Best Online Doctorate in Organizational Leadership Programs

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Earning a doctorate in organizational leadership online is ideal for those who want to become effective leaders in multiple disciplines. Organizational leadership doctoral programs online offer the flexibility that work students need to succeed and provides them with hands-on experience that employers value. Graduates are prepared to pursue careers in a variety of industries, including medical, technology, business, finance, and government. They also have access to several professional organizations that will help connect them with other leaders and improve their craft. Payscale estimates that the national average salary for an organizational development manager is $87,300.


These programs are designed to help current leaders in various industries learn skills that will improve their leadership abilities and lead to greater organizational success. Many of these programs focus on value-based training, which is designed to strengthen company culture and introduce a positive mindset to employees. An online doctorate in organizational leadership will make you more attractive to employers and help you command a higher salary.


Yes, doctorate in organizational leadership programs assume that students have previous experience in administrative positions. In fact, many programs require applicants to submit a resume detailing their previous leadership experience as well as letters of recommendation from coworkers and bosses. Students should be actively working in a leadership position at their organization.


You’ll have to do a great deal of research to find the right online doctorate in organizational leadership program for you. There are a number of organizational leadership doctorate online programs that are crafted to fit the needs of students who think, work, and study in a variety of different ways. You should search for a program that will help you meet your professional goals and that includes coursework that you find engaging and useful.


Most doctorate of management in organizational leadership programs are designed specifically for working professionals. In fact, instructors want their students to have previous work experience and a current place of employment where they can apply the techniques learned in the classroom. Some programs provide enrollment counselors who can assist you with time management and other aspects of online learning.

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Rank School Name Relative Cost % Enrolled Online Location Description
Colorado State University-Fort Collins COST % ENROLLED ONLINE 19% LOCATION Fort Collins, CO

Colorado State University administers physical campuses throughout the state and a comprehensive internet-based program. Learners pursuing a doctorate in organizational leadership online are wise to consider the school’s organizational learning, performance, and change (OLPC) PhD program. CSU designed this program around the needs of working professionals, providing them with the education they need to strengthen their social, economic, political, and psychological understanding of the organizational landscape.

CSU's program is 60 credit hours in length, and the school expects learners to meet at least eight times per semester at the school’s Denver campus. The program consists of two courses per semester (such as workforce development and systems leadership), and is both synchronous and cohort-based. Courses are heavily centered around projects that students complete individually or collectively. CSU requires applicants to submit current GMAT or GRE scores for consideration.

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Concordia University-Chicago COST % ENROLLED ONLINE 19% LOCATION River Forest, IL

Distance learners interested in earning their doctorate in organizational leadership should consider Concordia University Chicago's doctor of education in organizational leadership program and the school's doctor of philosophy in organizational leadership program. Composed of 61-67 credits and offered online or on-campus, the program's curriculum consists of surveys of topics such as research-based decision making, leadership communication, and decision-making. Students select elective courses designed to strengthen their current knowledge of organizational leadership. Heavily research-based, this program features courses focused on doctoral research, including methods of action research inquiry and quantitative research. To graduate, candidates complete a comprehensive exam and a dissertation supervised by an instructor.

Although the program is offered online, students meet with cohort groups periodically on-campus. The program requires international students to complete an additional on-campus course, seminar in higher education (worth three credit hours).

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Indiana Wesleyan University-Marion COST % ENROLLED ONLINE 59% LOCATION Marion, IN

Indiana Wesleyan University is a school designed for graduate and distance learners. The school offers a variety of programs for working professionals such as a doctor of philosophy in organizational leadership. Students researching a doctorate in organizational leadership will be particularly interested in this synchronous program. Learners work online and in-class, where they study the tenets of organizational leadership. The program requires students to meet three times per year at the school’s Indianapolis campus. In addition, students must complete in-person residencies at the school's Marion campus in July.

Students usually complete the program in 40 months, with some variation possible based on a student's pace. Learners participate in cohort groups that work together to study, further explore topics, and complete projects. Courses cover topics such as change, innovation and entrepreneurship, and the program places emphasis on strategic planning to build employee work ethic and productivity. Applicants must hold a master’s degree from an accredited institution with a minimum 3.0 GPA and must have five years of leadership experience.

