The United States Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that employment for business and financial operations occupations is expected to grow by five percent over the next eight years. Business executives face steep competition when seeking career advancement. Online DBA programs are now available from reputable schools and they are designed for business professionals who require a non-traditional path toward a doctoral degree. By earning a DBA online, you gain valuable skills and knowledge that can be helpful in distinguishing you from your competition.
Top 20 Most Affordable Online Doctor of Business Administration Programs Methodology
We looked at 77 accredited colleges and universities listed by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) College Navigator that offered online Doctor of Business Administration programs. We narrowed our original pool of schools by applying particular criteria, such as graduate tuition & fees less than $20,000 per year and recognition by a major publication like U.S. News & World Report. We then listed the schools and their programs according to raw affordability to generate a list of the top 20 most affordable DBA programs online.
Top 20 Online Doctor of Business Administration Programs
#20 – University of the Incarnate Word
San Antonio, Texas
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $19,122
The hybrid online DBA at the University of the Incarnate Word is considered one of the most affordable programs available. The doctoral program blends technology with face-to-face instruction. Students earn nine credit hours per 16-week semester and are required to obtain 45 credits. Courses cover topics like business ethics, business operations & process improvement, contemporary global issues, and marketing research & analysis. According to U.S. News & World Report, the University of the Incarnate Word ranks among top national universities. Some current rankings are #272 in the list of best national universities and #44 in top performers on social mobility.
#19 – Creighton University
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $17,898
At Creighton University, doctoral students may earn an affordable online DBA from an AACSB-accredited business school. Recognized as a hybrid program, the online DBA at Creighton is a research-oriented doctorate that prepares students with research skills that can be used throughout their career. Students take 22 courses, many of which are delivered online. Courses cover topics like applied strategy research, business ethics, design & method replication, reflective practice, and survey of business pedagogy. Applicants must hold an MBA or other advanced degree plus five years of professional or managerial experience. However, with an undergraduate business degree, ten years of professional experience are required.
#18 – Franklin University
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $16,080
Franklin University’s online DBA accepts up to 24 hours of transfer credits, cutting the completion time in half. In fact, the program typically takes only three years to complete, including one year for the dissertation. Classes are delivered online to accommodate working professionals. These courses cover topics like ethics & social responsibility, organizational behavior & effectiveness, organizational performance analysis, and organizational systems perspective theory & application. Ideal candidates for admission should have at least 12 years of management experience, with at least seven years at the senior management or executive level. Franklin is fully accredited and recognized by U.S. News & World Report as a top business school.
#17 – Jacksonville University
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $14,706
The Jacksonville University online Doctor of Business Administration is a professional doctorate designed to prepare business leaders to approach issues in new ways. By developing analytical approaches to solve real-world problems, graduates of the Jacksonville online DBA program are valuable assets to any industry. Courses cover topics like advanced statistics & applications, archival research methods, entrepreneurial behavior in organizations, quantitative methods executive decision making, and technical & analytical innovation. Jacksonville, a fully accredited institution, ranks with U.S. News & World Report as #29 in best regional universities in the South and #37 in best value schools.
#16 – Johnson & Wales University
Providence, Rhode Island
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $13,734
Johnson & Wales University’s online DBA program is designed to meet industry needs across sectors of business, education, government, healthcare, and military. This program is fast and rigorous, taking approximately three years to complete. Courses run eight weeks in length, giving students the ability to cover content speedily. Courses are administered online, and students are required to maintain a 3.0 GPA with no course grade lower than B-. Courses cover topics like contemporary leadership issues, organizational behavior, innovation & change, and problems & methods in marketing management. Johnson & Wales ranks with major publications like U.S. News & World Report. Their rankings include #96 in best regional universities in the North and #80 in top performers on social mobility.
#15 – Indiana Wesleyan University
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $13,440
Indiana Wesleyan University’s Doctor of Business Administration online program is unique in its specialization options. The online DBA offers specializations in accounting, healthcare administration, information systems, and management. By choosing a specialization, doctoral students can tailor their degree toward an area of interest. Required courses of the DBA program cover topics like current issues for the virtuous organization, data analytics & research, economic analysis for virtuous leaders, and the craft of academic writing for business. IWU is fully accredited and ranks with major publications like U.S. News & World Report. These rankings include #15 in best regional universities in the Midwest and #63 in best value schools.
