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2023 Best Master's in Organizational Leadership Online Programs

By OnlineU Staff Writers | Updated 12/23/2022
2023 Best Online Master's Degrees in Organizational Leadership Badge

Online master's degrees in organizational leadership are loaded with lessons on effective ways to lead teams of all sizes. These topics include inclusive engagement, collaboration, motivational psychology, evidence-based practice, and accountability. Organizational leadership programs tend to focus more heavily on theory than master of business administration degrees do, and they may spend less time analyzing for-profit corporations in favor of other types of enterprises. But organizational leadership graduates may still be eligible for many of the same careers as MBA graduates, and some schools even offer MBAs in organizational leadership

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Online Organizational Leadership Master's Degrees You May Be Interested In

2023 Best Master's in Organizational Leadership Online Programs

RankSchool Salary Score Median Starting Salary
# 1 #1 University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill 100 100 $135,965
# 2 #2 Columbia University in the City of New York 100 $162,427
# 3 #3 Georgia Institute of Technology 99 $122,073
# 4 #4 Golden Gate University 99 $117,549
# 5 #5 Kettering University 95 $105,787
# 6 (tie) #6 (tie) Rutgers University 95 $105,618
# 6 (tie) #6 (tie) Rutgers University - Camden 95 $105,618
# 8 #8 Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University 95 $105,287
# 9 #9 James Madison University 94 $103,590
# 10 #10 University of Oklahoma - Norman Campus 94 $103,025

2023 Online Colleges Offering Master's Degrees

Ranking Details

#1 University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

  • Salary Score: 100
  • Median Starting Salary: $135,965
  • Locations: Chapel Hill (NC)
  • Accreditation: SACS COC

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC) is a public institution that offers an online Master of Public Health (MPH) - Leadership degree with 42 credit hours of coursework. This may take three years to complete with a full-time course load.

UNC uses the Sakai digital learning platform to deliver online courses. The curriculum for this MPH focuses on the knowledge and skills required of managers in the public health sphere. Some required courses are Systems and Design Thinking for Public Health Leaders and Community Engagement and Leadership in Health. Each student also completes a 200-hour practicum in which they work in person at an approved facility.

#2 Columbia University in the City of New York

  • Salary Score: 100
  • Median Starting Salary: $162,427
  • Locations: New York (NY)
  • Accreditation: MSCHE

The private Columbia University in the City of New York provides an online Master of Science in Information and Knowledge Strategy degree. This 36-credit-hour program can take anywhere from one-and-a-half to three years to complete depending on a student's preferred pace.

Columbia's online learners use the CourseWorks learning platform to access coursework and submit assignments. Program faculty discuss how leaders can guide their employer's strategy, and the flexible curriculum contains an equal number of required courses and electives. The core requirements include Leading Collaboration and Digital Workplace and Digital Transformation. Three of the core classes include on-campus residencies in New York City that last two to three days each.

#3 Georgia Institute of Technology

  • Salary Score: 99
  • Median Starting Salary: $122,073
  • Locations: Atlanta (GA)
  • Accreditation: SACS COC

The Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech), a public college, features an online Professional Master's in Manufacturing Leadership containing 30 credit hours. This program is designed for students working full time, and it may take as little as two years to complete with a full course load.

Georgia Tech's online students use the Canvas learning system to access their asynchronous courses. This master's degree's curriculum seeks to help students improve operating efficiency for manufacturing employers. All students take a core that includes Additive Manufacturing as a Secondary Process and Automated Systems and Control while also selecting a concentration in discrete manufacturing, forest bioproducts, and chemical manufacturing.

#4 Golden Gate University

  • Salary Score: 99
  • Median Starting Salary: $117,549
  • Locations: San Francisco (CA)
  • Accreditation: WSCUC

Golden Gate University is a private institution with two online master's degrees in leadership. The first is a Master of Business Administration with a concentration in Adaptive Leadership, which has 45-48 required credit hours of coursework. The second is a Master of Science (MS) in Leadership featuring 27 credit hours. Both degrees may take two years to complete at a full-time pace.

The university hosts online courses on its eLearning platform, where students sign in to receive and complete assignments. The MBA's curriculum has a core of business courses, while the concentration includes classes such as Leading Complex Change and Adaptive Decision Making. These two courses are also required for the MS degree, plus others that include Strategic Leadership and Personal Leadership.

