Study Organizational Leadership: Masters, PhD & Online Degree Info

About this article
What will you learn in an organizational leadership master's degree or PhD program? Read about organizational leadership degree requirements, the pros and cons of a master's and PhD program and potential careers.
View available schools

Organizational Leadership Master's Degrees, PhDs and Training at a Glance

Organizational leadership combines business principles with the study of human behavior to help organizations become more productive and efficient. Studying for a master's or doctoral degree in organizational leadership will prepare you to create strategies and motivate individuals within an organization to reach their peak performance.

Graduates of an organizational leadership program most often pursue careers as operations managers, human resource managers, management analysts or executive directors. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects employment growth for human resource managers and management analysts to be 13% and 22%. CEOs, nonprofit directors, operations managers and other top executives will see slower than average job growth of 5% from 2010 to 2020, predicts the BLS. They will also face strong competition in the job market.

Master's Doctorate
Who is this degree for? Individuals seeking to advance their current career or learn new skills in leadership and performance-based management Mid-level to advanced professionals interested in research or executive leadership
Common Career Paths (with approximate mean annual salary) - Management analyst ($69,000)*
- Human resource manager ($109,000)*
- Top executive ($177,000)*
- Operations manager ($114,000)*
- University professor ($75,000)*
- Researcher (Salary data not available)
Time to Completion 1-2 years full-time 3-5 years full-time
Common Graduation Requirements - Approximately 30-36 credit hours
- Final project
- 57-60 credit hours
- Internship or field project
- Doctoral exams
- Dissertation
Prerequisites Bachelor's degree in any field - Master's degree in an organizational discipline or other related field
- Prior coursework in psychology, statistics and behavioral science
- Three or more years of work experience is preferred
Online Availability Yes Hybrid programs available

Source: * U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures).

Master's in Organizational Leadership

Students from a wide variety of backgrounds may find a master's degree in organizational leadership to be beneficial. In this program, you will learn how to apply business concepts and leadership principles to help companies grow and thrive. The knowledge and skills learned in this program can be applied to both corporate and nonprofit organizations. Within most programs, there is the opportunity to specialize in an area of interest, such as project management, human resource management or learning management. While the program will provide you with a strong background in leadership, it does not offer specific business and finance skills.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Students who have a bachelor's degree in most any field can apply to this program
  • The skills learned in this program can be used in multiple industries, including nonprofits, for-profits, government, healthcare and the military
  • Learning to be an effective leader can help you be successful in your own business

Cons

  • Coursework is theory-based and will not provide the general business skills that may be necessary for a business management position
  • Much of the same information taught in an organizational leadership degree program can be obtained through employee training programs, seminars and continuing education courses
  • Most companies prefer leadership experience over a leadership degree, so earning a master's in organizational leadership will not guarantee eligibility for executive positions

Common Courses and Requirements

A master's degree in organizational leadership involves 30-36 hours of coursework in business and human resources. While a thesis is not usually required, students may need to complete a capstone project. This project gives you the opportunity to design a solution to a current problem in organizational leadership.

These courses are common in a master's degree program in organizational leadership:

  • Conflict management
  • Leadership theory
  • Human behavior
  • Ethics
  • Managing change

Online Degree Options

There are numerous online master's degree programs available in organizational leadership, and some can be completed in as little as 18 months. The required coursework for this program is exactly the same for online students as it is in an on-campus classroom.

Getting Ahead with this Degree

Learn general business skills, such as accounting and marketing, to give yourself a competitive advantage over others with the same degree. Effective leaders know how to listen to others and communicate ideas and directions in a way that is easily understood by all. Every leader has a unique way of doing things, and it is important to know and understand how you can best work with and motivate those around you. Staying up-to-date in the latest technology will ensure that you can implement the latest computer systems and devices into a workplace in order to improve communication and production; you might try to take some computer-related electives, like a management information systems course.

PhD in Organizational Leadership

A doctoral program in organizational leadership is designed for career professionals in almost any field who want to become innovative leaders, professors or researchers. Students learn leadership methodologies and how to create effective leadership models. Graduates with a PhD in Organizational Leadership can conduct research or teach at the university level, consult with public and private sector organizations or advance to executive-level positions in their current career. While a PhD will offer additional career opportunities, it is not needed to work in many business settings.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Earning a PhD establishes leadership expertise that can be applied to many occupations
  • PhD graduates generally earn more money than workers with other types of degrees (median weekly salary for a PhD-holder is $1,551, while it's $1,263 for a master's and $1,053 for a bachelor's)*
  • With a PhD in Organizational Leadership, you can pursue a career in both business and academia

Cons

  • This degree is not needed to work in companies and organizations
  • Some schools require three or more years of professional experience before a candidate is accepted to the program
  • Job opportunities for top executives are expected to have slower than average growth from 2010 to 2020*

Source: * U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures).

Courses and Requirements

Earning a doctoral degree in organizational leadership requires approximately 60 hours of coursework, research and dissertation preparation. Typical classes can include management philosophy, leadership theories and systems theory. In addition, most programs require a field component or internship that engages students in a real-world problem. This internship can involve up to 120 hours of independent work outside of the classroom. Defense of your dissertation and a final exam are the last steps before graduating with a PhD in Organizational Leadership.

Online Degree Options

Online PhD programs are rare; however, hybrid programs in organizational leadership are more common. These programs combine online coursework with classroom sessions or residencies. A residency is a short on-campus session that usually lasts about three days.

Stand Out with this Degree

Set yourself apart from the competition by focusing on a specific area of organizational leadership, such as project management. Select coursework and research topics that will immerse you in these specializations and help establish your expertise in the field. Join a professional organization (often, these organizations admit student members) to gain access to industry publications and network with other professionals. Having an understanding of information technology can help improve speed and efficiency in the workplace. You can keep up with the trends by attending seminars and taking continuing education courses to stay abreast of current topics in the field.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Grand Canyon University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Ed.D. in Organizational Leadership - Organizational Development
      • DBA - Management
  • Online Programs Available
    2. Northcentral University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • PhD in Business Admin - Organizational Leadership
      • Doctor of Business Admin - Human Resources Management
      • Doctor of Business Admin - Organizational Leadership
      • Doctor of Business Admin - General Business
      • PhD - Organizational Leadership (PhD-OL)
      • Doctor of Philosophy in Human Resource Management
  • Online Programs Available
    3. Abilene Christian University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • EdD Organizational Leadership - Conflict Resolution Track
      • EdD Organizational Leadership - Higher Education Track
      • EdD Organizational Leadership - Digital Learning Track
      • EdD Organizational Leadership
  • Online Programs Available
    4. University of the Southwest

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Doctor of Business Administration
  • Cambridge, MA

    Harvard University

  • East Lansing, MI

    Michigan State University

  • Evanston, IL

    Northwestern University

  • San Antonio, TX

    The University of Texas at San Antonio

Featured Schools

Grand Canyon University

  • Ed.D. in Organizational Leadership - Organizational Development
  • DBA - Management

What is your highest level of education?

Northcentral University

  • PhD in Business Admin - Organizational Leadership
  • Doctor of Business Admin - Human Resources Management
  • Doctor of Business Admin - Organizational Leadership

What is your highest level of education?

Abilene Christian University

  • EdD Organizational Leadership - Conflict Resolution Track
  • EdD Organizational Leadership - Higher Education Track
  • EdD Organizational Leadership - Digital Learning Track

What is your highest level of education completed?

University of the Southwest

  • Doctor of Business Administration

What is your highest level of education?

The University of Texas at San Antonio