A company’s greatest asset is its people, and one of the most effective ways to achieve organizational success is by creating a culture that encourages employees to reach their potential. You can help facilitate this process by earning a master’s in organizational leadership.
These degree programs are designed to enhance your leadership and business management skills, so you can be better positioned to help your organization achieve its goals.
A master's in organizational leadership, which also can be called a Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership, Master of Science in Organizational leadership, or Master of Arts in Organization Development and Change, is designed to help individuals manage employees more effectively and transform company culture.
While there is some overlap between Master of Business Administration (MBA) programs and organizational leadership programs, there are key differences between the two.
MBA programs offer a broader range of study that includes finance, marketing, accounting, and statistics. Advanced degrees in organizational leadership also offer coursework on a number of business-related topics, but they place a greater focus on building your leadership skills.
Organizational leadership programs can help you develop effective leadership strategies, including social psychology, workplace dynamics, leadership theory, team development, and communications. They typically emphasize the creation of empathetic and personalized approaches to management, which makes them useful for helping you build your own personal management style.
If you’re looking to pursue an advanced management degree, you may be wondering about the differences between a master’s in organizational leadership and a master’s in management (MiM). Although they are sometimes confused for each other, these degree paths are actually very different.
People often pursue an MiM because they want to specialize in a single area of business, like marketing or accounting. While an MIM program may cover leadership skills, it primarily focuses on the operational side of the business.
A master's in organizational leadership places a greater emphasis on building soft skills. While some coursework may include topics like finance and accounting, you will also learn to resolve workplace conflicts, best practices for hiring and managing employees, and other functions of human resources to help enhance your understanding of the personal side of a business.
Graduate degrees in organizational leadership are designed to build your management and leadership skills. Coursework typically focuses on areas like communication, organizational behavior, leadership styles, and human resources. These programs often include a capstone experience course, in which you apply the leadership skills you developed in your coursework to address a real-world workplace challenge.
Master’s in organizational leadership programs require students to complete courses on topics including:
- Team building
- Human resources development
- Leadership development
- Effective communications
- Employee management
- Strategic personnel decisions
Some programs may allow you to customize your studies. This can include specializations in a specific type of organization, such as nonprofit management, or you can build on your skills in areas such as legal, ethical, or financial matters.
Graduate degrees in organizational leadership can be extremely beneficial if you want to broaden your career opportunities and build on the skills that can help you manage teams, departments, or even entire organizations effectively. Here are some of the areas of study in which you may focus:
Team leadership coursework is key to showing you how to create and manage teams that can efficiently complete tasks. Here, you can learn:
- Elements of psychology and social psychology
- Strategic planning
- Motivational strategies
- Team maintenance
Whether you work in general management or a human resources department, human resources is a vital area of study that can give you insights into how the human side of the business works. This coursework teaches you:
- Labor standards
- Benefits management
- Training and employee development strategies
- Employee rewards systems
- Negotiation practices
- Leadership styles
All leaders have their own unique styles. This coursework can teach you:
- Typical leadership styles among management
- How to develop your own leadership styles
- How ethics relates to leadership
- How to inspire and motivate
Communication is an important component of being a good leader. To be effective as a manager, you will need to develop communication strategies for your workplace setting. This coursework offers instruction on topics including:
- Communication as it relates to diversity
- Reflexive communications
- Group communications
- Group decision-making
- Conflict resolution
- Group development and socialization
- Concepts and theories of workplace culture
Employee management skills are important for organizing and directing the workforce. This coursework can build on your skill set in the following areas:
- Hiring best practices
- Policy and procedural development
- Policy implementation
- Labor laws
Typical concentrations and electives
Graduate programs in organizational leadership may offer you a selection of elective courses. These are designed to help you focus your skill set in a specific area or to fill gaps in your current knowledge base. This is a helpful way to position yourself for certain career tracks.
Master’s in organizational leadership concentrations include:
- Nonprofit management
- Legal practices
- Health care management
- Human resources
- Project management
- Organizational development
- Global leadership
Within these specializations, you can take courses that allow you to explore these topics at a deeper level. You can also use electives to complement your education and build on the core areas of study in the organizational leadership program.
Common electives include:
- Labor laws
- Employee benefits
- Payroll management
- Ethical theory and practice
- Business law
- Finance and accounting
- Nonprofit regulations
- Leadership coaching
- Organizational communication
- Advanced team building
Choose your coursework wisely — it should map to your career goal to help increase your starting salary and job opportunities.
There is no one-size-fits-all model for a graduate education. Degree programs come in various forms, each with its own benefits. Here are some of the most common questions you should ask when researching your master’s in organizational leadership:
Is an online organizational leadership program the same as campus-based programs at most universities?
The course content will be largely the same, but the delivery method will be different. Some programs offer 100% online coursework.
How is coursework delivered on an online platform?
Your lectures will likely be presented through video calls or prerecorded sessions with discussions over message boards. All course materials would be accessed online.
Are there hybrid online and on-campus-based program options?
Yes. Some institutions will offer programs that blend elements of on-campus learning with online delivery. Examples of this might be a predominantly online course but with:
- Networking events
If I graduate from an online program, will my diploma have “online” before the degree?
No. Your diploma will have just the full program name featured just like any on-campus graduate.
You can finish a typical master’s in organizational leadership degree program in 18 months to two years if you choose to study full time. Accelerated programs are also available to help you finish more quickly.
Online master’s degree programs tend to offer flexibility suitable for students who choose to study part time. This option will likely extend your time to completion, but it can allow you to study while fulfilling your familial, social, and professional obligations.
There are two types of accreditation — regional and specialized.
Regional accreditation is the most prestigious type of accreditation that an online or traditional college or university can receive. Regional accreditation confirms that the provider has met and maintained adherence to a minimum set of academic standards.
Most regionally accredited schools will only accept credits from other regionally accredited institutions of higher learning.
Schools often apply to gain specialized accreditation for specific areas of study, departments, or degree programs. The leading authority for business schools is the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) International. Enrolling in an accredited program makes you more marketable to employers and can affect your career growth over the long term.
Why accreditation matters
Accreditation is key if you want to:
- Transfer your credits, as most schools will only accept transfer credits from accredited institutions
- Apply for financial aid, as federal aid is only granted to students who are studying at recognized accredited institutions
Universities that offer a master’s in organizational leadership often hold accreditation through business-centric accrediting boards. These include:
- AACSB (Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business)
- ACBSP (Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs)
- IACBE (International Assembly for Collegiate Business Education)
Check for both national and regional accreditation at your university of interest. You may also find that your degree program or academic department of interest has additional and specialized accreditations.
You have goals. We have a path.
Effective leadership is critical for achieving organizational success in major corporations, as well as sectors like finance, health care, and even government. As the world’s learning company, we proudly partner with universities to offer a suite of online graduate degrees in organizational leadership. Whatever your career goals, we have a path for you.
Find your path
- What is a master’s in organizational leadership?
- What is the difference between an organizational leadership degree and a master’s in management?
- What does a master’s in organizational leadership focus on?
- Online vs. on-campus: How to decide which is right for you
- How long will earning my organizational leadership degree take?
- Master's in organizational leadership accreditation
Need help finding the right program?