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Johnson University COST % ENROLLED ONLINE 21% LOCATION Knoxville, TN

Johnson University is a Christian institution founded in Tennessee in 1893. The school offers undergraduate and graduate degrees, including organizational leadership doctorate online programs. Johnson University's doctor of philosophy in leadership studies program features four concentrations: educational leadership, organizational leadership, philosophy and theology leadership, and missional leadership. The school gears each concentration to educate leaders in specific industries. For example, per design, educational administrators pursue the school's educational concentration and clergymen take the philosophy and theology concentration.

The program is asynchronous, meaning that courses are individually paced. Students work by themselves to complete assignments. For admittance to the program, Johnson University requires applicants to submit an official transcript from an accredited institution. Applicants must hold a minimum 3.0 cumulative GPA and must complete an admissions test, produce an essay, and submit three letters of reference. The program takes approximately four years to complete. Program length is 54 credit hours and includes core courses, electives, and a research component.

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Nova Southeastern University COST % ENROLLED ONLINE 49% LOCATION Fort Lauderdale, FL

Based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida and founded in 1964, Nova Southeastern University offers a variety of competitive online degree programs. Learners interested in pursuing a doctorate in organizational leadership online will find much to like in the school’s doctoral program in educational leadership. Nova designed its program for professionals that already hold a master’s degree in their field and the school requires applicants to submit a transcript from an accredited university with a GPA of 3.0. Applicants must also submit two letters of recommendation and GRE or MAT (Miller Analogies Test) test results.

The program's curriculum consists of 54 credit hours and a doctoral studies orientation. Core courses comprise 24 credit hours. Research courses consist of 12 credit hours, while a dissertation portion pads out an additional 12 credit hours. According to the school, Nova created its applied dissertation to assist students in discussing their findings during the research segment of the curriculum. Elective courses comprise six credit hours. Students choose between asynchronous and synchronous program options.

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Piedmont International University COST % ENROLLED ONLINE 58% LOCATION Winston Salem, NC

Piedmont international university is faith-based school located in North Carolina. It has a physical campus and a highly-ranked online program. The doctor of philosophy in leadership was created for learners pursuing an online doctorate in organizational leadership. The program features three concentrations (educational administration, organizational management, and ministry administration), consists of 60 credit hours, and requires students to complete a week-long residency at the beginning of the program. Students complete nine credit hours of coursework in a concentration of their choice and a research core before qualifying for graduation.

This asynchronous program is designed to fit in the lives of working professionals interested in advanced education. Applicants must hold a master’s degree with a minimum 3.0 cumulative GPA to be considered for acceptance. This information should be listed on their official transcript. In addition to the transcript, learners must submit two letters of reference, a resume, and a writing sample.

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The Chicago School of Professional Psychology at Chicago COST % ENROLLED ONLINE 45% LOCATION Chicago, IL

The Chicago School of Professional Psychology at Chicago offers a doctorate in organizational leadership within its school of business psychology, the school's PhD in organizational leadership. According to the school, full-time students generally complete the program in three years. Enrolled students pursue online courses geared toward the development of their leadership capabilities and distance learners complete courses such as emerging theories of leadership (a class centered on understanding leadership theories and ethics) and management philosophy and practice as part of their core credit hours. This course helps learners apply a variety of theories to real-world situations.

Distance learners participate in on-campus residencies at the school's Chicago campus. These residencies are three days in length and occur during the first and second years of the program. Students must also complete a dissertation that will be judged by a committee of their peers. The school admits students based on factors such as the strength of their resume, previous coursework, and transcript. Students use Canvas, an interactive online interface, to receive and complete assignments.

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University of Southern California COST % ENROLLED ONLINE 2% LOCATION Los Angeles, CA

The University of California offers an online degree program called USC Rossier’s online graduate program. The school offers an EdD in organizational change and leadership program that takes approximately three to four years to complete with 60 credit hours of coursework required. The school especially encourages distance learners working in the educational, business, and technology industries to apply. While admissions accepts students without a master’s degree into the program, they must complete the program within four years. Students with a graduate degree are required to take 43 credit hours. Most applicants who pursue this course track complete the program in three years.

The curriculum focuses on four core competencies: organizational change, leadership, problem solving, and reflection. Each year is broken down into terms and students take two to four courses per term. The school requires students to complete a capstone that includes a dissertation and a self-assessment.

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University of the Cumberlands COST % ENROLLED ONLINE 27% LOCATION Williamsburg, KY

Located in Williamsburg, Kentucky, the University of the Cumberlands offers two organizational leadership doctoral programs online: the school's doctor of philosophy in education leadership and its doctor of philosophy in leadership.