#14 – Thomas Edison State University
Trenton, New Jersey
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $12,024
Thomas Edison State University’s online DBA program offers areas of specialization in general management, HR management, and organizational leadership. To qualify for admission to the program, applicants must hold a master’s degree in business or a closely related discipline and have at least a 3.0 GPA. A minimum of three years of professional experience is also required. Students earn a total of 48 credits. Up to six doctoral level transfer credits are accepted. Courses cover topics like critical thought & informed action, empirical entrepreneurship, and global business context. In addition to being fully accredited, TESU ranks with major publications like U.S. News & World Report.
#13 – University of Missouri
Saint Louis, Missouri
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $12,007
The University of Missouri offers affordable DBA programs online that are flexible and cohort-based. The program is AACSB-accredited and takes approximately three years to complete. Students are required to earn 60 credit hours by taking online classes and meeting face-to-face one weekend per month. Online classes cover interdisciplinary topics with a focus on general management and business issues. According to the program’s website, ideal admission candidates hold an MBA or post-baccalaureate degree, work full time, and have 10-20 years of management experience. In addition to being AACSB-accredited, the University of Missouri ranks with U.S. News & World Report as a top national university.
#12 – Bellevue University
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $11,205
Bellevue University’s online DBA program is made up of 55 credit hours and requires no dissertation. Designed with the working professional in mind, the affordable DBA online degree takes just three years to complete from start to finish. The program is structured so that doctoral students earn their degree entirely online. This program’s flexible structure has built-in two-week breaks between every course that help students recharge and make time for outside obligations. Courses cover topics like business & society, human capital development, leadership in global organizations, and organizational communication. Bellevue ranks with U.S. News & World Report as the 119th-156th best regional university in the Midwest and 139th top performer on social mobility.
#11 – Grand Canyon University
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $11,074
Grand Canyon University offers DBA programs online, including one with an emphasis in management. This program may be completed entirely online, and it offers flexible course formatting for working professionals. Courses cover advanced business topics like accounting practices, applied business probability & statistics, finance principles, and marketing management. The focus of the DBA is on management. Students earn 60 credits for the highly specialized DBA. Classes run eight weeks in length and move at a rigorous pace. GCU is fully accredited and ranks with major publications like U.S. News & World Report. In fact, GCU ranks #298-#389 in the list of best national universities and #39 in top performers on social mobility.
#10 – Southern Wesleyan University
Central, South Carolina
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $10,170
Southern Wesleyan University offers an affordable Doctor of Business Administration online program that is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges & Schools Commission on Colleges. SWU is also a candidate for ACBSP accreditation. The online DBA consists of 60 credits with seven-week classes. Students earn their degree in three years. Courses cover topics like contemporary issues in management, critical thinking in business, human resource development, management ethics & Christian values in business, organizational design & behavior, and servant leadership. Research and dissertation are also components of the online DBA at SWU. In addition to being SACSC-accredited, SWU ranks with U.S. News & World Report as the 77th best regional university in the South.
#9 – Concordia University
River Forest, Illinois
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $9,180
Concordia University offers an accredited online Doctor of Business Administration program that is designed to meet the demand for doctoral business education. With an affordable price and unique specializations, the online DBA at Concordia is a top choice for business professionals seeking an advanced degree. Specialization options are available in areas like innovation in health care management, innovations in human resources, marketing innovations, and strategic leadership & innovation. To apply to the program, students must have an MBA or business-related master’s degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA and five years of professional work experience. In addition to Concordia’s accreditation and affordability, the school is ranked with major publications like U.S. News & World Report.
#8 – Touro University Worldwide
Los Alamitos, California
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $9,000
Touro University Worldwide offers an online DBA that can be completed with no campus visits. The 100% online Doctor of Business Administration from Touro is recognized as one of the fastest on our list. In just two years, students may finish their online DBA. Courses run eight weeks in length and cover topics like business & management across cultures, ethics for business professionals, financial principles & management in business, and theories of organizational behavior in business. The Touro DBA requires no GRE for admission and no residency while earning the degree. Touro is fully accredited with WSCUC and recognized by major publications like U.S. News & World Report.
