Complete Guide to Online Organizational Leadership Degrees

By OnlineU Staff | Updated August 28, 2020
Quick Facts
Accreditation: AACSB
Degree Levels: Associate, Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral, Certificate
Average Tuition: $26,333
Average Salary: $86,610

For a business, non-profit, or government agency or department to run smoothly, it needs people at the helm who can set the proper tone for the organization. Majoring in organizational leadership at the postsecondary level gives students the education required to learn how to take manage a team, make ethical decisions, and communicate clearly and effectively. Graduates from an organizational leadership degree program can move on to such careers as marketing managers, human resources recruiters, or account managers.

Prospective students are encouraged to look for online organizational leadership degree programs offered by accredited institutions. Not only is accreditation an indication that a program is of excellent quality, but it is also a requirement for students who plan to apply for federal financial aid. The US Department of Education offers a current database of accredited schools and degree programs.

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Most Popular Accredited Online Schools for Organizational Leadership Degrees

Prospective students who visit our site are most interested in these schools.
Rank School Annual Tuition Recommend Rate
# 1 #1 University of Arizona $11,800 100% (2 reviews)
# 2 #2 University of Florida $28,659 60% (5 reviews)
# 3 #3 University of South Florida Online $17,324 67% (3 reviews)
# 4 #4 Thomas Edison State University $9,967 59% (71 reviews)
# 5 #5 Texas A&M University-College Station $37,495 67% (3 reviews)
# 6 #6 University of Virginia $49,032 Add Review
# 7 #7 Texas Tech University $19,040 0% (3 reviews)
# 8 #8 Colorado State University-Fort Collins $29,608 100% (5 reviews)
# 9 #9 Northeastern University $51,522 100% (3 reviews)
# 10 #10 University of Kansas $27,358 100% (1 review)
# 11 #11 Arizona State University $23,482 72% (99 reviews)
# 12 #12 Lamar University $18,333 50% (14 reviews)
# 13 #13 Baker College Online $9,800 59% (91 reviews)
# 14 #14 Johns Hopkins University $53,740 Add Review
# 15 #15 University of Wisconsin-Platteville $15,646 Add Review
# 16 #16 University of Illinois Urbana - Champaign $31,664 Add Review
# 17 #17 University of Idaho $25,500 100% (2 reviews)
# 18 #18 Western Kentucky University $26,280 100% (1 review)
# 19 #19 University of Central Florida $22,467 88% (8 reviews)
# 20 #20 University of Alabama at Birmingham $19,704 100% (1 review)
# 21 #21 Columbia University in the City of New York $59,430 Add Review
# 22 #22 Drexel University $53,244 67% (6 reviews)
# 23 #23 University of Colorado Denver $25,771 100% (2 reviews)
# 24 #24 Indiana Wesleyan University Online $9,816 41% (27 reviews)
# 25 #25 West Virginia University $24,950 100% (1 review)

Online Organizational Leadership Degree Overview & Career Information

Associate degree programs in organizational leadership introduce students to foundational principles of management and communications studies. In addition to general education courses, other topics explored will include human resources management, organizational communication, and organizational behavior. Organizational leadership degrees at the bachelor's level expand on the theories introduced during the associate degree and may require an internship in a relevant field. A bachelor's degree is often the minimum education requirement for leadership positions in smaller organizations.

Master's degree students take classes in leadership theories, decision making, and conflict management. Other courses will likely focus on business ethics, communication skills for leaders, and research methods. Doctoral degree candidates are required to complete a core curriculum, which would include topics such as theory and development of motivation, leading through and beyond change, and organizational leadership and globalization. Other courses will depend on the concentration a student chooses and may focus on leadership topics specific to business, non-profit, or educational settings. Some online doctoral degree programs have mandatory residency requirements that must be completed as part of the program.

Graduate certificate programs in organizational leadership are designed for working professionals. The curriculum typically includes courses in business management, business culture, motivating others, and effective business strategies.

Online Associate Degrees in Organizational Leadership

Applicants to an associate degree in organizational leadership must hold either a GED or a high school diploma. The college or university will request official transcripts, as well as SAT or ACT scores. Some schools also request a personal essay from applicants on an assigned topic. This 64-credit-hour program is usually completed in two years of full-time study.