While enrolled in the school's synchronous doctorate of philosophy in executive leadership program, students take two courses per semester (totalling 66 credit hours), pursue eight-week long online courses, and meet once a month on-campus. This program focuses on leadership theory and research, and requires students to complete a dissertation that must be approved by an instructor. The program administers coursework in curriculum and culture, administration, and professional research. Candidates may also select courses in disciplines such as health sciences and criminal justice.

UC's doctor of philosophy in leadership program is overseen by the school’s department of education. Students in this program choose concentrations such as math and psychology, and the program requires distance learners to complete 66 hours of coursework.

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Online doctorate in organizational leadership programs are comprised of three key parts: courses, residencies, and dissertations. The residency and dissertation portions of each program generally include some in-person requirements. Coursework will vary from program to program and is determined by instructors and department leaders.


Online doctorate in organizational leadership courses are intended to develop a student’s critical thinking, research, and analytical skills. Each program includes both core courses and a variety of electives that allow students to customize their degree. While every school will have its own unique courses, there are some common classes that are offered in any organizational leadership program. Below is a sample of a few common organizational leadership courses:

Leadership Styles and Reflective Practice: This course focuses on introspection and reflection. Students will study leaders and their techniques used throughout history to guide countries, organizations, and civilizations. Students will apply this knowledge to their own organizations as they attempt to implement these tactics in real-world situations. They are encouraged to document their findings and track their personal progress.

Financial and Legal Leadership Issues: This course focuses on the financial and legal issues surrounding the structure and operations of an institution. Students explore economics and its impact on organizational development. They also delve into the American legal system and its relationship with various industries.

Strategic Planning and Management: Students in this course build on the strategic thinking and problem solving skills they have already developed to cultivate a company’s vision and mission. This course explores effective ways to measure performance outcomes and identify company goals and objectives. Course objectives focus heavily on the analysis of a company’s core concepts and delivery.


The length of doctoral organizational leadership online programs vary greatly from school to school. As mentioned before, programs are broken down into coursework, residencies, and a dissertation. Each school decides how many credit hours are needed to complete a program and how they will be distributed among those three areas. Most programs require 60 credits, though there are other that require more or less. Program length is also dependent on a student’s enrollment status. Full-time students can enroll in more credit hours per semester than part-time students, allowing them to earn their degree at an accelerated rate.

The way that courses are delivered also influences how long a program takes to complete. Courses can be offered either synchronously or asynchronously online. Asynchronous courses allow students to complete coursework at their own pace. Other programs offer synchronous classes, requiring students to log in at specific times to attend lectures and complete projects with their colleagues. These programs typically deploy a cohort group model that has students work with the same group of peers throughout their entire course of study.

When searching for the right online doctorate in organizational leadership, it is important to choose a program that is fully accredited. There are two types of accreditation: regional and national. Regional is the most common and highly regarded type of accreditation. There are six regional accrediting agencies in the U.S. that preside over specific regions such as the south or the northeast. National accreditation is typically given to trade or vocational schools. These schools offer specialized programs that provide graduates with degrees or certificates in certain fields. National accreditation agencies review a school’s educational programs every three years. Students may have difficulty transferring credit hours from these institutions, as degrees and certificates granted by these institutions may not be recognized by other organizations.

There are also specialized agencies that provide discipline-specific accreditation. The Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP) is one agency that offers accreditation to organizational leadership programs. This agency ensures a school’s program adheres to the academic standards and guidelines set forth by the ACBSP.

The U.S. Department of Education (ED) oversees the accreditation process and ensures that schools are following federal educational guidelines. There is also the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA), which is an organization tasked with overseeing the higher-education system. The CHEA works with over 3,000 higher education directors, chairmen, and presidents to create a system of academic guidelines and regulations.

To find a full list of accredited institutions, please visit the CHEA or ED websites.


Most organizational leadership positions require that students have a bachelor’s degree, though a graduate degree is preferred. Graduates with a doctorate in organizational leadership will be head and shoulders above the competition for these positions. Employers covet employees with a doctorate in organizational leadership because of their strong leadership skills. The following are common positions for organizational leadership graduates:

Specialty Employment Numbers Percent of total
(Population) Employment
Chief Financial Officer 19,310 0.84%
Chief of Staff 19,310 0.84%
Superintendent 1,450 0.06%
Director of Nursing 12,280 0.53%
Director of Social Services 1,660 0.07%

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics


Obtaining a doctorate in organizational leadership online will help make you an attractive candidate to a variety of employers. Having an advanced degree will also help you command a higher salary throughout your career. The following chart identifies salary trends for employees in various industries with leadership positions.