#5 Kettering University

  • Salary Score: 95
  • Median Starting Salary: $105,787
  • Locations: Flint (MI)
  • Accreditation: HLC

Kettering University is a private institution offering an online Master of Business Administration degree with a concentration in global leadership. This program contains 40 required credit hours composed of seven core classes and three in the specialization. It may take as little as two years to earn with a full-time schedule.

Kettering's online students use Blackboard to complete coursework. MBA professors try to teach using the university's Learn Today, Use Tomorrow approach to make education practical and applicable to the workforce. The core curriculum covers finance, strategy, and marketing, while the three concentration courses are Leadership, Ethics and Leadership, and Organizational Behavior.

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What Is an Organizational Leadership Master's Degree?

This master's degree teaches leadership skills to students interested in the theory and practice of organizational management. It shares some commonalities with a Master of Business Administration (MBA), but features a more theoretical and scientific focus and less emphasis on strictly profit-making business organizations. 

Faculty typically design these programs to last two years on a part-time cadence of one or two classes per term. This set-up helps accommodate the many master's students who work full-time while going to school. The curriculum is usually 30-36 credit hours and contains coursework in motivational psychology, ethics, communication, and data analytics. Most programs culminate in a capstone project where you integrate everything you’ve learned. 

Online Master's in Organizational Leadership

Online master's programs usually feature asynchronous online courses: You log in to a learning management system at your convenience rather than at a scheduled time. You can watch lecture recordings and interact in discussion forums whenever you prefer, as long as you respect assignment and exam due dates. You'll work in person at an employer's office for any required internships, but these are relatively uncommon among organizational leadership programs.

Admission Requirements

You must hold a bachelor's degree from an accredited college to apply for a master's in organizational leadership. You don't need to have studied a particular major to apply; organizational leadership students come from a variety of higher education backgrounds.

Beyond your undergraduate transcripts, admission requirements differ by program. But most schools ask for the following:

  • A minimum 3.0 GPA for your most recent degree
  • Two letters of recommendation, usually from professors
  • A resume with education and work experience details
  • A personal essay or statement of intent
  • GRE or GMAT scores

What Can You Do With an Organizational Leadership Master's?

Organizational leadership master's graduates have landed a variety of roles in a range of industries. In fact, each of the top three employers of organizational leadership master's graduates in the last 12 months is in a different industry. According to the analytics company Lightcast, those employers are the consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers, Shelby County public school district in Tennessee, and the pharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson.

We've listed possible career opportunities for alumni of organizational leadership programs below.

Annual Median Salary:  $77,030
Job Outlook: 28% growth

Consumers have grown used to receiving goods quickly, and employers need logisticians to keep them flowing fast. These employees monitor supply chains and improve them where possible. You may be able to improve your prospects for these jobs by taking extra logistics or supply chain classes.

Annual Median Salary:  $93,000
Job Outlook: 11% growth

These analysts make recommendations about improving employers' workforces, which can range from reducing spending to changing the organizational culture. They often work for consulting firms, where they examine an employer over a period of time and deliver their findings in a report.

Annual Median Salary:  $82,360
Job Outlook: 23% growth

Operations research is the use of numerical data and inference to streamline processes, such as manufacturing or customer service. Analysts figure out which processes could be more efficient, then make recommendations to management about how to make it happen. It may be a good idea to take electives in statistics and quantitative reasoning if you're interested in this work.

Annual Median Salary:  $98,980
Job Outlook: 6% growth

Executives are organizational leaders who sit near the top of their employers' decision-making hierarchy. Although you might enter management soon after earning your master's, you typically also need many years of experience to reach the highest levels of your field.

Is an Online Master’s Degree in Organizational Leadership Worth It?

It's tough to say in advance whether a degree will be worthwhile, but an organizational leadership master's has been a good investment to many graduates committed to leading organizations. These degrees often equip graduates with useful, transferable skills that might help you succeed in whichever sector you choose to work in.

Potential Benefits

According to Lightcast data, organizational leadership master's graduates secure work in a range of high-paying, relatively stable fields. Besides those listed above, popular choices include project management specialist and human resources manager

Organizational leadership is a less known quantity than business administration, which might help you stand apart in a job market crowded with MBA graduates. You may want to perfect a confident elevator pitch for the advantages that your education has given you.

