Organizational leadership is a niche area of business administration that is primarily concerned with communication, human resources (HR) and professional development within the company framework. Areas of focus in this broad field include behavioral science, organizational psychology, workplace ethics and social responsibility. Many organizational leadership professionals begin their career by earning a master's degree in this cutting-edge field. This educational pathway is often seen as an alternative to the Master of Business Administration (MBA); while most MBA programs take a more analytical approach to corporate management, organizational leadership master's programs emphasize the importance of creativity, interpersonal effectiveness and establishing personal connections in work environments. While most careers in organizational leadership are found within the corporate sector, the field also has applications in the public and nonprofit sectors.

What are the best organizational leadership programs of 2020? Here are our top 10:

Rank School Location
1 Michigan State University East Lansing, MI
2 Pepperdine University Malibu, CA
3 Lincoln Christian University Lincoln, IL
4 Lewis University Romeoville, IL
5 Trevecca Nazarene University Nashville, TN
6 Gonzaga University Spokane, WA
7 Regis University Denver, CO
8 Duquesne University Pittsburgh, PA
9 Western Governors University Salt Lake City, UT
10 Concordia University Irvine Irvine, CA

Most master's in organizational leadership degree programs follow a multidisciplinary curriculum that incorporates elements of HR, information technology (IT), business analytics, law and ethics, project management and other related fields. These programs often culminate in a capstone project, which requires students to use the skills and knowledge they have gained to solve a complex, business-oriented problem. Many of today's students are choosing to earn their master's in organizational leadership online. Web-based students follow the same rigorous course schedule as their brick-and-mortar counterparts, leading to the same number of job opportunities for successful graduates. The asynchronous (or self-paced) structure and convenient study-from-home format of most online programs is also ideal for students with part-time jobs, childcare duties and other commitments that may interfere with campus-based coursework.

Learn more about what you can do with an online master's in organizational leadership and what kind of career opportunities you can look forward to with this comprehensive guide.

The Best Online Organizational Leadership Graduate Programs of 2020

Choosing a program is an incredibly personal decision, and only you can properly evaluate whether a target school's strengths match your educational needs. The following ranked list of schools should serve as a helpful starting point in your search for the best online master's in organizational leadership programs in the United States. If you are considering an online master's in organizational leadership, be sure to contact admissions specialists at different colleges and universities to learn more their about specific requirements and offerings.

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Michigan State University

East Lansing, MI Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 80%

Michigan State University is a major public research university with a 5,300-acre campus; about 50,000 students; and more than 200 undergraduate, graduate, and professional programs. Dozens of MSU programs are also available online, including a 30-credit master's in management, strategy, and leadership.

The curriculum covers concepts in strategic analysis, human resources, diversity, and team management. Each of the 15 required courses take five weeks to complete. Classes use a combination of asynchronous, video-based lectures and one-on-one time with instructors.

Competitive candidates for MSU's master's in organizational leadership program have a minimum of three years of full-time managerial experience, a bachelor's degree, and a minimum 3.0 cumulative undergraduate GPA. A professional resume, three letters of recommendation, and a two-page essay are required.


Pepperdine University

Malibu, CA Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 93%

Founded in the Church of Christ tradition, Pepperdine University serves a diverse student body of about 3,600 undergraduates and 4,300 graduates. Pepperdine's School of Education and Psychology offers 18 degrees, including an online master's in organizational leadership and learning.

Students complete this 32-credit program primarily online, with attendance required at one face-to-face weekend in Los Angeles each term. Courses use synchronous and asynchronous learning. Alongside courses in leadership, data visualization, and organization design, students must complete a thesis, product design, internship, or scholarly conference presentation.

Admission requires a bachelor's degree, official transcripts, two professional recommendations, and a two-page statement of purpose. Pepperdine prefers applicants with a cumulative undergraduate GPA of 3.0 or higher. In-state and out-of-state students pay the same tuition rates.


Lincoln Christian University

Lincoln, IL Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 71%

Alongside an extensive on-campus catalog, Lincoln Christian University offers six programs to distance learners. The school's online master's degree in organizational leadership attracts students from around the globe, representing Fortune 500 companies, nonprofit foundations, churches, state government, and small businesses alike.

Framed with a Christian worldview and biblical values, each of the program's ten courses prepares graduates to serve as leaders, make strategic decisions, and handle change and conflict. Students take one asynchronous course at a time and complete the degree in approximately 21 months. A final capstone project is required.

