Business Leadership Degrees: PhD, Master's & Online Training Info

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What will you learn in a business leadership program? Read about graduate degree requirements, the pros and cons of a master's degree and doctorate and potential careers.
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Studying Business Leadership: Degrees at a Glance

Earning a master's degree in business leadership can prepare you for a variety of careers that involve training employees, analyzing organizational structures, reviewing financial information and supervising projects. For example, you might work as a training and development manager, chief executive officer or management analyst. If you're willing to invest an extra four years of study in a PhD, you could qualify to take on teaching or consulting responsibilities.

Although advanced degrees in this field can open many doors for you, not all business leadership careers are expected to grow as quickly as others. For example, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected that from 2010-2020, top executive positions would only increase by five percent. For comparison, management analysts were expected to experience a 22% job growth, while managerial positions in the training and development sector could grow by 15%.

Master's Doctorate
Who is this degree for? Individuals interested in management or employee and organizational development People who want to teach at the collegiate level, conduct research or work as consultants
Common Career Paths (with approximate median annual salary) - Management analyst ($78,000)*
- Chief executive ($167,000 with several years of related work experience)*
- Training and development manager ($92,000)*
- Business consultant (salary unavailable)
- Postsecondary business teacher ($75,000)*
Time to Completion 16 months to 2 years, full time About 4 years full time after the master's degree
Common Graduation Requirements - Between 30 and 48 credits of graduate-level coursework
- Research project
- About 60-75 credits of graduate courses beyond the master's degree
- Comprehensive exam
- Dissertation
Prerequisites - Bachelor's degree
- Relevant work experience could also be required
- Master's degree in a related field
- Applicants might also need previous leadership experience and graduate-level coursework in such areas as finance, statistics and research design
Online Availability Blended and online programs are common Some blended programs are available

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

Master's Degree in Business Leadership

Most master's degree programs in business leadership can provide you with a better understanding of global business issues, management strategies and motivational techniques. The majority of these programs are designed for working professionals, so you'll more than likely be able to take classes on weekends or online. You might even have the opportunity to simultaneously earn related certificates in an area such as project management. Some programs only admit applicants who have related professional experience, although this isn't a requirement for all schools.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • A variety of career options are available to program graduates
  • Flexible class schedules are offered by most programs
  • Some programs can be completed in less than two years

Cons

  • Some related career fields have fairly competitive job markets (top executives, management analysts)*
  • Top executive positions were projected to experience slow job growth from 2010-2020*
  • You might need up to two years of previous work experience to get into some programs

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Courses and Requirements

Since these degree programs are often interdisciplinary in nature, you might have to complete courses in such fields as business, finance and sociology. Common courses can include the following:

  • Leadership theory
  • Organizational behavior
  • Project management
  • Leadership communications
  • Professional ethics
  • Business law

Some programs require you to also complete a final or capstone project. Optional internship opportunities are available as well.

Online Degree Options

There are business leadership master's degree programs out there that offer you the chance to complete most of your courses online and the remaining assignments or activities during monthly on-campus meetings with your cohorts. Entirely online programs are also available. Both program types are fairly common.

Stand Out with This Degree

Look for opportunities to complete internships while enrolled in a business leadership master's degree program, especially if you'd like a career as a training and development manager. According to the BLS, some employers in this field prefer job applicants who have experience in their industry.

If you're interested in working as a management analyst, look for coursework that can develop your project management skills, since professionals who advance in this field are often responsible for overseeing teams. Some programs even include courses that can prepare you to meet the educational requirements for professional certification in an area such as project management.

PhD in Business Leadership

Business leadership PhD programs also include interdisciplinary curricula that can help you to develop communication, teamwork and analytical skills. Program requirements might also emphasize policy development at the executive level. You might opt to complete field-based research projects as well.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Doctoral programs in this field can be completed while working full-time
  • Several programs allow you to take courses online
  • A PhD opens up academic career opportunities

Cons

  • Earning a PhD can require up to ten years of school
  • Most careers in this field don't require more than a master's degree
  • Some programs only accept applicants who have up to five years of work experience

Courses and Requirements

Courses in these programs allow you to conduct independent research on such topics as policy implementation, interoffice communications and operations management. Since many students in these programs are working professionals, they choose courses or projects that can help them advance in their current field. Courses in leadership Ph.D. programs can include the following:

  • Strategic management
  • Qualitative and quantitative research methods
  • Historical leadership theories
  • Human resource management

To graduate from these programs, you'll have to pass comprehensive exams. Furthermore, most programs require you to spend about a year writing and defending a dissertation in your area of interest.

Online Degree Options

Although these programs are designed for working professionals, you cannot complete all requirements online. In addition to using an institution's online course management system, chat rooms and forums, you might still need to attend weekend class sessions on campus. These could take place a few times a year or up to twice a month.

Stand Out with This Degree

A doctoral program allows you to specialize your research in an area that interests you. If you already have an idea of what industries you'd like to work in as a consultant, you might want to take this opportunity to familiarize yourself with the major issues affecting them. Honing your research skills could also pay off if you're looking to pursue an academic career as a university professor. The BLS explains that applicants' contributions to the field often play a role when schools are considering candidates for tenure-track positions.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Grand Canyon University

    Program Options

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

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • PhD in Business Admin - Management
      • Doctor of Business Admin - General Business
      • Doctor of Business Admin - Management
      • PhD in Business Admin - Health Care Admin
      • Doctor of Business Admin - Project Management
      • PhD in Business Admin - Project Management
  • Online Programs Available
    3. Regent University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Doctor of Strategic Leadership
      • Doctor of Strategic Leadership - Individualized Studies
      • Doctor of Strategic Leadership - Leadership Coaching
      • Doctor of Strategic Leadership - Servant Leadership
      • Doctor of Strategic Leadership - Strategic Foresight
      • Doctor of Strategic Leadership - Strategic Leadership
  • Blacksburg, VA

    Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

  • Milwaukee, WI

    University of Wisconsin

  • Fargo, ND

    North Dakota State University

  • New Haven, CT

    Yale University

  • Worcester, MA

    Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Featured Schools

Grand Canyon University

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

What is your highest level of education?

Northcentral University

  • PhD in Business Admin - Management
  • Doctor of Business Admin - General Business
  • Doctor of Business Admin - Management

What is your highest level of education?

Regent University

  • Doctor of Strategic Leadership
  • Doctor of Strategic Leadership - Individualized Studies
  • Doctor of Strategic Leadership - Leadership Coaching

What is your highest level of education completed?

Yale University

Worcester Polytechnic Institute