%

At the University of the Cumberlands, prospective doctoral students can pursue their PhD in leadership to advance their business credentials and knowledge. In order to gain organizational leadership proficiency, students will learn various critical thinking and decision making strategies through research, analytics, and communication, and gain specialized knowledge in business leadership. This program is expected to take three years to complete. Financial assistance such as FAFSA, loans, and scholarships are provided for nearly 97 percent of the student population along with various payment plans to make programs financially accessible to students.

Wilmington University View School Profile New Castle, DE 34%

Graduates who wish to earn their doctorate in business administration may be interested in applying for a program with Wilmington University. Students receive their education in a hybrid format, combining both online and in-class learning. With proportional student-to-faculty ratios, Wilmington University gives its students the necessary one-on-one time with their teachers to ensure academic achievement. With state-of-the-art housing and dining facilities, Wilmington University facilitates the personal growth of its students, providing a feeling of communal bonding. Students are also able to regulate their health and wellness with the health and disability service centers at Wilmington University.

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