#7 – University of Maryland Global Campus
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $8,910
The University of Maryland Global Campus offers an affordable Doctor of Business Administration online program designed for working professionals. The 48-credit DBA online degree is open to executive-level professionals seeking an advanced degree. Core courses cover topics like data analytics in practice, designing evidence-based management solutions, evidence-based research methods, interpreting & translating management theory in practice, and research as a tool for management decision making. UMGC ranks with U.S. News & World Report as the 136th-176th best regional university in the North and as the 9th most innovative school. Also, the institution is fully accredited. More than one application deadline is offered throughout the year, which adds to the program’s flexibility.
#6 – Wilmington University
New Castle, Delaware
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $8,834
One of the most affordable online DBA programs on our list is offered by Wilmington University in New Castle, Delaware. The DBA program is open to managers, leaders, educators, and consultants seeking to enhance competencies and skills needed to make an impact in the business world. The IACBE-accredited DBA is a 100% online program and can be completed in as little as three years. Required courses cover topics like business intelligence, ethics in business & management, experiential learning & leadership issues, global management models, managing innovation & change, and statistics for research. Wilmington ranks with major publications like U.S. News & World Report as the 298th-389th best national university.
#5 – Marshall University
Huntington, West Virginia
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $8,728
Marshall University’s Brad D. Smith School of Business offers an online DBA that is both affordable and flexible. The research-based doctoral program consists of 66 credits and takes three years to complete. While the program is considered to be hybrid, most classes take place online. What makes the Marshall DBA program unique are the three specializations that allow students to tailor their degree toward an area of interest. Specializations are accountancy, health care management, and management & entrepreneurship. Also, the business school is AACSB-accredited. Marshall ranks with major publications like U.S. News & World Report as the 284th best national university.
#4 – Liberty University
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $8,400
Liberty University’s affordable Doctor of Business Administration online program provides a sixty-credit hour degree that takes 3.5 years to complete. Classes are delivered 100% online and run in eight-week sequences. Eligible students may transfer up to 15 credit hours, which adds to the program’s flexibility. The DBA offers several specialization options designed to allow students to tailor their degree toward areas of their interest. Some of the available concentrations are accounting, finance, healthcare management, international business, marketing, project management, strategic management, and supply chain management & logistics. Successful admission to the DBA program requires a regionally or nationally accredited master’s degree with a 3.0 GPA. Liberty is accredited and ranked with major publications like U.S. News & World Report.
#3 – Saint Leo University
Saint Leo, Florida
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $7,296
Saint Leo University’s online DBA is designed to prepare graduates for academic leadership, consulting, or teaching positions. Courses are delivered online and are flexibly structured to accommodate busy and working professionals. Courses cover advanced business topics like analytics for decision making, applied research, global leadership & ethics, global perspectives in human resource, research methods, and strategic management in global organizations. Saint Leo is accredited and ranked with major publications. The school’s reputation includes rankings from U.S. News & World Report. Some rankings are 26th in best regional universities in the South, 14th in best colleges for veterans, and fourth in best value schools.
#2 – Trident University International
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $6,120
Trident University International offers an online Doctor of Business Administration designed for business professionals seeking to advance in consulting careers and executive positions. The DBA can be completed 100% online and builds on master’s-level knowledge (typically from a MBA) to deepen analysis and research skills. Doctoral students take 36-48 semester credits worth of core courses. Course topics include applied statistics for research in business & management and technology & business process improvement. Eligibility for admission requires a minimum of five years of professional work experience in business or other closely related professional field. Trident is accredited and recognized by U.S. News & World Report.
#1 – Columbia Southern University
Orange Beach, Alabama
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $3,915
The most affordable online DBA on our list is offered by Columbia Southern University. The online Doctor of Business Administration at CSU requires that students complete a dissertation and defend their research prior to graduation. Though an online degree, students forge relationships with peers and faculty through the school’s graduate mentorship. Courses cover advanced business topics like business ethics & corporate responsibility, corporate finance, human resource management, international business & global strategy, management accounting & control systems, and negotiations & business strategy. Columbia Southern is an accredited member of the Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC) and offers the most affordable online DBA program on our list.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the difference between an online Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) and a PhD?
In general, people who enroll in online DBA programs have already achieved success in business. Most DBA degree candidates have worked for years in a professional business setting managing teams and organizations. These individuals typically hold an MBA or a closely related master’s degree in management of an area of business. For them, returning to school for an online DBA means career advancement and the completion of research in a practical area of business.
PhD candidates often have a different goal in mind than students seeking a DBA degree. PhD students are often younger, have little to no practical work experience, and desire to enter academia or a research-based setting following graduation.
