Online master's in organizational leadership programs teach students how to manage and direct diverse companies and organizations.
Learners study topics such as leadership and diversity, human potential, and organizational development.
Graduates can pursue lucrative, in-demand roles like administrative services manager, K-12 school principal, and postsecondary administrator. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that administrative services managers earned a median salary of $96,180 in 2018, while K-12 school principals and postsecondary administrators earned $95,310 and $94,340, respectively.
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This guide ranks the best online master's in organizational leadership programs to help prospective students find the right programs for their individual needs.
Students pursuing a master's in organizational leadership online have the flexibility to balance their studies with personal and professional obligations.
Online Master's Programs in Organizational Leadership Ranking Guidelines
We selected these programs based on quality, curricula, faculty, rankings, awards, and reputation. Students should be aware that some schools provide a master of arts version of the degree.
What is Organizational Leadership?
Organizational leadership involves operational oversight in a company with the goal of promoting growth and development consistent with the overall corporate vision. It requires a person–centered approach that acknowledges the needs of groups and individuals.
What is a Master's Degree in Organizational Leadership?
An organizational leadership master's degree uses an interdisciplinary approach to prepare students for careers as organizational leaders. Whether a student hopes to lead a small local business in cornering the regional market or a multinational corporation, an organizational leadership master's degree equips them with the necessary expertise to do so.
Master's in Organizational Leadership vs. MBA
Using a macro perspective that emphasizes administrative theories, practices, and analytics, an MBA takes an analytical approach to the study of business administration. By contrast, a master's degree in organizational leadership incorporates a more person–centered approach, training students to work with individuals and teams to direct change and development. Those interested in an MBA should visit our 50 Best Online MBA Programs ranking.
Online Master's in Organizational Leadership Programs
During an online master's in organizational leadership, professors administer courses through the institution's chosen online platform, such as Blackboard or Canvas. Before beginning classes, students may participate in an orientation that demonstrates how to watch lectures, submit assignments, complete group assignments, and stay on track with the syllabus. Students connect with peers over email, group chats, announcements, and discussion boards.
Successful organizational leaders possess self–awareness, an understanding of various leadership styles, and how to get the best out of their employees.
Synchronous courses follow a set schedule, enabling students to ask questions and get answers in real time. Asynchronous formats provide 24/7 accessibility, allowing learners to complete a master's in organizational leadership degree at their own pace. Successful organizational leaders possess self–awareness, an understanding of various leadership styles, and how to get the best out of their employees.
The Advantages of a Master's Degree in Organizational Leadership
Earning a master's in organizational leadership degree provides career advancement opportunities. Bachelor's degree holders enjoy entry–level roles, while professionals with a master's degree qualify for senior–level roles, higher salaries, and more responsibility — such as director or manager. Graduates with a master's in organizational leadership enjoy career opportunities in human resources, public service, nonprofits, strategic leadership, and healthcare management.
What Can You Do With a Master's Degree in Organizational Leadership?
Organizational leaders track the return on investment of human capital in an agency, corporation, or department. They communicate clear expectations for team members, perform negotiations, and delegate tasks. The following positions are common among graduates with a master's degree in organizational leadership.
Senior Project Manager
Overseeing project implementation, senior managers monitor workflows from planning to delivery. They foresee potential challenges and solve problems to stay on track with deadlines. This role necessitates strong communication skills, managerial experience, and advanced knowledge of industry–specific technological programs.
Salary based on experience
Consultant – Learning and Development
This outsourced role facilitates customized strategies and initiatives for corporate and agency clients to boost morale, introduce new policies and procedures, host seminars, and run workshops.
Salary based on experience
Director of Operations
Directors of operations oversee the daily activities of businesses and organizations. They also guide institutional research and development. They may report to the senior vice president of operations or the chief operating officer.
Salary based on experience
Chief Human Resources Officer
These professionals set compensation guidelines, grant performance bonuses, and facilitate benefits. They recruit new talent while training, developing, and retaining current employees. They also ensure that the company complies with labor laws and employment standards.
Salary based on experience
Comparable to a for–profit CEO, an executive director oversees nonprofit organizations. While guiding the institutional mission, they oversee fundraising, budgeting, programming, and community outreach, answering to a board of directors.
