Best Online Doctorate in Organizational Leadership Programs of 2021

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Published on November 1, 2021

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Leadership and management occupations span a variety of industries and workplaces. Earning a doctoral degree in organizational leadership can prepare professionals to take advantage of specialized leadership roles.

Students interested in pursuing high-level, specialized career opportunities in leadership and other business roles should consider earning a doctoral degree in organizational leadership. Many graduates who hold this doctoral degree pursue advanced careers as training and development managers.

While some careers in this field only require professionals to hold a bachelor's degree in educational leadership, those who pursue more advanced education can qualify for higher salary opportunities and more specialized job responsibilities. For instance, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), training and development managers earned median annual salaries of $115,640 in 2020.

This page highlights the best online doctorate in organizational leadership programs of 2021, including information about common courses in the discipline, concentration opportunities, typical admission requirements for the top online schools, career paths, and answers to a few frequently asked questions.

What Can I Expect From an Online Doctorate in Organizational Leadership Program?

Curriculum requirements for online doctorate in organizational leadership programs vary depending on the college or university. Across all programs, however, learners develop the skills needed to succeed and lead in the industry after graduation.

Doctoral programs typically include core coursework along with elective courses. Many doctoral programs also feature concentration opportunities, allowing degree-seekers to focus on a particular area of the field that interests them. 

Students at the doctoral level are usually required to complete a dissertation. Dissertations are written projects where learners focus on a particular concept in their field, conduct original research, and present their findings.

The majority of online doctorate in organizational leadership programs take between 3-5 years to complete, depending on whether a learner enrolls full time or part time. Most consist of 50-65 credits, depending on the program. Outside of classwork, students may participate in a fellowship or externship as part of graduation requirements. 

In addition to a Ph.D. program, some schools may offer an Ed.D. in organizational leadership for individuals seeking top-tier educational positions. Students who pursue these programs typically possess at least five years of related experience and enjoy the process of leading employees and making their organizations more profitable, efficient, and effective.

Common concentrations include the following:

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What Courses Will I Take in an Online Doctorate in Organizational Leadership Program?

Organizational Design

Students explore the dysfunctional and competitive aspects of procedure, leadership, workflow, and structures in systems that promote strategic advantages for innovative and effective organizations. Students can examine divisional, matrix, and functional organizations to cultivate creative advantages across organizational settings.

Educational Law and Finance

Students enrolled in this course focus on contemporary legal issues within primary, secondary, and postsecondary learning institutions. Additionally, the course teaches students how to forecast financial projections, negotiate effective and innovative financial solutions, and analyze the financial status of an organization.

Strategic Management of Nonprofit Organizations

With a focus on nonprofit organizations, this course examines ways to incorporate strategic practices and manage valuable organizational resources to keep track of the progress and success of a particular organization. Learners explore different techniques to enhance the sustainability, efficiency, and longevity of nonprofit organizations.

Collaborative Leadership and Partnership

During this course, degree-seekers develop their understanding of the philosophy behind partnerships and the different management techniques used in collaborative relationships across various organizational settings. Learners explore organizational stewardship along with servant leadership concepts, learning to work as part of a team from a leadership perspective.

Leadership Theory and Practice

Focusing on leadership theories across organizations and workplace settings, this course teaches students about the main components of leadership theory to help them analyze and evaluate leadership practices. Students learn more about the different types of leadership practice and what makes an effective leader across settings.

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What Are the Admission Requirements for an Online Doctorate in Organizational Leadership Program

The admission requirements for various online doctorate in organizational leadership programs vary based on individual school and degree. That said, requirements are typically similar. Online programs usually set similar requirements as campus-based programs, with the addition of minimum technology requirements.

Particularly competitive programs may require applicants to participate in an in-person or virtual interview — especially if a larger than usual number of students applied that year.

Graduate Transcripts

Applicants to doctoral programs usually need to hold a master's degree and provide official transcripts. These documents demonstrate the coursework and any specializations a student completed during their master's program.

GMAT or GRE Scores

Across graduate programs, many applicants are required to provide GMAT or GRE scores. Colleges and universities that require these scores usually set minimum score requirements for applicants. Students can have their scores sent directly to their target institutions.

