What Can I Expect from an Online Master’s in Organizational Leadership?

In an online master’s in organizational leadership, you can expect coursework to prepare you to assume high-level positions in various verticals, including human resources, communications, and C-suite roles. This master’s is an alternative degree path to earning an MBA. While MBA studies commonly include classes and concentrations based on analytics, the master’s in organizational leadership focuses on people-centric operations.

You can expect many of your courses to focus on strategy, interpersonal relations in the workplace, organizational psychology, and ethics issues. These studies aim to create effectiveness and efficiency within the workplace while enabling employees to work to their full potential, recruiting appropriate personnel to enhance workplace functionality, and engaging and retaining current talent.

With the online format, you can continue your current career path while completing studies flexibly to accommodate other life functions. Additionally, online master’s degrees eliminate the necessity to relocate closer to a college. Some master’s programs in this degree field enable asynchronous opportunities that facilitate self-paced learning. In contrast, others offer lock-step options, allowing students to earn their degrees faster.

Available concentrations

Your chosen program may allow you to focus your studies on an area of interest. Here are some of the more common concentrations offered in programs in organizational leadership:

  • Organizational communications: Organizational communications classes focus on learning paradigms that espouse healthy and effective communication in the workplace. This concentration also teaches principles of crisis communications and conflict management. Students who concentrate on organizational communications will be prepared for positions such as communications manager or vice president for communications.
  • Human resources: The human resources concentration prepares students to manage all people-centric functions within an organization effectively. Graduates with this focus can expect to find jobs as HR managers or chief human resources officers.
  • Project management: The project management concentration enables students to pursue certification in this vertical and to ably manage both small- and large-scale projects and programs, including launching new projects and managing those begun by other personnel. This concentration prepares graduates for project manager or chief operating officer positions.

Common degree curriculum

Organizational leadership is a broad learning and career field, ensuring prospective students can further their careers while focusing on core classes and concentrations that align with future employment goals. Some schools offer this degree as a master’s of science program, focusing on scientific and analytical courses and math-based studies like statistics. Other schools offer this degree as a master’s of arts with core classes in psychology, workplace behavioral issues, and leadership classes.

Some standard classes within the organizational leadership field include:

  • Global Leadership: Prepares future organizational leaders to work with leaders in a global economy, including developing “best in class” organizational structures and results.
  • Human Behavior in the Workforce: Develops a deep understanding of the performance, motivations, interpersonal interactions, and results within an organization through research, psychological observation, and investigatory skills.
  • Relational Communication: Enables future organizational leaders to observe current communication capacities and practices in the workforce, then design and deploy enhancements and changes.
  • Developing Organizational Leadership: Grounds students in the methodology to coach and develop leaders within an organization, including maintaining a talent pipeline and providing necessary tools for personnel to succeed.

Certification and license preparation

A few certifications may appeal to graduates of a program in organizational leadership. The Professional in Human Resources certification is one of them. The HR Certification Institute confers the PHR certification. The PHR, Senior PHR, and Global PHR are based on the length of time working in the HR field and HR-related education. After approval, professionals must sit for an exam to complete the qualification process.

Certification as a Project Management Professional may also be helpful for some graduates. The PMP designation is awarded to professionals by the Project Management Institute upon completion of requirements, including time-in-service in project management roles, educational degrees achieved, and continuing education pursued. This certification also requires the completion of a rigorous exam.

Program accreditation

When searching for an online master’s in organizational leadership program, it’s essential to look at the type of accreditation status. Accreditation can affect your ability to get federal aid and determine the value of your degree. Regional accreditation is the most valuable. It ensures the college and program meet rigorous industry standards. Students can confirm their school’s accreditation through the Council of Higher Education Accreditation.

Additionally, programmatic accrediting bodies like the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business accredit individual programs.