Students enrolled in an associate degree program in organizational leadership will take courses in a number of topics, including applied leadership, training methods, principles of management, teams and virtual teams, ethics, and survey of leadership. This type of program will also include a number of general education courses in subjects such as psychology, sociology, math, English composition, biology, statistics, philosophy, public speaking, economics, criminal justice, accounting, and computer applications. Some programs give students the opportunity to study a foreign language as part of the curriculum.

Graduates from an associate degree program are ready for junior positions in administrative or customer service roles in stores, offices, government agencies, or the hospitality industry. Possible job titles include shift supervisor, team leader, assistant manager, or office manager. More senior roles would require a bachelor's degree and a few years of working experience.

Online Bachelor's Degrees in Organizational Leadership

Organizational leadership deals with management techniques, business models, and human resources. A bachelor's degree in organizational leadership requires four years and 120 credits of coursework. To apply, candidates need a high school diploma or GED, as well as the standards admissions materials.

The organizational leadership curriculum includes courses in human resources, accounting, management theories, leadership theories, and applied statistics. Most organizational leadership bachelor's programs also require a core of general business courses, such as micro- and macroeconomics, statistics, finance, marketing, administration, and information systems. Depending on the program, students may also be required to complete a business internship or capstone course. These requirements focus on integrating all the business skills of the degree so that students can apply them as they would in a real business context.

The skills a student develops during an organizational leadership bachelor's degree program are useful in many areas of business. Graduates can land entry-level management, administration, and human resources positions in businesses or public service organizations. Administration, public relations, and fundraising positions in non-profits are other possible career options. Other graduates take on consultant jobs and work with many different businesses, helping them improve productivity and employee satisfaction. Other organizational leadership graduates start their own businesses.

Online Master's Degrees in Organizational Leadership

The organizational leadership master’s is an interdisciplinary degree designed to prepare leaders who can improve an organization’s function and procedures. These degrees typically take one to two years to complete and are more leadership driven than the Master of Business Administration, the most well-known business graduate program. Learn more about the best online master's degrees in organizational leadership, ranked according to annual tuition and alumni salaries.

Online Doctoral Degrees in Organizational Leadership

The doctorate in organizational leadership teaches managers how to provide essential direction and guidance within an organization to develop a productive work environment. The PhD requires a bachelor's or master's degree, as well as professional leadership experience. These degrees take three to five years to complete and include a dissertation project along with 10-25 classes.

Doctoral degree programs in organizational leadership cover advanced concepts in the profession and allow students to conduct a considerable amount of independent research. Courses explore the theories and historical background of organizational leadership, as well as current trends in operations management. Core classes generally include strategic leadership, qualitative and quantitative research methods, and accountability and governance in modern organizational leadership.

In order to graduate, individuals must complete and defend an original dissertation that addresses one aspect of the field. Students specialize the research around their particular interests and career goals; possible focuses include human resources, ecclesial leadership, or entrepreneurial leadership.

Doctoral degree recipients in organizational leadership enter careers in consulting, coaching, research, and business. Graduates with significant business experience can work as analysts that provide outside perspective to organizations on how to improve their work environment or structure. Others use the degree to become prepared for executive roles, such as CEO, director, or vice president. Individuals interested in leadership in state and local government can also use a doctorate to advance in these work settings.

Online Certificates in Organizational Leadership

The certificate in organizational leadership is typically a graduate program aimed at current or aspiring professionals that want to learn the skills to empower teams of employees, resolve conflicts, and improve the productivity of an organization. These short programs usually require four to six courses and are designed with the busy professional in mind. Admission criteria usually consists of an accredited undergraduate degree.

The courses in the organizational leadership certificate discuss the psychology, leadership skills, and business management topics required for dynamic leadership. For example, a course in leadership skills would cover the basics for overseeing teams, including how to effectively manage time, improve communication, and coordinate the duties of several employees. A course in organizational behavior discusses the many concepts that can come into play in a large group, such as negotiation, conflict, and group politics. Other common courses discuss human resources management, corporate social responsibility, project management, and personal leadership.

The organizational leadership graduate certificate is designed to be short and impactful, and is thus a great fit for current working professionals looking to take their leadership skills to the next level. The certificate could support work as a human resources manager or specialist, administrative manager, health services manager, or top executive. The skills are applicable to virtually any career area that involves working with or overseeing large groups.