Letters of Recommendation

Doctoral applicants are often required to provide letters of recommendation with their application. These letters should be completed by educational and/or professional contacts, rather than family members or friends. Typically, learners provide 1-3 letters of recommendation, detailing why they would be a good fit for the program.

Minimum GPA

Organizational leadership doctoral programs often require applicants to hold a minimum GPA to gain admission. These GPA requirements vary depending on the college or university, but typically range from 3.0-3.5. Many institutions allow conditional admission for applicants who do not meet minimum GPA requirements as long as they demonstrate other competencies.

Statement of Purpose

During the doctoral admissions process, applicants may need to submit a statement of purpose or essay. These documents explain what educational and professional goals a student may have, outlining how a degree will help them meet their goals.

What Can I Do With an Online Doctorate in Organizational Leadership Degree?

Career Outlook

Because an online doctorate in organizational leadership can lead to so many different careers, job outlooks for graduates will vary. Jobs focused on business practices will likely see faster growth in the coming years, while those more focused on academia and research may have slower growth rates.

Graduates can expect to earn salaries well above the national average, with many receiving six figure salaries. Some of the fields favored by graduates of an online doctorate in organizational leadership include human resources management, communications and public relations, financial management, and sales and marketing.

Career Paths

Graduates of a doctorate in organizational leadership program can follow a variety of career paths across numerous industries and workplace settings. These professionals hold some of the most specialized and advanced occupations in their respective fields, earning some of the highest salaries in the field.

Organizational leadership careers at the doctoral level are not entry-level roles; rather, they are advanced leadership roles, such as chief executive officers, chief human resources officers, and directors of revenue cycle management.

Postsecondary Teacher

College professors focused on educating the next generation of organizational leaders use their advanced knowledge to create syllabi, deliver lectures, run seminars, design assignments, and provide support to students.

Median Annual Salary: $80,560

Top Executive

Graduates of an online doctorate in organizational leadership program can use their skills and knowledge to pursue C-level positions. These professionals supervise other staff and consult with other executives to set high-level organizational goals and policies.

Median Annual Salary: $107,680

Organizational Development Consultant

Rather than working for a single organization, organizational development consultants share their expertise with multiple companies in a consultation role. They evaluate the current organizational structure, identify challenges and issues, and provide concrete, practical solutions to increase leadership effectiveness and improve organizational outcomes.

Median Annual Salary: $88,500

Human Resources Manager

Human resources managers spend their days ensuring organizations run smoothly from an administrative perspective. They oversee the HR staff responsible for vetting and hiring employees, handling benefits and compensation packages, arranging training programs, and handling disciplinary issues. They work with other managerial and leadership staff to ensure organizational goals are met.

Median Annual Salary: $121,220

Organizational Developmental Director

These professionals look to get the best out of an organization's employees by coordinating development programs and handling leadership training programs. They ensure development goals are set and met, implement development policies, and identify current and potential employees who demonstrate leadership potential. They also oversee other organizational development staff.

Median Annual Salary: $118,340

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How Do I Choose an Online Doctorate in Organizational Leadership Program?

Cost

CollegeBoard found that the average cost of a doctoral program at a public institution for the 2020-2021 academic year reached $11,440. Meanwhile, students enrolled at a private institution paid $44,910 during the same time period. Applicants should understand the true program cost before making any decisions, and pay close attention to the costs of online vs. campus-based study.

Program Format

Students planning to study online can choose from synchronous or asynchronous learning formats, with those seeking flexibility typically opting for asynchronous classes. Many schools also offer part-time and full-time programs to account for different scheduling needs. You may also be able to find an accelerated online doctorate in organizational leadership if you need to get through the program quickly.

Location

Some online doctorate in organizational leadership programs require degree-seekers to participate in occasional in-person residencies as part of graduation requirements. When this is the case, students should consider whether they need to attend a local school. Learners who select a program with no in-person components may decide to pick a school further afield.

Accreditation

Attending an accredited online doctorate in organizational leadership is important for later career success. Failing to attend an accredited program can cause problems transferring credits, acquiring other credentials, and even finding work. Prospective students should look for regionally accredited institutions and make sure they understand online college accreditation.