Salary based on experience
Choosing an Online Organizational Leadership Graduate Degree Program
Important factors to consider when choosing an online organizational leadership graduate program include tuition, program length, transfer policies, and graduation requirements.
In–state students typically pay less than out–of–state students, though some online programs offer the same tuition to online students regardless of residency. Additionally, public schools often offer lower tuition than private schools; however, many private schools offer more financial aid opportunities to offset tuition costs.
Transfer policies vary by institution. Many regionally accredited schools only accept transfer credits from other regionally accredited schools. In addition to credit for prior coursework, some programs may grant transfer credit for work experience. Check with each prospective school to determine its transfer policy.
School Size and Type
Small schools typically feature similarly small class sizes that afford students ample one–on–one attention from professors. Larger schools may consist of larger classes, but they may also offer more degree and specialization options than smaller schools.
A master's in organizational leadership typically takes 2–3 years to complete, with full–time students graduating faster than part–time students. Some schools offer accelerated programs that allow students to graduate in less than two years.
Consider whether a school offers the program fully online or in hybrid format. Hybrid structures combine online courses with on–campus requirements, so students should ensure that they can meet all on–campus requirements. In fully online programs, students can graduate without visiting campus.
Thesis, Fellowship, and Work Requirements
Online master's in organizational leadership programs typically do not mandate a thesis. Students may complete an advanced research project or internship to demonstrate mastery of the curriculum. Many organizational leadership programs prefer applicants with work experience.
Accreditation for Online Organizational Leadership Master's Degrees
Accreditation is a voluntary review process that schools undergo to indicate that they meet high academic standards. Schools may receive regional or national accreditation, with regional accreditation typically considered the more prestigious of the two. The Council for Higher Education Accreditation and the U.S. Department of Education recognize accrediting bodies and list accredited schools that students can review. An accredited degree expands employment, financial aid, and education opportunities.
How Long Does It Take to Get a Master's Degree in Organizational Leadership?
Depending on part–time or full–time enrollment status and credit transfers, students typically complete an online master's in organizational leadership in 2–3 years.
Courses in an Online Master's in Organizational Leadership Program
- Organizational Dynamics
This course reviews individual and group behaviors in an organizational setting. Students learn how to steer departmental visions, allocate resources, meet stakeholder deadlines, and assess goal achievement.
- Team Leadership
This course reviews the complex issues and challenges faced by team leaders. Students learn how to delegate tasks, manage expectations, and cultivate community. They also study ways to manage diverse and conflicting personalities.
- Ethics and Governance
In this course, students study organizational governance principles and frameworks and ethical considerations for leaders. Students examine ethical dilemmas of leadership and their implications for strategy, growth, and decision–making.
- Performance Management
Courses on performance management cover the various types of performance appraisals and how they incentivize employees to increase profitability. Learners discuss subjects such as criteria, formats, common mistakes made by supervisors, and coaching guidance.
- Leadership Across Boundaries
Supervisors need to feel comfortable neutralizing team conflicts. This course, usually taught as an elective, teaches students how leaders can foster teams and build consensus across generations, cultures, genders, ethnicities, and regions.
Organizational Leadership Membership Associations
Online master's in organizational leadership students and graduates benefit from joining professional organizations. These groups provide continuing education, networking, certification, and employment opportunities. They may also offer financial aid opportunities and discounts on relevant resources.
The SHRM publishes HR Today, the leading journal for human resource professionals. The website posts policy news, research, surveys, and labor market and economic data. The society also provides a database of job descriptions for HR managers and administers certifications.
IMC authorizes management consultants according to a strict code of ethics and professional requirements. The institute facilitates a database that connects members to corporate clients worldwide. It also provides conferences, webinars consultant chat rooms, and mentorship services.
The Center for Creative Leadership runs offices across the world for governments, nonprofits, and healthcare and pharmaceutical organizations. Its internationally recognized programs and certificates validate forward–thinking leaders. Members take advantage of innovative research, a career board, workshops, podcasts, and webinars.
This organization governs management professionals worldwide. They grant certifications to managers and supervisors with significant work experience while providing financial aid through scholarships and awards. Members enjoy access to live online training.
The NASP offers sales professionals two certifications: certified professional sales person and certified personal sales leader. Members benefit from online programs, virtual coaching, webinars, discussion boards for women, and free career coaching.