Is a Doctorate in Business Management As Good As a PhD | Regenesys

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The exponential growth of the 4th and 5th industrial revolutions has been accompanied by increasing pressure from organisations to stay ahead of the technology curve. Whether you are in industry or academia, if you have a masters, you need to upgrade your expertise and help to expand the knowledge base at doctorate level to stay ahead in this ever-changing business environment. 

this article covers:

  • Evolution of the doctorate
  • Which doctoral programmes are available in South Africa?
  • Should you earn a DBM or a PhD?
  • Comparing the typical PhD with a DBM
  • Programme differences
  • Management career differences
  • PhD careers
  • DBM careers
  • Core modules
  • Entry requirements

Evolution of the doctorate

Doctoral degrees have a long and interesting history. In 9th century madrassas, individual teachers awarded ijaza (licences to teach particular subjects or books, earned on the strength of students’ ability to deduce religious law from Islamic texts). By the 12th century European universities were awarding licences to teach Latin – licentia docendi – and it is from this term, literally “licence to teach”, that “doctorate” evolved (Noble, 1994). By the 1800s the doctorate had been adopted as the highest-level academic qualification in Europe and North America.

The original doctorate was awarded in a vertical articulation of the studies. For example, if a master’s degree was completed in a specific field such as law, a doctorate in law would have been conferred on the student. Likewise, if a master’s degree was completed in theology, the doctorate conferred would have been in theology. 

The question then arose as to what would happen if you wanted to do a doctorate in a field different from the one you studied before. The doctor of philosophy degree – the PhD – became the designation for doctoral degrees in disciplines outside a student’s original field, with the first awarded in Paris in 1150.

The key issue is that when you are in a specific field – say accounting – and are moving up in that specific field (“articulating vertically”), you tackle a related doctoral degree such as a doctorate in business management or a doctorate in business administration. Another example is a doctorate in accounting, through which someone with an accounting master’s degree would, through his or her research in pursuit of the higher qualification, help to expand the existing body of knowledge in the field.  

In contrast to a doctorate in business administration and a doctorate in business management, the research undertaken for a PhD contributes to new knowledge in a field not necessarily related to a student’s original field of study (not “vertically articulated”). 

Which doctoral programmes are available in South Africa?

The Council on Higher Education points out that both variants of the doctoral qualification may be offered by academic institutions in South Africa: a general doctoral degree (PhD), and a professional doctoral degree (Leitch,  2022) such as a Doctorate of Business Management (DBM). “The defining characteristic of the general doctorate is that the candidate is required to demonstrate high-level research capability and to make a significant and original academic contribution at the frontiers of a discipline or field. In the case of the professional doctorate, the defining characteristic is that in addition to the demonstration of high level research capability, it requires the ability to integrate theory with practice through the application of theoretical knowledge (developed through accompanying coursework, with the option of accompanying work-integrated learning) to highly complex problems in a wide range of professional contexts. 

“While the focus of the general doctoral degree was originally understood in terms of the provision of education and training more aligned with an academic career, it has since been recognised that the national and global labour market for doctoral graduates has expanded beyond that of an academic career.

“The professional doctoral degree is designed around the development of high-level performance and innovation in a professional context.”

Should you earn a doctorate in business or a PhD? 

Which is the more worthwhile qualification for you – a doctorate in business management or a PhD in management? When considering your options, what matters is how well the qualification requirements align with your career goals and interests. 

Both are NQF level 10 degrees – the highest that can be awarded in South Africa. Both involve conducting extensive research, extensive data analysis, the creation of new knowledge useful to industry and society as a whole, and both are highly respected in the academic and business worlds.

While the doctorate in business management is considered a professional doctorate,  the PhD is an academic doctorate. The latter focuses mainly on developing theories and addressing gaps in theory, while the former concentrates on solving real-world organisational problems, making it more suitable for anyone pursuing a career in business or consulting. 

