Earning a doctorate in organizational leadership online works well for those aiming to become effective leaders in multiple disciplines. Organizational leadership doctoral programs online offer flexibility for working students and provide them with valuable hands-on experience. Graduates pursue careers in a variety of industries, including medicine, technology, business, finance, and government. They also enjoy access to several professional organizations that connect members with other leaders and help to improve their craft. Payscale estimates that the national average salary for an organizational development manager is $86,300.


These programs provide current leaders in various industries with the skills to improve their leadership abilities and achieve greater organizational success. Many of these programs focus on value-based training, which strengthens company culture and introduces employees to a positive mindset. An online doctorate in leadership makes graduates more attractive to employers and gives them leverage to command a higher salary.


Doctorate in organizational leadership programs assume that students possess previous experience in administrative positions, and many require applicants to submit resumes detailing their previous leadership experience -- along with letters of recommendation from coworkers and bosses. Students should actively work in a leadership position at their organization.


Prospective students need to research to find the right online doctorate in organizational leadership program. A number of organizational leadership doctorate online programs fit the needs of students who think, work, and study in unique ways. You should search for a program that meets your professional goals and includes engaging, useful coursework.


Most doctorate of management in organizational leadership programs cater specifically to working professionals. Instructors want their students to boast previous work experience and current employment that allows them to apply techniques they learned in the classroom. Some programs provide enrollment counselors to assist with time management and other aspects of online learning.

School Cost Enrolled Online Description Toggle
Colorado State University-Fort Collins Fort Collins, CO Cost: $$$$$ Enrolled Online: 19%

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.

Concordia University-Chicago River Forest, IL Cost: $$$$$ Enrolled Online: 19%

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).

Indiana Wesleyan University-Marion Marion, IN Cost: $$$$$ Enrolled Online: 59%

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.

Johnson University Knoxville, TN Cost: $$$$$ Enrolled Online: 21%

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.

Nova Southeastern University Fort Lauderdale, FL Cost: $$$$$ Enrolled Online: 49%

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.

Piedmont International University Winston Salem, NC Cost: $$$$$ Enrolled Online: 58%

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.

The Chicago School of Professional Psychology at Chicago Chicago, IL Cost: $$$$$ Enrolled Online: 45%

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.

University of Southern California Los Angeles, CA Cost: $$$$$ Enrolled Online: 2%

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.

University of the Cumberlands Williamsburg, KY Cost: $$$$$ Enrolled Online: 27%

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.

Online doctorate in organizational leadership programs consist of three key parts: courses, residencies, and dissertations. The residency and dissertation portions of each program generally impose some in-person requirements. Coursework varies among programs, depending on instructors and department leaders.

Admission Requirements for an Online Doctorate in Organizational Leadership

Applicants to an online doctorate in leadership must demonstrate superior academic skills through a bachelor's and master's degree. Previous graduate coursework does not need to be in organizational leadership or a related field. Minimum master's degree GPA requirements vary by university, but typically fall between a 3.0 and 3.5. Most doctor of management online programs do not require standardized tests for admission, but others expect applicants to score in the 50th percentile or higher on the MAT or general GRE. Due to the applied nature of the subject matter, prospective students should boast significant leadership experience and an alignment between their own goals and the university's program. Applicants can demonstrate that alignment through strong references, a well-written admissions essay, and a resume showing prior leadership experience.

Concentrations Offered for an Online Doctorate in Organizational Leadership

Entrepreneurial Leadership

This doctoral concentration equips students to assess complex business environments, lead innovative initiatives, and improve organizational effectiveness. Students focus on moving product ideas to the marketplace. Courses include theoretical foundations of entrepreneurship, theories of the firm in developing economies, and entrepreneurial strategies to lead technological change and innovation.

Careers This Concentration Prepares For: Business Ownership, Business Strategy/Consulting Management, Executive Leadership

Human Resource Development

Students discover training and development techniques that help improve organizations' human resources. They also learn about HR trends to maximize staff potential, working as teams to develop innovative policies and practices. Courses in the discipline include ethical human resources development, adult learning communities, and autonomous learning and human resource development.

Careers This Concentration Prepares For: HR Administration & Executive Leadership, HR Director/Vice President, HR Consulting, Training & Development

Global Consulting

In this concentration, learners consider effective ways to renew and transform teams, improve interpersonal and cross-cultural skills, and sharpen their consulting practices. They take courses like consulting principles, ethical consulting, and strategic foresight. Students typically prepare simulated consulting reports and conduct complete organizational assessments as part of their educational requirements.

Careers This Concentration Prepares For: Executive Coaching, Executive Leadership for Business, Military Leadership


Online doctorate in organizational leadership courses develop students' critical thinking, research, and analytical skills. Each program includes both core courses and a variety of electives that allow students to customize their degrees. Every school offers its own unique courses, plus some common classes available through any organizational leadership program. See a sample of organizational leadership courses common to these programs below.

Leadership Styles and Reflective Practice: This course focuses on introspection and reflection. Students study leaders and the techniques used throughout history to guide countries, organizations, and civilizations. Students apply this knowledge to their own organizations as they attempt to implement these tactics in real-world situations. Instructors encourage students 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 possess 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 analysis and delivery of a company's core concepts.

Skills and Competencies Gained in a Ph.D. in Organizational Leadership Online Program

Earning a Ph.D. in leadership online equips students with the skills to manage organizations, consult with global firms, and forecast futuristic scenarios. Some graduates may also choose to teach leadership at the postsecondary level. Details may vary by school and program, but the list below represents competencies common to doctorate in organizational leadership graduates.