Student Support

Student support services can impact a learner's success in their program, so be sure to investigate what online student services are available at your prospective schools. Examples may include access to industry mentors, assistance finding internships or externships, disability services, technology support, and writing guidance.

2021 Best Accredited Online Doctorate in Organizational Leadership Programs

Rankings compiled by the the BestColleges Ranking Team

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Beulah Heights University true View School Profile Atlanta, GA

Located in Atlanta, Georgia, BHU offers an online doctorate in organizational leadership. The program's faith-based coursework focuses on blending theory with practical applications. Graduates possess the knowledge and skills needed to resolve conflicts, manage high-performing teams, and lead multigenerational and multicultural workforces.

The Ph.D. program offers a flexible pathway for students to earn their degree, and BHU's transfer credit policy can help some students expedite graduation. Program requirements include foundation and research classes, core classes like biblical leadership and organizational change, and a final project and dissertation.

BHU is nationally accredited by the Transnational Association of Christian Colleges, as well as the Association for Biblical Higher Education.

Program Snapshot

Program Name: Doctor of Philosophy in Organizational Leadership
School Status: Private
Tuition: $525 per credit
Credit Requirements: 60 credits
Format: Online
Instruction Style: Synchronous and Asynchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: Not required
Standardized Tests: Not required

Contact the School

Request more information about this program.

Gardner-Webb University true View School Profile Boiling Springs, NC

Located in Boiling Springs, North Carolina, Gardner-Webb offers an online educational specialist degree in executive leadership. The program provides tools to current and future educational leaders interested in developing and refining their leadership skills. Graduates possess the knowledge, skills, attitudes, and values necessary to lead within complex organizations.

This program uses a nontraditional approach to curriculum design and implantation, delivering information and education through integrated modules versus individual courses. The curriculum covers topics like fiscal management and leadership, executive leadership at the district level, and policy analysis in executive leadership. Students also participate in internships, which helps them to apply theoretical concepts to real-world situations. Applicants should have an entry-level license in school administration.

Gardner-Webb is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Program Snapshot

Program Name: Educational Specialist Degree in Executive Leadership
School Status: Private
Tuition: $544 per credit
Credit Requirements: 42 credits
Program Length: 2 years
Format: Online
Instruction Style: Asynchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: 3.0 minimum
Standardized Tests: GRE or MAT

Contact the School

Request more information about this program.

Gonzaga University true View School Profile Spokane, WA

Based in Spokane, Washington, Gonzaga oversees an online doctoral program in leadership studies. The program includes three leadership dimensions: leader as a person, leaders in organizational systems, and leaders involved with global systems. Supported by the Jesuit tradition of educating the whole person and designed for working professionals, this program explores the conceptual, scholarly, and professional competencies required to lead and serve others at all levels.

Required courses include leadership theory, organizational theory, and ethics and leadership studies. Research courses include quantitative data analysis, principles of research, and qualitative research theory and design. Students must also complete contemporary leadership studies, learning about organizational culture, the art and practice of dialogue, and leadership and psychology. Participants also have the option to engage in internships and independent study.

Gonzaga is regionally accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.

Program Snapshot

Program Name: Doctoral Program in Leadership Studies
School Status: Private
Tuition: $1,030 per credit
Credit Requirements: 60 credits
Program Length: 5-7 years
Format: Online with some on-campus immersions
Instruction Style: Synchronous and Asynchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: No minimum required
Standardized Tests: Not required

Contact the School

Request more information about this program.

Governors State University true View School Profile University Park, IL

Based in University Park, Illinois, GSU offers an online doctor of education in interdisciplinary leadership. The program emphasizes the importance of multidimensional perspectives, preparing leaders to handle problems in a variety of settings.

Offered through the College of Education, core courses include theory and ethics of leadership, communicating strategies for effective organizations, and finance and external funding. The program culminates in a capstone project. Students can focus their studies in one of three advanced concentrations: higher education administration, superintendent, or not-for-profit/social entrepreneur leadership. To graduate, candidates must also pass a qualifying exam, an oral defense, and a capstone project defense.

