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.

Choosing a Program


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.

Online Doctorate in Organizational Leadership Programs

School Location Cost Enrolled Online Description Toggle

Concordia University - Chicago

River Forest, IL Cost: $$$$$ Enrolled Online: 19%

A private liberal arts college located in River Forest, Illinois, Concordia University Chicago offers a doctoral program in leadership with a specialization in organizational leadership. Concordia's online Ph.D. in organizational leadership degree provides students with an understanding of organizational growth and development in theory and practice to prepare them for management and executive-level positions.

Concordia's doctorate in organizational leadership online program requires 61-67 credit hours of coursework and the completion of an original research project, culminating in a dissertation. Students may choose from two different tracks: the doctor of education practitioner's track or the doctor of philosophy researcher's track. The researcher's track requires three additional courses on research methods and statistics. This degree can generally be completed in 5-7 years.

Required courses cover topics in leadership communication and decision-making, leadership theories, strategic forecasting and planning, policy analysis, qualitative research, quantitative analysis, and ethics for educational leaders. International students must take an additional seminar in higher education, which provides students with an introduction to the higher education system in the U.S. and allows them to solidify their English language skills. Students receive the option of completing the entire degree through distance learning or in traditional on-campus environments.

Admissions requirements include a master's degree in a related discipline, a minimum 3.0 GPA, and GRE scores. Concordia University Chicago is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

Program Overview
Program Name: Ed.D./Ph.D. in Leadership - Organizational Leadership
Credit Requirements: 61-67 credits
Program Length: 4 years

Format: Online
Instruction Style: Asynchronous

Admission Requirements
GPA: 3.0 minimum
Standardized Tests: GRE or GMAT

Phone: 708-263-6758
Email: Online.Info@CUChicago.edu
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter

Johnson University

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

A private Christian college, Johnson University is located in Kimberlin Heights, Tennessee, and features a satellite campus in central Florida in addition to many online programs. Johnson University offers a Ph.D. in leadership studies with the option of four different concentrations: educational leadership, organizational leadership, philosophy and theology of leadership, and missional leadership.

This degree requires 60 credit hours beyond a master's degree, which can take students 3-4 years to complete through an entirely online format. Tuition costs $600 per credit hour regardless of the student's residency status.

The program uses an interdisciplinary approach that incorporates the following four dimensions of leadership studies: individual and personal systems, organizational systems, global systems, and research. Examples of required courses include leadership and personal ethics, intercultural behavior and communication, leadership development, organizational theory, and global systems and policy.

Doctoral students may attend optional research summits where they can interact with faculty members and fellow students. Learners must also design and implement an original research project and then write and defend a dissertation based on their findings.

Applicants must have completed a master's degree from a regionally accredited school with a minimum 3.0 GPA. Test scores from either the GRE or MAT are also required. The program offers start dates in both the fall and spring semesters.

Johnson University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

Program Overview
Program Name: Ph.D. in Leadership Studies
Available Concentrations: Organizational leadership; educational leadership; philosophy and theology of leadership; missional leadership
Tuition: $600/credit
Credit Requirements: 60 credits
Program Length: 4 years

Format: Online
Instruction Style: Synchronous and asynchronous

Admission Requirements
GPA: 3.0 recommended
Standardized Tests: GRE or GMAT

Phone: 865-251-3479
Email: adultstudies@johnsonu.edu
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter

Nova Southeastern University

Fort Lauderdale, FL Cost: $$$$$ Enrolled Online: 49%

Nova Southeastern University is a private research university located in Davies, Florida. NSU also boasts a number of satellite campuses throughout the state and one campus in Puerto Rico. NSU offers a doctor of education with a concentration in organizational leadership for students who wish to step into leadership roles to promote organizational development and growth. The doctor of education in organizational leadership degree requires 54 credits of coursework and the completion of a dissertation. This program can be completed entirely online.

Required courses in the organizational leadership concentration include virtual and global leadership, organizational behavior and human development, strategic planning, change management, theories of organizational leadership, and diversity dynamics. For dissertation projects, students may choose either a quantitative or qualitative research track and take research design and data analysis courses corresponding to each track, respectively. Online students gain the opportunity to engage in person with faculty and other students through the EDGE @ Fishler Institute conference.