Potential Drawbacks

Higher education is expensive, and a master's degree could put you further into debt. There's lots of research about the worth of an MBA, but it's unclear whether a graduate degree in organizational leadership offers quite the same pay boost to make it worth the debt.

Online learning may be less useful for networking than studying on campus. Online students have fewer chances to interact with classmates and faculty who can offer potentially helpful professional connections.

Still undecided on your degree? Explore similar online degrees in business management, communications, and human resources.

Organizational Leadership Concentrations

As you research master's degrees, you may notice some programs that offer optional concentrations. These concentrations are collections of courses designed to help you improve your competencies in a focus area. Read on for examples of organizational leadership concentrations and what they entail for this field in particular. 

Diversity, equity, and inclusion is likely to become an increasingly popular specialization as employers push for more diverse hiring and inclusive workplace practices. Coursework may cover cultural sensitivity, organizational change, and mentoring.

A human resources specialization may be ideal if you're interested in working for HR consulting firms or in the HR department of a large employer. You might study talent acquisition, team building, conflict resolution, and performance management.

Project management courses may help develop the skills needed to manage cross-functional teams that come together for special initiatives. This concentration often consists of courses on budgeting, leading diverse teams, and the Project Management Body of Knowledge.

Faculty in supply chain management teach the efficient flow of materials and finished products through the development and delivery cycle. You'll typically take courses on logistical planning, implementation, and problem-solving.

Organizational Leadership Courses

Organizational leadership master's curricula vary slightly from one school to the next. However, most programs cover many of the same concepts, perhaps only packaged a bit differently. We've listed some courses below that you're likely to encounter in some form during a master's degree program.

Ethical Leadership

Students examine theories of ethics and apply them for organizational leadership purposes. Faculty usually discuss real-life case studies of ethical decision-making in professional contexts. Students may also write about hypothetical scenarios.

Foundations of Leadership

Master's cohorts typically take this class during their first term, because it introduces the concepts underpinning organizational leadership. Topics include organizational behavior, organizational development, intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, and leadership theories such as transformational and dyadic.

Leading During Crises

This class covers methods for understanding and mitigating unfolding crises. Professors lecture on risk assessment, threat detection, response plans, and strategic organizational communication.

Organizational Finance

Leaders need to understand how their organization receives and uses money, which is the subject of this course. Lessons often cover microeconomics principles, budgeting, and cost-benefit analysis across the corporate, government, and nonprofit sectors, because each has a different relationship to financing.

Strategic Planning

This course covers one of the most important functions of leadership: providing an overarching, long-term plan for an organization. Students complete readings and assignments about setting goals, delegating responsibility, drawing up budgets, making necessary adjustments, and reviewing actual outcomes. 

FAQs about Online Organizational Leadership Master's Degrees

Which Is Better: an MBA or a Master's in Organizational Leadership?

It's difficult to answer this without more research into the career outcomes of organizational leadership master's graduates. We can definitively say that an MBA is usually a good investment, especially if you get your MBA from a program with a high Salary Score. Therefore, an MBA is likely a safer bet, but this doesn't mean that an organizational leadership degree is necessarily inferior.

How Long Does It Take To Get a Master's in Organizational Leadership?

Faculty usually design these master's degrees to last two years with a part-time schedule, working on the assumption that graduate students want to take one or two classes at a time. But there is some variation within that framework. For example, program administrators may allow you to take fewer courses than usual or skip a term as long as you finish within three or four years.

How Much Does an Online Master’s in Organizational Leadership Cost?

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the overall average yearly cost of a graduate program is $19,749. But keep in mind that costs vary widely among schools. In general, public schools are the most affordable as long as you qualify for in-state tuition rates, followed by for-profit private schools, then nonprofit private schools. Financial aid can help lower the total cost of a degree, so it's always good practice to apply for all possible sources of aid.

How Much Can You Make With a Master's in Organizational Leadership?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, computer and information systems manager is the highest paying job in the management field. These professionals make median yearly wages of $159,010. However, you need at least some previous computer science or IT education and experience to secure a leadership role. One of the highest paying roles for graduates of a master's in organizational leadership that doesn't necessarily require years of experience is management analyst, which has a median annual salary of $93,000.

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