To apply, prospective students must submit a brief essay, three references, and official undergraduate transcripts. Applicants must complete an interview with the program director by phone, video conferencing, or in person.


Lewis University

Romeoville, IL Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 64%

Lewis University is a Catholic institution offering undergraduate and graduate education opportunities to more than 7,000 students — both on campus and online. Lewis delivers all online coursework asynchronously. Students can earn a 36-credit master's in organizational leadership within 18 months.

Eight required courses cover topics like leadership theory, conflict management, and workplace research. Students select one of five concentrations to round out their studies: higher education-student services, nonprofit management, professional and executive coaching, organizational management, or training and development. A final capstone project involves a detailed case analysis, written paper, and presentation.

Admission requirements for the organizational leadership program include a minimum 3.0 undergraduate GPA and three years of work experience. Applicants must submit official transcripts, a personal essay, and two letters of recommendation.


Trevecca Nazarene University

Nashville, TN Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 55%

Trevecca Nazarene University — located in the heart of Nashville, Tennessee — boasts a catalog of 73 bachelor's degrees, 16 master's degrees, and three doctoral degrees. The Christ-centered institution also offers an assortment of asynchronous online programs, including a master's in organizational leadership.

The interdisciplinary program focuses on personal leadership development, interpersonal/group leadership, and organizational impact. Core courses include leading and building teams, cultivating networks and fundraising, and strategic planning for servant leaders. Progressing as a cohort, students take one class at a time, completing the program in 18 months.

Applicants must have a minimum 2.5 GPA on prior coursework, submit official transcripts, and provide a copy of a government-issued identification.


Gonzaga University

Spokane, WA Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 86%

Gonzaga University is a Jesuit institution offering undergraduate and graduate education in the liberal arts. Approximately 1,600 master's students enroll each year, half of whom learn exclusively through distance learning. Gonzaga's online master's degree in organizational leadership requires 30 credits.

Core classes focus on developing foundational knowledge and skills in leadership, communication, and ethics, while five elective classes offer customization options. If desired, study abroad opportunities and concentrations (change leadership, global leadership, servant leadership, and strategic and organizational communication) are available. The program requires one on-campus immersion and takes about two years to complete.

Admission requires a completed bachelor's degree, official transcripts, and a GPA explanation statement for prospective students whose cumulative undergraduate GPA falls below 3.0. Gonzaga offers five program start dates each year.


Regis University

Denver, CO Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 69%

Regis University is a Jesuit institution with more than 10,000 students enrolled online and on site at four campuses across Colorado. The school's online master's in organizational leadership program helps graduates prepare for managerial roles, teaching students to recognize opportunities, define problems, and implement creative solutions.

The 30-credit curriculum requires courses in business intelligence and analysis, organizational culture and design, and foundations of organizational behavior. Each accelerated course takes eight weeks to complete, allowing for degree completion in just under two years. A final capstone course asks students to explore corporate social responsibility as a strategic opportunity.

Regis evaluates applications on an individual, holistic basis. Prospective students must provide a current resume, transcripts, and participate in an interview. Six program start dates are offered each year.


Duquesne University

Pittsburgh, PA Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 80%

The only Spiritan Catholic institution of higher education in the country, Duquesne University is committed to service, diversity, and excellence in liberal arts and professional education. Duquesne enrolls approximately 9,300 students and offers more than 20 online programs, including a master of science in leadership.

Well suited for working professionals, this graduate program offers three annual start dates and asynchronous course delivery. Core areas of study include theories and models of leadership, organizational communication, and conflict resolution. A final leadership capstone offers students the opportunity to engage in a highly interactive leadership simulation.

Applicants need to provide a CV or resume, official transcripts, and a personal goals statement. GRE scores are also required.


Western Governors University

Salt Lake City, UT Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 29%

Western Governors University is a private, online institution offering convenient education options for undergraduate and graduate learners. The school focuses on four major disciplines: business, education, information technology, and health/nursing. On average, students complete the school's master's in management in leadership in 18 months.

The program focuses on key subject areas, such as management communication, data-driven decision-making, business acumen, and ethical leadership. Asynchronous, flexible, competency-based courses allow students to progress at their own pace. Program graduates can go on to work for private companies, healthcare organizations, and government agencies.

Program start dates occur on the first of every month. Prospective students must submit official transcripts and complete an intake interview with an enrollment counselor. WGU helps students save money by offering a flat, per-term tuition rate.