Both degrees require the student to identify a research area where there are adequate academic articles and text books that are peer reviewed by well recognised academics in your field of study. This implies that the theories and models have been statistically proven against established benchmarks and tools of analysis. 

You will also need to consider which academic or industry-accepted body of knowledge you will add value to in completing this degree. Examples of bodies of knowledge are the Project Management Body of Knowledge produced by the Project Management Institute, and the Generally Accepted Accounting Practice Body of Knowledge. The first is supported by sound academic research and has been tested in practice by registered professional project managers. The second  specifies how and why certain accounting policies, procedures and documentation are used. 

Comparing the typical PhD with a  doctorate in business

A Typical PhD Curriculum Requires Regenesys’ DBM Curriculum Requires
  • A research proposal that does not have to be related to the student’s master’s studies;
  • A research proposal that aims to find efficient, effective solutions to a real-world business problem through in-depth research;
  • Must contribute to the evolution of the field of business management and the human sciences body of knowledge through:
    • The evaluation of management and systems-thinking principles at the heart of the design and evolution of research to add to the body of knowledge;
    • Appraisal of the relevance of emerging management theories and practices from an interdisciplinary and social change perspective;
  • Must contribute to the professional body of business and management knowledge through:
    • In-depth study of the application of current research to solve practical problems in business and management;
    • In-depth research to solve complex, real-world problems in business and management;
  • Lead to the identification and addressing of gaps in the existing body of management knowledge, and contextualise them in the academically proven theoretical body of knowledge;
  • Make feasible recommendations based on a sound academic literature review, as well as secondary and primary data sources; and
  • These recommendations must be set out in an action plan, supported by a detailed cost-benefit analysis that makes clear the rationale underpinning the recommendations and action plan.
  • Lead to development of reliable and accurate new models, proven through rigorous statistical modelling and supported by extensive literature and practice review, to solve the problem identified and in so doing contribute to positive change in business and society;
  • Make feasible recommendations based on a sound academic literature review, as well as secondary and primary data sources; and
  • These recommendations must be set out in an action plan, supported by a detailed cost-benefit analysis that makes clear the rationale underpinning the recommendations and action plan.

Programme differences

Traditionally when studying towards a PhD in management, you will complete a dissertation for which you conduct scholarly and original research with the goal of addressing a gap in the body of knowledge in the field of business management. In RegenesysDoctorate of Business Management programme, you will typically take advanced business and research modules, and conduct a doctoral study that requires scholarly and original research focused on developing a practical solution to a business problem.

The Council on Higher Education points out that no matter which degree you choose, candidates “must demonstrate the same level of research-related intellectual achievement. Both carry 360 credits at NQF level 10, requiring 3,600 hours” – or two years’ – full-time study, according to the Higher Education Qualifications Subframework.

Is a doctorate in business management as good as a PhD

Management career differences

While a doctoral degree can help you achieve your professional goals and make a significant contribution to the relevant body of knowledge, it can also help a business create a competitive advantage in the marketplace and reposition it as a more sustainable entity, those who earn these degrees usually take slightly different career paths. For example:

PhD careers

  • Academic facilitator, which may lead to a professorship at a university;
  • Researcher and consultant in a specialised business segment, or in academia;  
  • Researching new trends to create implementation scenarios;
  • Policy advocate in the public or private sector.  

Doctorate in business management careers

  • Business strategy and board-level work;
  • Creating governance structures and systems for a business;
  • Business consulting and evaluation of business strategies and sustainability;
  • Leadership and management in business;
  • Entrepreneur or business owner.

How you can earn your Doctorate of Business Management at Regenesys Business School

This programme develops complex problem-solving capabilities through application of a rigorous scientific research process that will contribute to creation of new knowledge in management and leadership.

Core modules

You will study:

  • Introduction to research at doctoral level;
  • Research methodology;


  • Carry out your research;
  • And defend your study.

Click here for details on how to register for the programme.


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DBA, MBL, MBA, BTech Academic Team Leader and Senior Lecturer Regenesys Business School

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