GSU is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Program Snapshot

Program Name: Doctor of Education in Interdisciplinary Leadership
School Status: Public
Tuition: $447 per credit (Illinois or Indiana resident), $995 per credit (out-of-state)
Credit Requirements: 60 credits
Program Length: 4-7 years
Format: Online
Instruction Style: Synchronous and Asynchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: No minimum required
Standardized Tests: GRE or MAT

Contact the School

Request more information about this program.

Indiana Institute of Technology true View School Profile Fort Wayne, IN

Located in Fort Wayne, Indiana Tech offers an online Ph.D. in global leadership. The program prepares students to lead in multifaceted environments and conduct cross-cultural research to better understand relationships between culture and organizational leadership. The flexible program accommodates diverse working professionals worldwide. Faculty and support staff provide a personal and cooperative educational environment.

The curriculum includes core research classes, such as technical writing and statistical analysis. Students must also take global leadership core classes that explore communications, ethics, social responsibility, and global strategy. Participants select an organizational management or higher education administration specialization. Throughout the program, students gain the skills needed to address leadership challenges while designing and implementing action plans to advance organizational success.

Applicants should have a bachelor's and a master's and must submit to an interview with the program director. Indiana Tech is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Program Snapshot

Program Name: Ph.D. in Global Leadership
School Status: Private
Tuition: $875 per credit
Credit Requirements: 60 credits
Format: Online with on-campus residencies twice a year
Instruction Style: Asynchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: 3.4 minimum
Standardized Tests: Not required

Contact the School

Request more information about this program.

Johnson University View School Profile Knoxville, TN

Located in Knoxville, Tennessee, Johnson offers an online Ph.D. in leadership studies. The program teaches leadership skills and abilities through the lens of the individual, organization, and society. This faith-based program also helps students articulate biblical, theological, and ethical leadership concepts within various organizational contexts.

The degree features leadership, ethics, and leadership cores. Students must also complete a 15-credit elective concentration in educational leadership, organizational leadership, philosophy and theology, or missional leadership. Students fulfill electives through coursework, directed field study, and/or directed independent study. Students may participate in optional research summits, taking advantage of face-to-face interaction and networking opportunities with faculty and peers.

Johnson is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Program Snapshot

Program Name: Ph.D. in Leadership Studies
School Status: Private
Tuition: $675 per credit
Credit Requirements: 60 credits
Program Length: 4 years
Format: Online
Instruction Style: Asynchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: No minimum required
Standardized Tests: Not required

Contact the School

Request more information about this program.

Northcentral University View School Profile San Diego, CA

Located in San Diego, California, NCU offers an online doctorate in organizational leadership. The program provides a flexible format and targets students interested in applying organizational theory to solve problems. The curriculum features 20 courses and the average completion time is 38 months.

Graduates come away from the program with the ability to evaluate organizational leadership theories in terms of their academic and practical value. Graduates can pursue roles like management analyst or operations manager. All students enjoy one-to-one interactions with the university's faculty.

NCU is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. Its organizational leadership program holds specialized accreditation from the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs.

Program Snapshot

Program Name: Doctor of Philosophy in Organizational Leadership
School Status: Private
Tuition: $1,254 per credit
Credit Requirements: 60 credits
Program Length: 3-4 years
Format: Online
Instruction Style: Asynchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: No minimum required
Standardized Tests: Not required

Contact the School

Request more information about this program.

Nova Southeastern University View School Profile Fort Lauderdale, FL

Located in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, NSU offers an online doctorate in organizational leadership. The program is geared toward working professionals with backgrounds in management, human resources, and education. The curriculum provides a strong real-world.

Courses include virtual and global leadership, strategic planning, critical thinking for decision-making, and change management. Students also study research techniques, and participants can follow a quantitative or qualitative research track. Participants also have the option to complete a strategic research project instead of a traditional dissertation. Requirements include a visit to campus to participate in the school's summer institute.

NSU is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Program Snapshot

Program Name: Doctor of Education in Organizational Leadership
School Status: Private
Tuition: $1,420 per credit
Credit Requirements: 55 credits
Program Length: 3 years
Format: Mostly online; attendance at the school's summer institute is mandatory Instruction Style: Asynchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: 3.0 minimum
Standardized Tests: Not required

Contact the School

Request more information about this program.