Most PhD programs are full-time, while DBA programs may be completed on a part-time basis and fully online. DBA programs typically take three to four years to complete, while a PhD program may take in excess of five years. If you are considering a PhD or DBA, it is important to evaluate your goals and the time you are able to devote to coursework and research. If your time is limited due to outside obligations, such as work and family life, an online DBA program may fit your needs better than a PhD in business.
What is the average time for an online Doctor of Business Administration program?
The online Doctor of Business Administration (online DBA) is designed to equip graduates to lead, consult, educate, and research in corporate or academic venues. Generally, online DBA programs require that applicants hold a master’s in business administration or a closely related degree. If you enter a DBA program with an MBA, you will have already completed essential courses and gained a strong foundation for your doctoral degree. But since DBA programs require a higher level of research and competency than MBA programs, significant time is required.
Ordinarily, online DBA programs typically take between three and six years to complete. Some of the accelerated programs on our list allow students to move at their own pace and earn a doctoral degree in just three years. The length of completion depends on enrollment. For individuals wanting to earn a degree at a quicker rate, full-time enrollment is essential. Part-time enrollment means a longer time is required to complete the online DBA.
Additionally, online DBA candidates typically complete a doctoral dissertation and pass a comprehensive examination as part of satisfying degree requirements. The dissertation integrates research, writing, and defense components. All aspects of the degree take time. The online DBA, though fast-paced, requires methodical study in a particular area of interest.
What is the career outlook for individuals with an online DBA?
The overall employment of top executives, such as chief executives (CEOs) and general and operations managers is projected to grow eight percent through the year 2026. Business and financial operations occupations overall are expected to increase by 10 percent through 2026. This steady increase will be driven by the formation of new organizations and the expansion of existing ones. This is a two to three percent faster growth rate than all other occupations.
Job prospects for chief executives and general or operations managers should be favorable, though strong competition for positions is expected. The high earnings potential and prestige associated with these positions attract qualified applicants and increase competition for jobs. By earning an advanced degree, such as an online DBA, you will set yourself apart from the competition.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, top executives like general and operations managers should see a steady growth in new jobs. CEO positions may face the most competition due to highly qualified candidates, but those with an advanced degree and extensive experience, particularly in leadership and management roles, will have the best job prospects.
What earnings potential do I have with an online Doctor of Business Administration?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Occupational Outlook Handbook, the median annual wage for chief executives in May of 2017 was $183,370. The lowest 10 percent of all top executives, according to BLS, earned less than $68,110, while the highest ten percent earned more than $208,000 on average. Executives are the top earners for all business management positions we looked at.
The median annual wage for general and operations managers, as reported by BLS, in May 2017 was $100,410. The lowest ten percent in these occupations earned less than $44,000 per year while the highest ten percent earned more than $208,000 per year.
Salary varies among industry. Those working as chief executives and top-level managers in professional, scientific, and technical services earn the highest wages, while those in retail trade earn the lowest. Compensation packages also vary. For corporate executives, compensation packages include stock options and performance bonuses, while nonprofit execs receive fewer incentives.
With responsibility comes extended work hours. Most executives work more than forty hours per week. In fact, the majority report working evenings and weekends. BLS reports that in 2016, about fifty percent of top executives worked more than 40 hours per week.
What are the admission requirements for online Doctor of Business Administration programs?
For most online Doctor of Business Administration programs, the application process includes different phases designed to determine qualified candidates. Preferred qualifications vary, but most require an earned MBA or master’s level degree from a regionally or nationally accredited college or university. Some programs may also require the completion of particular classes, such as business ethics or statistics. Admission boards always request official transcripts, and many require satisfactory GPAs. The programs on our list typically require satisfactory undergraduate GPAs and at least a 3.0 graduate GPA.
Evidence of work experience in a management role is also important to online DBA programs. The number of years of experience varies, but the average preferred length of time is six years of significant professional and/or senior level management experience. If you do not have the requested minimum professional experience, be prepared to explain why your qualifications compensate for the absence of work history. In some cases, consulting, teaching, or volunteer experience will be sufficient.
Also, admissions require a track record of success. Professional achievements and personal development are often favorably looked upon, so be sure to document your success. Additional requirements may also include leading major projects or preparing written work that is under publication review.
BCO Staff: March 2021
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This concludes our list of top 20 most affordable online Doctor of Business Administration programs.