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A master’s in organizational leadership degree prepares students for management-level positions, including school principal, human resources manager, sales manager, and top executive. Per data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for each role ranges from $100,090 to $130,600.

During the 2020-2021 academic year, public and private institutions charged an average of $19,749 per year for in-state tuition, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

For full-time students, it usually takes 1 to 2 years to finish a graduate program in organizational leadership. It may take part-time students four years or longer to complete the same program.

How to Choose a Master’s in Organizational Leadership Program

Choose your area of study

Organizational leadership is a broad field of study, so many schools offer multiple concentrations, giving students the opportunity to focus on a specific area of interest. To choose an area of study, think about what type of work you want to do and what knowledge and skills you need to excel.

Depending on which program you choose, you may be able to specialize in change management, human resources management, diversity and inclusion, strategic management, or project management.

Research schools and programs

Next, create a list of schools with strong organizational leadership programs. Your list should include programs with the specialization you chose in the first step of the decision-making process.

Once you have a list of options, research each program carefully. It’s important to choose a school that meets your needs regarding course offerings, attendance options, and support resources. For example, if you want to keep working full-time, you may want to prioritize programs with weekend courses. Another option is to look for schools with online or hybrid courses.

Each time you review a program, ask the following questions:

  • Are faculty members accomplished researchers or experienced leaders? What can you learn from them?
  • Does the school offer multiple attendance options, such as part-time or online classes?
  • How much does the program cost?
  • Will you have to write a thesis before you graduate?
  • Does the program require an internship?

Prepare for tests and applications

If the schools on your list require scores from the Graduate Management Admission Test, Graduate Record Examination, or other standardized tests, start preparing as soon as possible. Many students find it helpful to take practice exams or work with experienced tutors. The earlier you start, the more opportunities you have to achieve your desired score.

Select your program

Try to narrow down your list to four or five options. Otherwise, you’ll have to pay many different fees and spend weeks preparing application packages. Applying to no more than five schools makes it possible to limit your expenses without putting your future in the hands of just one program.

If multiple schools accept you, choose a program based on the total cost of attendance, the number of course formats available, the campus location, and the expertise of the organizational leadership faculty. It’s also important to consider how much financial aid each school offers.

Determine how you’ll pay for your degree

Once you choose a program, you need to think about how to pay for it. One of the easiest options is to pay out of pocket, but not everyone has enough cash available to pay the tuition for a master’s degree in organizational leadership.

Master’s degree programs don’t qualify for federal financial aid, such as Pell Grants and Stafford loans, but you should still fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Schools use this to determine eligibility for need-based scholarships.

If you’re not eligible for financial aid, or your aid package doesn’t cover your full cost of attendance, consider applying for scholarships or government aid programs. Graduate students may also be eligible for assistantship programs, where students serve as teaching assistants (TAs) for undergraduate courses. Your employer may also offer tuition reimbursement.

Best 50 Accredited Master’s in Organizational Leadership Programs

Best Master’s in Organizational Leadership Degree Programs

Pepperdine University

Saint Louis University

University of Kansas

Jacksonville University

University of Redlands

Suffolk University

Arizona State University

National University

University of Wisconsin - Platteville

Oakland University

Point Loma Nazarene University

George Washington University

St. Joseph’s University

Saint Ambrose University

Lipscomb University

Discover More Options

How we rank schools

This list covers graduate programs in organizational leadership that prepare students for careers as training and development specialists, management analysts, and human resources managers. The degree formats offered include Master of Arts in leadership, Master of Arts in organizational leadership, Master of Science in organizational change leadership, and Master of Business Administration in global leadership. Students can choose from on-campus, online, and hybrid learning formats.

Accreditation is given to higher education institutions that uphold a high academic standard. All of the options on this list are regionally accredited, and some also have programmatic accreditation from industry groups such as the International Accreditation Council for Business Education (IACBE) and the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB).

We evaluated each program on the basis of flexibility, faculty, course strength, cost, and reputation. Then, we calculated the Intelligent Score for each program on a scale from 0 to 100. For a more extensive explanation, check out Our Ranking Methodology.

What Can You Expect From a Master’s in Organizational Leadership Program?

A master’s in organizational leadership program usually includes courses designed to help students improve their leadership skills and become more effective managers. Each program has different requirements, but you can expect to complete courses in leadership development, organizational culture, strategic management, human capital management, and ethical decision-making.

If you specialize in human resources management, you may take courses in global HR, employee relations, industrial psychology, or HR analytics. The change management specialization typically covers negotiating, leading strategic initiatives, and organizational change.

Potential courses you’ll take in a master’s in organizational leadership program

A master’s in organizational leadership program may include the following courses:

  • Change management. Effective leaders must be able to manage change within their organizations, especially when employees are resistant to change. Change management courses typically focus on theories and frameworks surrounding organizational change. Students also learn how to motivate employees to embrace change instead of resisting it.
  • Organizational communication. Strong leaders must be able to communicate effectively with employees at all levels of an organization. Organizational communication courses introduce some of the most essential communication theories and provide practical examples of how those theories affect the modern workplace.
  • Conflict resolution. Even the most successful organizations encounter conflict at some point, so leaders must know how to resolve conflict under stressful conditions. Students in conflict-resolution courses typically learn how to negotiate with other people and ensure that all parties walk away satisfied.
  • Leadership. Some people are born with strong leadership skills, but others need help developing their confidence and business acumen. Leadership skills help students understand the major theories of leadership and explore how those theories affect common workplace issues.
  • Workforce development. Many leaders are involved in recruiting, training, and other aspects of workforce development, so it’s common for master’s in organizational leadership programs to cover these topics. Students typically learn how to apply organizational leadership theories to the management and retention of human capital.

Master’s in Organizational Leadership Degree Frequently Asked Questions

How do I apply to a master's in organizational leadership degree program?

For custom advice on applying to the program of your choice, contact an admissions representative. An admissions representative is the best person to tell you what it takes to get admitted to a specific program.

While you wait for a response, start gathering your application materials. You may need to submit GMAT or GRE test scores, so register as early as possible. If necessary, ask your professors or colleagues to write letters of recommendation. You may also need to request transcripts from your undergraduate institution.

How much does a master's in organizational leadership degree cost?

The National Center for Education Statistics reports that a master’s in organizational leadership degree costs $19,749 per academic year for in-state students. It may cost more if you attend grad school in a state other than your own.

Tuition is just one of the costs associated with completing a master’s in organizational leadership degree. If on-campus housing isn’t available, you’ll have to consider the cost of renting an apartment or staying with family members. You’ll also need to purchase textbooks, workbooks, and other course materials.

Many people assume that online degrees cost less, but you may pay more for online classes due to the cost of digitizing course materials and purchasing the equipment used to deliver course content.

How long does it take to earn a master's in organizational leadership degree?

It typically takes one to two years to complete a master’s in organizational leadership degree if you attend classes full-time. With part-time study, it may take four years or more. The more credits a program requires, the longer it takes to meet the minimum requirements for graduation.

It may also take you a little extra time to graduate if you have to write a thesis, complete an internship, or fulfill a residency requirement for an online program. However, it’s possible to complete a master’s in organizational leadership degree earlier than planned by taking extra credits during each term or taking classes during the summer.

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