Asking why a business professional might want to pursue a doctorate of business administration degree is like asking why a mountain climber might want to scale Mount Everest.

It's the ultimate credential indicating the highest level of expertise. A pathway to a senior leadership or consulting position. An opportunity to help shape the next generation of business leaders or guide other professionals returning to the classroom for graduate education.

When asked why he wanted to climb Everest, adventurer and author Mark Jenkins referred to the necessity of having to trust the other person at the end of the rope. "Being on the mountain is about being with other people. It's the team that matters."

A precept that applies equally as well to business as it does to mountain climbing.

The Three R's of Saint Leo's DBA: Rigorous, Relevant, Rewarding

Saint Leo University's new DBA degree program provides a rigorous educational opportunity that is relevant and ultimately rewarding.

Lorrie McGovern is Saint Leo University's assistant dean of graduate studies in business. Here she answers some of the most frequently asked questions about the university's newest graduate business degree program.

Why has Saint Leo University decided to offer a DBA degree program?

Dr. McGovern: We hope to prepare educators, business leaders and consultants who can help shape the next generation of ethical and effective business people. The program is really a continuation of our mission to provide a values-centered education – education based on integrity, excellence, respect, community, responsible stewardship, and personal development. These are core values at Saint Leo and underlie our teaching philosophy.

Who should consider a DBA degree?

Dr. McGovern: Anyone thinking about teaching management at the university level or moving into academic leadership would benefit from this program. It's also a good fit for executives in large corporations who are looking to move into senior positions, as well as professionals who are pursuing consulting opportunities. Having the most advanced credentials possible could open up new opportunities for them.

What distinguishes Saint Leo's DBA degree program?

Dr. McGovern: First, we have a real, brick-and-mortar campus where students can come, meet their faculty face-to-face, and connect to the university in a concrete, tangible way. As with every course taught at Saint Leo, whether online, at a center, or at University Campus, the university's core values are incorporated into each class, and they will also be integral to a candidate's dissertation.

Second, so many instructors teaching business courses at the community college or undergraduate levels have years of valuable business experience – and even an MBA degree. But they've never had the opportunity to learn about pedagogy: how to be an effective teacher. Our DBA program provides that foundation in the art of teaching and knowledge base about how people learn. It offers the opportunity for practical teaching experience, but we also provide an option for those not interested in a teaching career.

That said, it's a strong and rigorous curriculum that offers an opportunity for an advanced degree with practical applications for a variety of careers.

How is the DBA degree program structured?

Dr. McGovern: There is a five-day, on-campus seminar at the start of each year-long session. That seminar, which takes place at University Campus, is followed by a year of eight-week, module-based classes that are taken one at a time. All of those classes are online.

At the end of the first two years, students must pass a comprehensive written exam. This exam is the culmination of their doctoral studies. Students are then considered doctoral candidates as they move into the research and writing of their dissertation.

What is covered during the on-ground seminars?

Dr. McGovern: The first seminar is a doctoral success lab that lays the foundation for the entire program. It's an orientation to familiarize students with the program, faculty, policies, procedures, how to do research, academic writing resources, and more.

The seminar that takes place at the start of the second year focuses on quantitative research methods. And the third intersession is a dissertation seminar which prepares you to begin your dissertation.

What is a dissertation?

Dr. McGovern: A dissertation is your culminating research project. It's an opportunity to create new knowledge in a field that you choose – that fits with your professional aspirations. And it can lead to new policies, practices, and solutions in business leadership, so it has managerial relevance.

How long will it take to earn the DBA degree?

Dr. McGovern: Two years of classes and seminars, followed by one to two years for the dissertation. Typically about three to four years; however, students have up to seven years to complete the degree.

How does the program prepare me for teaching?

Dr. McGovern: First you will take a management learning seminar which will cover the various methods used in the classroom for teaching a management class.

You'll learn how to use lectures, case studies, business simulations, experiential field studies, group and project work, and consulting projects. You'll also learn about curriculum development, how to assess student learning, and critical thinking concepts.

Will I have the opportunity to actually teach?

Dr. McGovern: Absolutely! Based on your interests and academic and work experiences, you'll be paired with a faculty member to teach an eight-week online management course. Or if you live close to University Campus, you may have the option of teaching an on-ground class.

Either way, you'll be working with a full-time faculty member with a terminal degree. You'll teach the class, grade discussions, and communicate with students. You'll learn about effective management teaching strategies, how to keep students engaged, and how to manage a classroom.

What if I already know that I am not interested in teaching?

Dr. McGovern: Then you can pursue our consulting or independent track. For business consultants, credentials are critical to establishing yourself as an expert in your particular field.

What if I don't have an MBA degree? Can I still apply for the program?

Dr. McGovern: Yes. As long as you have a graduate-level degree – even if it is in a different discipline – you can apply for Saint Leo's DBA program.

If you don't have a master's degree in a business-related field such as an MBA or a master's in accounting or business, you can expect to take a set of core graduate business courses. This would include statistics, marketing, economics, and financial and managerial accounting.

What are the requirements to apply?

Dr. McGovern: You need to have successfully completed a master's degree or higher from a regionally accredited university with a minimum GPA of 3.25. You also need to have at least three years of work experience.

The paperwork we require includes an official transcript, application, resume, and two letters of recommendation. You will also need to submit a personal statement and schedule an interview.

What qualities do you look for in a strong DBA program candidate?

Dr. McGovern: The DBA is an advanced degree program designed to help seasoned business professionals move into academia or the ranks of senior management, or gain the highest credentials possible for differentiation in the consulting field. So the first quality I would say we look for is strong business experience.

Second, we look for candidates with a passion to influence others – business leaders with a desire to generate new knowledge and to establish themselves as experts and thought leaders in the discipline of management.

And the third characteristic that is important is determination. Completing any advanced degree program is challenging and our DBA degree is no exception. Without a doubt, there will be obstacles to overcome during the DBA journey. So persistence to persevere and overcome those hurdles will be critical to success.

Any advice for prospective doctoral students?

Dr. McGovern: Realize that while the financial investment – as well as the investment of time and effort – is significant, the increased opportunities that are available to people with the D.B.A. credential is even greater. It's the highest business degree possible and it does open doors. Also, if you think that earning a DBA degree is the right goal for you, then act now. Take the steps to achieve your dream.

Are you considering applying to a DBA degree program? Share any questions you might have in comments below.

Other posts you may be interested in reading:

DBA Degree vs PhD: What's the Difference

Why a DBA Degree? Part 1

What a DBA Degree? Part 2

Saint Leo Welcomes First DBA Degree Program Cohort

Image Credit: laogoli on Flickr/Creative Commons