Concordia University Irvine

Irvine, CA Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 63%

Concordia University Irvine is a Lutheran liberal arts institution that focuses on preparing students for lives of learning, service, and leadership. Through CUI's Townsend Institute for Leadership and Counseling, students can pursue an online master's degree in organizational leadership.

This 33-credit program provides students with education and training in decision-making, managing difficult people, leadership, and building healthy organizational cultures. Taking one or two courses at a time, students can complete the program in 12-20 months.

Application requirements include a minimum 3.0 undergraduate GPA, a current resume, at least one professional reference, and a written essay.


Organizational leadership is an area of business concerned with effective operations and management, which covers areas such as communication, human resources, personnel training, and professional development. Read more here..


With a master's in organizational leadership, you can pursue a variety of business careers in areas such as management, human resources, business operations, and business development. Read more here..


Yes. Professionals with a master's in organizational leadership can earn a median salary of $52,400 during their first five years and $85,000 after 10 years on the job, which is roughly 20% more than what bachelor's degree-holders earn during those same periods. Read more here..


Yes, but it differs from an MBA in important ways. A master's in organizational leadership emphasizes the importance of creativity, personal connections in work environments, and interpersonal communication skills. Read more here..


This depends on an individual's goals and interests. Compared to an MBA that emphasizes analytical and quantitative skills, an organizational leadership master's emphasizes soft skills that lead to effective management. Read more here..

Choosing a Program

Will an Online Master's in Organizational Leadership Program Provide Me With the Skills I Need to Advance My Career?

Online organizational leadership master's programs teach students how to optimize organizational communication, mitigate workplace conflicts and help employees overcome various obstacles and personal issues. Coursework delves into topics like administration, human resources, information technology and change management. As students master the fundamentals of organizational leadership, they will be given numerous opportunities to apply their knowledge to case-studies and real-world scenarios.

Will an Online Master's in Organizational Leadership Program Work With My Schedule?

Master's in organizational leadership online programs offer a flexible, easily accessible alternative to traditional college education. Students can download course lectures and readings, participate in virtual discussions with other students, submit written assignments, take exams and communicate with their professors from the comfort of their home computer. Current technology also enables them to study on the go using a laptop, tablet, smartphone and other portable devices with Wi-Fi capabilities.

What Jobs Can I Get With My Master's in Organizational Leadership?

Many corporate careers are available to organizational leadership master's degree recipients. The most popular job titles include management consultants, top executives, human resources managers and specialists, office administrators and training and development managers. Those with a master's in organizational leadership may also work for government agencies, nonprofit organizations or healthcare facilities.

What Else Can I Expect From an Online Master's in Organizational Leadership Program?

The complexities of managing groups of people is a popular area of study for many business students who want to enhance their skill set and acquire greater earning potential. The length of most online master's in organizational leadership programs is around 30 credit hours, and can be completed either full time or part time. Students can expect to gain expertise in management techniques and philosophies, in addition to specializations according to their desired program.


Concentration Description Careers This Concentration Prepares For
Corporate Social Responsibility This concentration focuses on the overall impact that organizations can have on the natural world and on other human beings. This focus has emerged as one of the leading considerations in a company's decision-making process. Areas of focus include grant writing, fellowship organization, disaster relief, and net-zero carbon imprint protocol. Chief sustainability officer, director of corporate communications, ethics and compliance global awareness program manager
Emotional Intelligence for Leadership Students in the concentration study the role of emotional intelligence in management areas such as learning, individual well being, organizational climate, and financial performance. The program may intersect with areas such as cyberbullying and group psychology. This concentration is an especially important tool for organizational health, lending itself to work-process optimization and strong leadership skills. Chief executive officer, global management, technology management
Marketing Science Marketing Science involves analyzing the patterns of consumer behavior and the effects of advertising on that behavior. The principles of marketing in terms of leadership apply to work in industrial production and organizational consultation, but can also be leveraged to improve the functioning of governmental bodies and nonprofits. Marketing science is a popular focus that gives students an advantage in a competitive job market. Advertising manager, media buyer, chief marketing officer, promotions manager


When deciding which master's in leadership online program to attend, it is important to consider the fact that individual programs may differ. Some online master's in organizational leadership focus on different aspects of the industry. Finding an example curriculum of an online organizational leadership master's degree can tell a lot about a program.