Accreditation for Online Organizational Leadership Degrees

Accreditation is a designation granted to schools that meet high standards with regard to their degree program curricula, faculty qualifications, research programs, and student resources, and more. Postsecondary schools are accredited by regional or national accrediting agencies, such as the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools Higher Learning Commission. It's wise to choose an accredited online degree program for many reasons. Choosing to enroll in a program at one of these accredited schools helps ensure that you will have access to high-quality instruction; it will also help you meet the eligibility requirements to apply for financial aid or transfer college credit to another institution in the future.

Some online organizational leadership programs that are offered as part of a business degree receive programmatic accreditation from agencies such as the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) or the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP). Both AACSB and ACBSP are recognized by the Council for Higher Learning Accreditation. The accreditation of individual degree programs or schools can be verified by checking a database provided by CHEA or the US Department of Education. For more information about accreditation, please visit our comprehensive accreditation section.

Types of Organizational Leadership

Organizational leadership requires good technical skills and social skills, making the study of it very interesting. Students who major in organizational leadership focus on positive interactions and strategies for allowing the strengths of each individual on a team to be put to good use. Here are three types of leadership studied in the field of organizational leadership today:

Authoritarian Leadership: Authoritarian leadership works by providing clear instruction for what the members of a team need to accomplish. In this form of leadership, leaders are differentiated from the subordinates, and labor is distributed directly by the leader. One benefit of authoritarian leadership is that it requires less time to set plans into action, as leaders can easily delegate the tasks that need to be completed. Having said that, authoritarian leadership reduces the incentive for followers to innovate new ideas, reducing the possibility for better forms of operations to arise.

Participative Leadership: As the name suggests, participative leadership allows individuals to have an equal say in how tasks should be performed. A common example of participative leadership is the idea of a democracy. A democracy is where members of a group equally share the responsibility for making decisions. This has been shown to be the most effective form of leadership, since each person’s needs have a better chance of being met. There are detriments to this system, too, including the time and resources taken to discuss options and collect votes or feedback.

Delegative Leadership: Delegative leadership involves the handing down of responsibilities. For example, a company president may not have time to recruit and train new employees, so he or she could pass that responsibility to a departmental manager. That manager may not have time to write up and send out the job descriptions, so he or she might in turn delegate that task to an administrative assistant. This style of leadership can be challenging if roles and responsibilities are not clearly defined and there is a lack of accountability.

Careers in Organizational Leadership

An advanced degree in organizational leadership prepares students for management roles in a variety of fields. All large companies and organizations require the services of multiple managers for different departments. Here are a few careers that are available to graduates of organizational leadership degree programs:

Management Consultants: An organizational leadership degree is a great way to start a management consulting career. Oftentimes, companies look for experts to advise them on the different functions of their business, such as company structure, human resources, budgeting and financial planning, and more. Traditionally, management consultants work for a consulting firm and are contracted out, though there is certainly room for entrepreneurs to market their own services without a firm.

Human Resources Managers: The coursework required during an organizational leadership program teaches students about conflict resolution, negotiation, and hiring the best employees, so graduates will be in a prime position to work in the human resources field at any level.

Top Executives: If you've always imagined yourself making important decisions for a large corporation from the comfort of your massive office, you probably have a top executive position in mind. Years of experience are often required, along with an advanced degree like a master's in organizational leadership. Competition for these roles is stiff, so a well-rounded work and educational background, along with proven interpersonal and negotiation skills, are beneficial.

Computer and Information Systems Managers: With the overwhelming majority of large businesses and corporations utilizing the latest technology, a computer and information systems manager is vital. A highly technological background is needed, along with an advanced degree in business or organizational leadership. Many organizational leadership degree programs offer specialties in information systems, gearing students for this occupation.

Financial Managers: Financial managers have an important job, as they must oversee budgets, taxes, general accounting procedures, payroll, and the other employees that work in their department. This role generally requires a CPA certificate as well as an advanced degree. Organizational leadership master's degrees often offer concentrations in finance management, making it a great fit for those looking to climb the ranks in their finance department or score a new career in another setting.


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