Considered an alternative to an MBA, an online master's degree in organizational leadership emphasizes communication and decision-making. Students learn how to positively affect their company's culture and lead diverse teams in complex projects.

Graduates are prepared for management positions in training/development and human resources. They can also pursue consulting and research careers.

This guide provides an overview of online master's degrees in organizational leadership, including typical admission requirements and common courses. You can also learn about the careers available to professionals in this field.

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

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects 7% job growth for management occupations between 2018 and 2028. With an online master's degree in organizational leadership, experienced business professionals can work as managers in labor relations, marketing and advertising, and industrial production.

Graduate degree-holders can also pursue a career in management analysis — an occupation that the BLS projects will grow by 14% between 2018 and 2028. Although individuals with only a bachelor's can qualify for some of these positions, many employers prefer hiring candidates with a master's degree. Additional employment opportunities exist in industries like healthcare, higher education administration, and information technology.

How We Rank Schools

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Our rankings are grounded in a few guiding principles and use the latest statistical data available from trusted sources. Read more about our ranking methodology. We hope our approach helps you find the school that is best for you.

2020 Best Accredited Online Master's in Organizational Leadership Programs

Rank School Location Cost Graduation Rate Description Toggle

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.

Online Master's in Organizational Leadership Program Overview

Organizational leadership master's programs generally take two years to complete, and most programs require approximately 30 credits.

Students can sometimes graduate more quickly by enrolling in accelerated tracks that offer seven-week or eight-week classes throughout the year. These intensive options may allow distance learners to graduate within one year.

Unlike an MBA, which centers on data analysis and financial management, the curriculum for an online master's degree in organizational leadership examines how human interactions affect productivity and profit. Students delve into topics like corporate social responsibility, modern leadership strategies, and global marketplace decision theories. They also learn how to communicate to a variety of audiences and critically evaluate research.

Alongside core coursework, students can choose a specialization that builds on their academic interests and prior work experience. Common options include finance, global management, and strategic leadership.

Common Master's in Organizational Leadership Courses

Human Behavior in Organizations

This foundational course focuses on the interactions between individuals and groups. Students delve into contemporary theories concerning motivation, change, leadership, and communication, applying these concepts to their own professional experiences. Through case studies, learners analyze various reward designs, including employee incentive programs, cooperative decision-making practices, and participative management systems.

Leading Diverse Teams

Students in this course develop a comprehensive understanding of organizational diversity as it relates to team dynamics, cultural change, and strategic planning. They assess the practices of successful companies to identify key insights and skills. Students also examine emerging issues and pertinent challenges, such as implementing diversity initiatives in the workforce.

Organizational Culture

This course introduces students to diverse theories in effective corporate design and governance. Learners explore how shared values and group norms affect a company's ability to create goals and make decisions.

Critical Evaluation of Theory and Research

This skill-centered course prepares students to conduct and present research. Learners delve into several aspects of scholarly research, including developing a topic and writing purpose/problem statements. The class also covers how to conduct a literature review, teaching students to access relevant journals and analyze the validity of academic and technical articles.

Competitive Business Analysis

Students usually take this advanced course as part of a strategic innovation specialization. They learn to perform an evidence-based competitive analysis to help a company better understand its brand and position in the current marketplace. Covered topics include buyer personas, integrated marketing communications, realized and potential markets, and competitor impact.

Online Master's in Organizational Leadership Admission Requirements

  • GPA

    In general, organizational leadership master's programs require applicants to have a minimum GPA of 2.5-3.0. An applicant's GPA affects not only their chances of getting into the school, but also their financial aid package — particularly merit-based scholarships and graduate fellowships.

  • Test Scores

    Many master's in organizational leadership programs require GMAT or GRE scores. Some graduate business schools only accept GMAT scores, as the GMAT is specifically designed to evaluate management potential.

  • Resume

    Because organizational leadership master's programs typically target midcareer professionals, successful applicants usually need at least two years of relevant work experience. Applicants must submit resumes that detail their paid positions, volunteer activities, official awards, and industry certifications/licenses. If their program values research, prospective students should also include a list of their publications.

  • Recommendation Letters

    References allow the admissions department to gain more insight into each applicant. Prospective students must submit 2-3 recommendation letters from people who can attest to their personal qualities and career achievements; professors, employers, and professional mentors are commonly used as references.

  • Personal Statement

    This essay allows prospective students to stand out from the applicant pool if they use clear and evocative writing. Universities may ask applicants to respond to a general prompt or answer a series of short essay questions.

Online Master's in Organizational Leadership Career Paths

Organizational leadership master's programs prepare working professionals to advance into managerial and executive positions in their fields.

Depending on what skills and specialties they focus on, graduates may be qualified to lead human resources, public relations, or marketing and promotions teams. They can also work as health services managers, helping hospitals, clinics, and nursing homes deliver quality and accessible patient care.

Required credentials vary by industry, but organizational leaders can earn optional certificates from authorities like the International Institute of Business Analysis and the Project Management Institute to boost their employability.

Related Careers

Frequently Asked Questions

What can you do with a master's in organizational leadership?

With an online master's degree in organizational leadership, you can pursue managerial positions in human resources, marketing, and training and development. You can also pursue a leadership role in healthcare or IT, helping your company cultivate a productive workplace culture.

Is a master's in organizational leadership worth it?

Ultimately, outcomes are based on your professional background and academic training. The BLS projects that management occupations will grow by 7% between 2018 and 2028, so there is ample opportunity in the field.

Is organizational leadership a good degree?

It depends on your goals. The curriculum of an online master's degree in organizational leadership focuses on interpersonal elements that lead to a company's long-term success. Students take classes like human behavior in organizations, modern leadership practices, and organizational culture and design. Graduates can pursue management positions in several fields.

What is the highest-paying organizational leadership job?

Salary potential varies based on factors like industry, location, employer, and candidate qualifications. According to PayScale, executives earn the highest salaries, with chief operating officers making about $143,000 each year. Human resources, recruiting, and training and development managers earn the highest salaries among mid-tier leadership positions.

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