  • Strategic Human Resource Management: Highlights the role of training and HR departments in performing the necessary tasks associated with recruitment, training, career development, and hiring within organizations. A foundational overview in collective bargaining, regulatory procedures, and affirmative action requirements are also emphasized as they relate to the intricacies of how an organization ensures its own success.
  • Globalization, Change and Learning: Students develop a greater appreciation of the ongoing effects of the Information Age in terms of how companies trade and market themselves internationally. A focus on globalization and its effects on human relationships better prepares a student to navigate public relations expectations in a complex and fundamentally interconnected worldwide marketplace, equipping them with valuable problem-solving skills.
  • Leadership in Organizations: Students are exposed to a large body of literature around organizational leadership. They will also read about different theories and approaches. Analysis and research techniques around empirical business challenges are emphasized, with a focus on how contextual technicalities and levels of analysis (team, community, organization) may factor into the decision-making process in nearly any business setting.


All master's in leadership online programs have a set number of credit requirements for graduation, but the length of time that a student may need to complete that program may differ. Some students may possess coursework from another previously attended institution. Any accepted transfer credits will shorten the length of the program.

Students will encounter eight to 12-week course lengths. Some programs also require that students enter a program in a cohort, which has students follow a synchronized instruction. A cohort model will typically take longer to complete than asynchronous studies. Students can complete a 30-33 credit online master's in organizational leadership program in two years.


  • Project Risk Management Certificate: Exposure to the holistic perspective of project risk assessment equips a student with fundamentals in process-oriented thinking in order to prepare them for project management roles. Proven methodology, concepts, and best practices from real businesses help to guide a student in learning to assess scope, schedule, resource availability, and other constraints in terms of a given business project.
  • Management for IT Professionals Certificate: A Management for IT Professionals certificate would be suited to any student who has a desire to assume management within an IT company, or who plans on working in IT upon graduation. This certificate focuses on culture in work organizations and how it influences the people that work there. Standards and codes of conduct for long-term health, the importance of roles, and essential business practices are all emphasized.

Accreditation for Online Master's in Organizational Leadership Degrees

Regional accreditation is a voluntary process undergone by a university in order to demonstrate to potential employers and licensing agencies that their programs meets a minimum standard of excellence. Regional accreditation is considered by some to be more prestigious. National accreditation tends to be associated with for-profit colleges and universities. There is no specific accreditation required in addition to regional or national accreditation regarding the best online master's degree in leadership. This is important when considering how your degree may or may not be recognized in terms of a potential transfer to a Ph.D. program or application for a corporate position with accreditation requirements.

The Department of Education exists to regulate policies concerning all schools and colleges, coordinate federal assistance for education, gather data about schools, and enforce federal laws regarding education. It strives to promote the success of education within the U.S. and has no direct hand in the accreditation process itself. Organizations such as the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) create, issue, and archive the records of a school's or college's passing of inspections. The CHEA and similar bodies strive to maintain educational and judicial standards that remain competitive with colleges and schools in the US, as well as around the world. Interested applicants may look for one of the seven organizations that make up the Council of Regional Accrediting Commissions: the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, the Higher Learning Commission, the Northwest Accreditation Commission, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, or the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges. A list of colleges with national accreditation is available directly from the US Department of Education.

Employment Outlook for Master's in Organizational Leadership

Job Placement: Master's in Organizational Leadership

Due to the multidisciplinary nature of organizational leadership, students who graduate with a master's degree in this field pursue a wide range of career paths. The job outlook for organizational leadership professionals will largely depend on their specific job title. The following table features the unemployment rates for six common occupations related to organizational leadership. Each entry was included on the 'Best Business Jobs' list published by U.S. News & World Report in 2016.

Occupation Unemployment Rate (2016)
Financial Manager 2.6%
Management Analyst 3.0%
Human Resources Specialist 3.1%
Business Operations Manager 3.7%
Operations Research Analyst 3.8%
Executive Assistant 3.9%

Source: U.S. News & World Report

The average unemployment rate of all six occupations listed is 3.35%. By comparison, the national unemployment rate for all industries currently sits at 4.6%.

Earning a Living

According to the 2015-16 PayScale College Salary Report, students who graduate with a master's in organizational leadership will earn a median annual salary of $52,400 during their first five years and $85,000 after 10 years on the job. Comparatively, those with a bachelor's in organizational leadership earn $43,900 and $63,300 at the five- and 10-year marks, respectively.

How does organizational leadership stack up in terms of early-career earnings? The following table explores salary projections for four organizational master's fields.