Job Title Overall Median Salary Median Salary for Entry-Level Employees (0-5 years) Median Salary for Mid-Career Employees (5-10 years) Median Salary for Late-Career Employees (20 years)
Director of Project Management $122,990 $86,000 $103,000 $145,000
Intelligence Analyst $65,206 $55,000 $67,000 $88,000
University President $147,845 $180,000 $158,000 $147,000
Nurse Practitioner $91,357 $90,000 $97,000 $105,000
Executive Director or Program Development $62,226 $51,000 $63,000 $75,000


An organizational leadership doctorate online is perfect for those who currently hold administrative positions. It is a multidisciplinary degree that attracts students from the medical, financial, educational, and military fields. This degree teaches students the basic principles that are vital to leading an organization, such as values, techniques, and mechanisms that can be applied to almost any industry. Graduates commonly pursue one of the following careers:

Director of Project Management

Project management directors are tasked with overseeing the life of a company project from start to finish. They manage the budget, employees, and coordinate with other company directors to ensure that everything runs smoothly.

Median Annual Salary – $135,800
Projected Growth Rate – 15%

Intelligence Analyst

These analysts work for the government to identify and stop cybersecurity threats. This position requires advanced computer technology knowledge and the ability to frequently travel to different locations.

Median Annual Salary – $79,200
Projected Growth Rate – 30%

University President

The president of a college or university oversees the entire operations of the institution. They coordinate with departmental heads, hire staff, and track the university budget

Median Annual Salary – $90,760
Projected Growth Rate – 9%

Nurse Practitioner

These registered nurses are masters of medical treatment and diagnosis. They work with the doctor to identify medical conditions and treat patients. With a doctorate in organizational leadership, graduates can easily pursue management-level careers in nursing.

Median Annual Salary – $107,460
Projected Growth Rate – 31%

Executive Director of Program Development

These professionals are in charge of obtaining funding for nonprofit organizations. They plan and execute fundraising events and ventures for the organization.

Median Annual Salary – $103,950
Projected Growth Rate – 6%


There are a wide variety of professional organizations that organizational leadership graduates can join to connect with like-minded peers. These organizations help members become better leaders in the local, national, and global arena. Members can attend conferences, take advantage of learning and research materials, and gain access to job boards and other career services. Membership to these organizations require an application and possibly an annual fee.

Even if you work full-time, you will probably need some amount of financial assistance to complete your degree. The U.S. Department of Education offers financial assistance to students who fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Students who complete the FAFSA can see if they qualify for federal loans or grants distributed by the Department of Education. In fact, some schools require that students fill out the FAFSA to become eligible for scholarships and grants offered by the university. There are also a variety of professional organizations who offer a variety of merit-based scholarships.


Approximately two-thirds of today’s college students rely on loans to fund their education, but there are plenty of overlooked financing options you can use to reduce your overall student debt.


Completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is a crucial first step for any student with financial needs. Our FAFSA guide features a step-by-step rundown on the process and answers to several frequently asked questions.


Financial aid for online learning is equivalent to what you’ll find for campus-based learning, but that hasn’t always been the case. Learn about the changes that have taken place, as well as the different funding opportunities available to online students.


Online college programs can be a flexible, affordable option for single parents who are interested in earning a degree and securing their family’s financial future. We’ve compiled a list of scholarships, grants, and other financial aid options geared toward single moms and dads.


Millions of dollars in free money is available to U.S. military personnel, but much of it goes unused. Learn more about grants, scholarships, and other financial aid opportunities available to veterans, active-duty service members, and reservists.

Rankings Archive

Best Online Doctorate in Organizational Leadership of 2017
School Location
Colorado State University-Fort Collins Fort Collins, CO
Concordia University-Chicago River Forest, IL
Indiana Wesleyan University-Marion Marion, IN
Johnson University Knoxville, TN
Nova Southeastern University Fort Lauderdale, FL
Piedmont International University Winston Salem, NC
The Chicago School of Professional Psychology at Chicago Chicago, IL
University of Southern California Los Angeles, CA
University of the Cumberlands Williamsburg, KY