How Doctorate-Level Executives Can Succeed In Today’s Business Landscape

How Doctorate-Level Executives Can Succeed In Today’s Business Landscape

According to a recent study from McKinsey & Company, some jobs are being replaced by automation while others, facilitated by technology platforms, are becoming more globally dispersed – changes that are leading many companies to rethink their talent strategy. With this broad focus, companies are creating highly specific divisions that require personnel who are extremely well-versed in specialized areas. Thus, businesses are finding greater value from leaders who have acquired extensive knowledge in a specific area of expertise.

Traditionally, an MBA education was enough to give you a major leg up in the business world, but the complexity of the modern world is challenging that notion. Today, businesses are coveting leaders with institutional knowledge and are trained in analyzing data to generate conclusions that can help with decision-making.

As an academic and a professional with experience in the technology industry, I believe there is a major gap in specialized expertise that can be filled by professionals with an executive doctorate in business, also known as Doctorate in Business Administration or DBA.


An MBA provides a broad education that covers many disciplines, while a DBA will uniquely qualify a candidate in an area of expertise. Research shows how those highly technical and specialized skills will deliver greater value to companies now and in the future. Though most people believe a doctorate level professional is headed for academic pursuits, National Science Foundation numbers show that 39% of those receiving doctoral degrees in business seek jobs outside of academia.

Professionals with a DBA practice applied research skills and develop confidence that is backed by defensible knowledge. Therefore, a DBA degree helps aspiring and current executives stand out from the crowd: DBAs are the highest level of qualification in management education and DBA holders represent only 2% of those who hold post-graduate business degrees.

DBA candidates and graduates can help businesses make a positive impact on the workplace and in the world. At Pepperdine’s Graziadio Business School, for example, while our MBA programs aim to develop strong leaders through existing business knowledge, students in the DBA program create new knowledge rooted in practical implementation.


Take Sharifa Batts, vice president of ESG and safety at Ports America and a Pepperdine Graziadio Executive DBA graduate from the Class of 2022. While going through the Pepperdine DBA program, Batts created and implemented safety protocols that enabled Ports America to enhance its operations. Additionally, she has led safety improvements resulting in a 38% decrease in their lost time injury frequency rate over the past three years. In 2021, the Pacific Division of Ports America had an almost 50% decrease with the number of lost time injuries.

DBA programs are valuable for seasoned, top-tier executives and management in order to take the next step in their careers. While DBA programs are a commitment, they take much less time than a PhD program and a candidate doesn’t have to leave their respective industry to complete the degree. A DBA can bolster credibility and give candidates a leg up on the corporate ladder. The laser-focus of DBA programs make candidates the authority of a subject, and a sought after executive in any company’s C-suite.

Nelson Granados is a professor of information systems and technology management at Pepperdine University’s Gaziadio Business School in Malibu, California. 

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