Degree/Professional Field Median Annual Salary for Entry-level Employees (0-5 Years) Median Annual Salary for Mid-career Employees (10+ Years)
Organizational Development $55,800 $105,000
Organizational Psychology $55,800 $92,600
Organizational Leadership $52,400 $85,000
Organizational Management $51,900 $79,400

Source: 2015-16 PayScale College Salary Report

In addition to master's degree field, it's also important to note that salary expectations for organizational leadership professionals also vary by specific job title. The next table looks at career earnings projections and growth for five of the most common careers in organizational leadership.

Occupation Median Annual Salary for Entry-Level Employees (0-5 Years) Median Annual Salary for Mid-Career Employees (5-10 Years) Median Annual Salary for Experienced Employees (10-20 Years) Median Annual Salary for Late-Career Employees (20+ Years)
Organizational Development Manager $76,018 $85,073 $95,556 $96,450
Manager, Change Management $72,908 $92,915 $101,787 $99,943
Management Consultant $74,867 $100,917 $119,817 $129,943
Operations Manager $51,532 $60,791 $67,672 $74,470
Human Resources Manager $54,410 $64,114 $68,783 $70,954

Source: PayScale

All five occupations listed in the table reported career salary growth of at least 26%. Management consultants experienced the highest growth rate: a 73.6% increase between the entry-level and mid-career stages. Operations placed second with 44.5% earnings growth after 20 years on the job, followed by managers (change management) with 37.1% growth.

Career Opportunities

Students who graduate with a master's in organizational leadership will be qualified for dozens of top-level positions, although individual eligibility will depend on additional factors like company size and city/state of employment. Four of the most common career pathways in organizational leadership are detailed below.

Top Executives: Top executives develop strategies and productivity goals for the employees in their company or organization. They analyze company data in order to create feasible objectives, and then monitor and evaluate personnel in order to ensure these goals are met. Executives often have a hand in recruitment, hiring and employee training, as well.

Administrative Services Managers: These managers oversee the supportive functions of their company or organization, such as hiring, logistics, technology support and facilities management. In larger work settings, administrative services managers may supervise recordkeeping, security, mail and other specific departments.

Training and Development Managers: These managers develop, implement and evaluate the training and professional development programs at their company or organization. They analyze data and employee records in order to create applicable programs, and then evaluate program outcomes to ensure personnel are receiving adequate instruction.

Human Resources Managers: Human resources managers (also known as HR managers) coordinate the administrative services of their company or organization. They often play a direct role in recruiting, interviewing, screening, hiring and training new employees. They also assist employees with work-related issues.

Occupation Median Annual Salary Projected Industry Growth (2014-24)
Top Executives $102,690 6% (+147,000 jobs)
Administrative Services Managers $86,110 8% (+23,500 jobs)
Training and Development Managers $102,640 7% (+2,300 jobs)
Human Resources Managers $104,440 9% (+10,800 jobs)

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

Professional Organizations

Making professional connections and learning about different approaches to organizational leadership is crucial to your success. Professional organizations offer a great entry point for students who want to learn more about their chosen career path. Below you'll find three of the country's most prominent organizations established for organizational leadership professionals. These organizations host networking events, provide online trainings, maintain active job boards, and offer other services for career-ready college graduates. Resources like these often prove invaluable as you complete your degree requirements and prepare to enter the job market.

  • National Management Association: Headquartered in Ohio, this nonprofit organization currently maintains six regional U.S. chapters. The NMA is home to the certified manager (CM) credential, and members can also take part in professional development courses and contests.
  • Society for Human Resource Management: Considered the world's largest HR-oriented professional organization, the SHRM boasts 285,000 members in 165 different countries. The website features a vast online resource library, as well as links to continuing education opportunities and an events calendar.
  • Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology: This Ohio-based organization boasts more than 8,000 members worldwide. Member benefits include discounts on SIOP products and services, invitations to conferences and other networking events and online journal subscriptions. The organization also allows students and retirees to become members for only $50 per year.

Financing Your Online Master's in Organizational Leadership Program

Despite the relative affordability of online programs, most students still need financial assistance. Students should complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form to learn more about loans, grants, and other opportunities offered through the U.S. government. Additionally, private grants and scholarships are widely available through nonprofit organizations, companies, and other sources. Check out our collection of resources below to learn more about financial aid options.


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 programs can provide an affordable and flexible option for women trying to balance the demands of work, family, and earning their degree. We've curated a list of valuable scholarships specifically for women.


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.