To gain admission into this program, applicants must have completed a master's degree from a regionally accredited institution with a minimum 3.0 GPA. They must also submit GRE or MAT test scores. Minimum requirements include earning a raw score of 37 points on the MAT or a combined score of 300 on the GRE.

Nova Southeastern University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS).

Program Overview
Program Name: Ed.D. in Organizational Leadership
Tuition: $1,330/credit
Credit Requirements: 54 credits
Program Length: 3 years

Format: Online with 1 residency
Instruction Style: Asynchronous

Admission Requirements
GPA: 3.0 minimum
Standardized Tests: GRE or GMAT

Phone: 866-239-7345
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter

University of Southern California

Los Angeles, CA Cost: $$$$$ Enrolled Online: 2%

The University of Southern California, located in Los Angeles, California, offers an online doctor of education (Ed.D.) in organizational change and leadership. This degree benefits professionals who want to drive systemic change within colleges and universities, private firms, nonprofits, government agencies, and other organizations.

USC's Ed.D. program in organizational change and leadership requires 60 units of coursework, generally completed in 3-4 years. Students holding a master's degree in the same discipline can gain admission with advanced standing and may only need to complete 43 units to receive their doctorate. In addition, students must complete a capstone portfolio with a dissertation, a reflective self-assessment, and additional coursework deliverables.

Required courses include creating communities of interest, learning and motivation, human lifespan development, instructional design, and assessment and evaluation. The current tuition rate stands at $1,863 per credit. However, the total tuition costs depends on whether a student holds advanced standing upon admission.

Applicants must have completed a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited university with a minimum 3.0 GPA. They can either submit GRE or GMAT scores or opt for a 30-minute Ed.D. writing assessment. USC offers start dates in the fall, spring, and summer terms.

University of Southern California holds accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC).

Program Overview
Program Name: Ed.D. in Organizational Change and Leadership
Tuition: $1,863/credit
Credit Requirements: 60 units
Program Length: 3-4 years

Format: Hybrid
Instruction Style: Synchronous and asynchronous

Admission Requirements
GPA: 3.0 minimum
Standardized Tests: GRE, GMAT, or EdD writing assessment

Phone: 888-628-1872
Email: admissions@rossieronline.usc.edu
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter

University of the Cumberlands

Williamsburg, KY Cost: $$$$$ Enrolled Online: 27%

University of the Cumberlands, a private Baptist college located in Williamsburg, Kentucky, offers an online Ph.D. in leadership program for aspiring leaders of community organizations, higher education institutions, public schools, private firms, and nonprofits.

The University of the Cumberland's Ph.D. in leadership online degree requires the completion of 66 credit hours beyond the master's degree and the writing and defense of a dissertation. Coursework can be completed in 3-4 years, depending on the number of transfer credits accepted, number of courses students complete each term, and student enrollment status (full- or part-time).

Core courses in leadership include the politics of organizational decision-making, program planning and assessment, leadership theory and practice, teaching and learning online, grant writing and proposal development, and leadership in historical context. Students must also take a number of research-related courses, including inferential statistics and advanced research methods.

The curriculum incorporates coursework in the following specialty areas: business, criminal justice, English, health science, history, information systems, mathematics, nursing, psychology, religion/ministry, and student personnel. Tuition for the online Ph.D. in leadership program costs $375 per credit hour regardless of the student's residency status.

To gain admission into University of the Cumberland's Ph.D. in leadership program, students must hold a master's degree from an accredited institution with a minimum 3.5 GPA and show a combined score of at least 300 on the GRE or at least 400 on the MAT.

The University of the Cumberlands is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACCOC).

Program Overview
Program Name: Executive Ph.D. in Leadership; Ph.D. in Leadership
Tuition: $700/credit hour; $375/credit hour
Credit Requirements: 66 credits; 66 credits
Program Length: 3 years; 3 years

Format: Hybrid; online
Instruction Style: Synchronous and asynchronous; asynchronous

Admission Requirements
GPA: 3.5 minimum; 3.5 minimum
Standardized Tests: GRE or GMAT; GRE or GMAT

Phone: 855-791-7201; 606-539-4390
Email: digs@ucumberlands.edu; gradadm@ucumberlands.edu
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter

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

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.

Accreditation for Online Doctorate in Organizational Leadership Programs

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.

Financing Your Online Doctorate in Organizational Leadership Program

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 2018
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
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