University of Southern California View School Profile Los Angeles, CA

Located in Los Angeles, USC's Rossier School of Education offers an online doctor of education in organizational change and leadership. The program helps students interested in driving systematic organizational change. Graduates can obtain leadership positions in the private sector, at colleges and universities, at nonprofit agencies, or in government organizations.

The program's design allows students to work full time. Participants engage in online collaboration, class sessions, and advanced coursework. The degree offers two paths: one for students with a master's degree (advanced standing) and one for those with a bachelor's and substantial work/leadership experience. Students develop leadership, problem-solving, and reflection skills, and then finish the program by completing a dissertation. The online program requires an annual weekend immersion component, which takes place on campus.

USC is regionally accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission.

Program Snapshot

Program Name: Doctor of Education in Organizational Change and Leadership
School Status: Public
Tuition: $1,995 per credit
Credit Requirements: 43 credits (advanced standing track); 60 credits (traditional track)
Program Length: Less than 3 years (advanced standing track); less than 4 years (traditional track)
Format: Mostly online; on-campus immersion weekend required
Instruction Style: Asynchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: 3.0 minimum
Standardized Tests: GRE or GMAT

Contact the School

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University of the Cumberlands View School Profile Williamsburg, KY

Located in Williamsburg, Kentucky, UC offers an online executive Ph.D. in leadership. The program focuses on helping students implement organizational and curriculum-based changes in a variety of educational settings. Students with this degree may pursue executive roles in elementary, secondary, and postsecondary schools and community organizations.

The coursework, which includes business, math, and psychology classes, provides students with curriculum assessment strategies that can be used to make organizational improvements. The online format provides flexibility to students who work full time.

UC is regionally accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission.

Program Snapshot

Program Name: Executive Ph.D. in Leadership
School Status: Private
Tuition: $375 per credit
Credit Requirements: 60 credits
Format: Online
Instruction Style: Asynchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: 3.5 minimum
Standardized Tests: Not required

Contact the School

Request more information about this program.

Frequently Asked Questions About Doctorate in Organizational Leadership Programs

How long does it take to get a Ph.D. in organizational leadership? true

The length of a doctoral program can differ vastly depending on the school. Most degree-seekers need at least five years to satisfy the requirements of their degree, while some learners may need up to seven years to graduate. Students may be able to take heavier credit loads and earn their doctoral degree in closer to three or four years.

What can you do with a Ph.D. in leadership? true

Earning a Ph.D. in leadership allows graduates to explore a variety of specialized career options that typically feature high salary opportunities. Some common career paths for graduates include training and development managers, management analysts, operations research analysts, and chief executive officers.

What is a doctorate in strategic leadership? true

Doctoral-level strategic leadership programs allow degree-seekers to focus on structure, communication, leadership, and team building. These programs prepare students to review organizational lifecycles and derive new methods for leadership development. Learners also focus on understanding how to develop a product from an idea.

How much can you make with a doctorate in organizational leadership?

Salary opportunities vary for doctoral degree-holders in organizational leadership depending on the career path they pursue. Common career options include chief operating officers, chief human resources officers, and continuous improvement managers. Professionals in management careers earned a median annual salary of $109,760 in 2020, according to the BLS.

How much does it cost to get a doctorate in organizational leadership?

Program costs for a doctoral degree in organizational leadership vary depending on the college or university. For example, public schools tend to be less expensive than private schools. Learners should anticipate spending between $20,000 and $60,000 to earn their organizational leadership degree at the doctoral level.

Compare the top colleges for an online bachelor's in organizational leadership. Explore career paths and see where this degree can take you. A master's in organizational leadership program can help students gain skills they'll need to lead teams and organizations in diverse and ever-changing environments. Compared to a traditional online business degree, an online master's in organizational leadership program focuses more on managerial styles rather than specific duties. In 2018-19, the average cost of graduate tuition and […] Explore the nation’s top online master’s in organizational leadership degrees. These programs help you build your management skills and expand your career opportunities.

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