  • Research: Students learn the fundamentals of quantitative and qualitative research, including how to source and implement data to use in executive management decisions. The Ph.D. usually emphasizes pure research, while other doctorates focus on application.
  • Consulting: Students learn to enter an organization from the outside and view its needs and opportunities effectively. A doctoral program can equip scholars with problem-solving abilities to help them succeed in complex consulting environments.
  • Cross-cultural Communication: In a flattening, globalizing, and increasingly interdependent world, leaders need to communicate effectively and efficiently, both within and beyond the bounds of their own culture. Students learn cross-cultural communication theory and practice as part of their program.
  • Forecasting: Using models and techniques of predictability and unpredictability, students learn to forecast plausible future scenarios in economics, technology, and society that affect organizations and those who lead them.
  • Adult Education: Students pursuing a Ph.D. in organizational leadership take coursework and engage in learning activities to prepare to conduct mentoring, training, and classroom teaching for adults in both formal and nonformal settings.

Additional Requirements for an Online Ph.D. in Organizational Leadership

An online doctorate in organizational leadership usually requires at least two residencies that allow students to engage in interactive discussions beyond those online. These residencies also give students a chance to take comprehensive exams and defend their doctoral dissertation or final project. In addition to the required residencies and program coursework, students often undergo individual assessments regarding cultural, personal, and professional intelligence and decision-making skills. They may also take methodology courses prior to submitting their final project plan. The scope and nature of the doctoral project varies by school and degree type.


Organizational leadership program lengths vary among schools, depending on credit hour requirements and how each school distributes credits. Most programs require 60 credits, but others may require more or fewer. Program length also depends on students' 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.

Course delivery also influences program length. Asynchronous courses allow students to complete coursework at their own pace, while other programs offer synchronous classes, which require students to login at specific times to attend lectures and complete projects. Synchronous programs typically deploy a cohort group model in which students work with the same group of peers through their entire course of study. Students in asynchronous courses can usually complete their programs faster, while those in cohort-model, synchronous programs must follow a preset schedule that may take longer to complete.

When searching for the right online doctorate in organizational leadership, choose a fully accredited program. Institutions may obtain two types of accreditation: regional, which is the most common and prestigious, and national. Six regional accrediting agencies in the U.S. preside over specific regions, such as the south or the northeast. National accreditation typically applies to trade or vocational schools, which offer specialized programs that provide graduates with degrees or certificates in specific fields. National accreditation agencies review participating schools' educational programs every three years. Students may find it difficult to transfer credit hours from nationally accredited institutions since some organizations may not recognize their degrees and certificates.

Specialized agencies also provide discipline-specific accreditation to individual programs. The Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP) offers accreditation to organizational leadership programs, ensuring each program adheres to high academic standards and guidelines.

The U.S. Department of Education (ED) oversees the accreditation process to ensure schools follow federal educational guidelines. The Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA), an organization tasked with overseeing the higher education system, 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 website or ED website.


Most organizational leadership positions require students to hold a bachelor's degree, though they prefer a graduate degree. Graduates with a doctorate in organizational leadership stand 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 list below includes common positions for organizational leadership graduates

Occupation Employment Numbers Employment Growth
Chief Executives 308,900 -4% (-12,100 jobs)
General and Operations Managers 2,263,100 9% (+ 205,200 jobs)
Education Administrators, Postsecondary 180,100 10% (+18,200 jobs)

Source: BLS


Obtaining a doctorate in organizational leadership online helps make graduates attractive to a variety of employers. Holding an advanced degree also gives candidates leverage to command higher salaries. The following chart identifies salary trends for employees in various industries with leadership positions.

Job Title Median Salary for Entry-Level Median Salary for Mid-Career Median Salary for Experienced Median Salary for Late-Career
Director of Project Management $86,000 $103,000 $137,000 $145,000
School Superintendent $104,000 $120,000 $109,000 $129,000
Nurse Practitioner $90,000 $97,000 $101,000 $105,000
Director of Program Development, Nonprofit Organization $51,000 $63,000 $72,000 $75,000


An organizational leadership doctorate online serves those who currently hold administrative positions. The multidisciplinary degree attracts students from the medical, financial, educational, and military fields; it teaches students the basic principles of organizational leadership, including values, techniques, and mechanisms that apply in almost any industry. Graduates commonly pursue one of the following careers.

Director of Project Management

Project management directors oversee company projects from start to finish. They manage the budget and employees, coordinating with other company directors to ensure everything runs smoothly.

Median Annual Salary - $120,936

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

Presidents of colleges and universities oversee institutional operations, coordinating with departmental heads, hiring staff, and tracking the university budget

Median Annual Salary - $151,710

Nurse Practitioner

These registered nurses boast expertise in medical treatment and diagnosis. They work with doctors 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 - $110,930

Executive Director of Program Development

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

Median Annual Salary - $62,511


A wide variety of professional organizations allow organizational leadership graduates to connect with like-minded peers. These organizations help members become better leaders in the local, national, and global arenas. 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 requires an application and often an annual fee.

Even full-time professionals often need financial assistance to complete their degrees. The ED offers financial assistance to students who submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). FAFSA applicants can see if they qualify for federal loans or grants distributed by the ED. In fact, some schools require students to fill out the FAFSA to qualify for scholarships and grants offered by the university. Several professional organizations offer a variety of merit-based scholarships, as well.


Approximately 66% of today's college students rely on loans to fund their education, but plenty of overlooked financing options can reduce students' overall debt.


Completing the FAFSA marks a crucial first step for any student with financial needs. Our FAFSA guide features a step-by-step rundown of the process and answers to several frequently asked questions.


Financial aid for online learning is equivalent to what students find for campus-based learning. Learn about 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