Program completion timeframe

Course loads at the various universities offering an online master’s in organizational leadership range from 30 to 48 credit hours. The variation between credits necessary for graduation results from programs designing their core and concentration requirements to best prepare students for the varied roles they may undertake after graduation. At some schools, work experience in the field can enable students to earn credit for that experience and thus reduce the number of required courses. Also, holding certifications in the targeted concentration, such as HR and project management designations, may reduce credit loads.

It can take 18 months to several years to earn an online master’s in organizational leadership. Most students can complete this degree in 24 months by utilizing lock-step scheduling, intensives and internships, capstone projects, or a thesis. At other schools that offer the program asynchronously, students have relatively wide discretion over how long each course takes to complete. In some cases, the time between starting the program and graduation can vary due to the student’s choice to pursue multiple concentrations or additional electives.

Employment Outlook for Master’s in Organizational Leadership Graduates

Many organizational leadership positions require incumbents to possess a master’s degree at the minimum and, in higher-level jobs, a Ph.D. In many cases, professionals with a four-year degree can fill entry-level positions and gain the necessary on-the-job education to advance or pursue certifications. Bachelor’s degree employees typically run smaller-scale projects or work under the direct supervision of managers who have already earned graduate degrees.

The organizational leadership vertical continues to grow on par with other management and upper management roles. Regardless of the degree earned, organizational leadership and human resources are constantly evolving fields, making continuing education a must to stay abreast of changing approaches to management.

An online degree in organizational leadership best prepares students to assume higher-level positions with salaries commensurate with their education and experience. Some of the more common areas these professionals work in include human resources, project management, operations management, and organizational development. As a leading discipline related to organizational leadership degrees, more than 136,000 professionals work as human resource managers.

Job Title Job Description Median Yearly Salary Projected Growth Rate
Human Resources Manager As a human resource manager, professionals can design and deploy people-related strategies while overseeing other HR functions. In a smaller company, HR managers might manage all day-to-day functions, including payroll, benefits, training, engagement, and periodic reviews. In larger organizations, the HR manager might oversee subordinates who perform these functions. $130,000 per year 5%
Project Management Specialists Project management specialists help create and design projects in nearly any operational department, including IT, human resources, finance, and sales. Certified project managers typically follow the 5-step cycle for projects, including project initiation, project planning, project execution, project monitoring and control, and project closure. $95,370 per year 6%
Organizational Development Manager Organizational development managers study companies and utilize advanced analytical tools to understand current organizational paradigms before creating the strategy for advancements that benefit both the company and its professionals. $82,250 per year 14%

Professional organizations

Membership in organizational leadership organizations offers insight into common industry issues, continuing education classes, timely updates on industry issues, including legislation and legal issues, and the opportunity to connect with others in similar positions through online forums and hosted events.

  • Society for Human Research Management (SHRM): The Society for Human Research Management is open to professionals and students in the HR field. The SHRM has 285,000 members spread throughout the world. It offers legislative updates, current learnings and trends in human resource management, continuing education opportunities, and ongoing in-person events that foster networking.
  • National Management Association: The National Management Association is open to individuals at all stages of their professional life and enables local networking events, the ability to earn certifications, continuing education classes, updates in new approaches plus legislative changes, and an extensive learning library.
  • Institute for Organization Management: The US Chamber of Commerce Foundation oversees the Institute for Organizational Management, which offers its members the ability to take formal classes to enhance their degrees, participate in continuing education, engage in networking at events around the country, and information on legislation that organizational leaders most need to know.

Financing Your Online Master’s in Organizational Leadership Degree

One of the primary considerations for prospective students considering an advanced degree is how much it will cost. Typically, master’s degrees charge more per credit hour than undergraduate courses. Online master’s degrees in organizational leadership often offer lower tuition and fees than their brick-and-mortar counterparts. Additionally, students with a military background, including military spouses, may be granted lower costs through fee waivers to those affiliated with the armed forces.

The cost of a master’s in organizational leadership may be too high to pay out of pocket for some students. Students can pursue many types of financial aid, including scholarships, grants, work-study programs, and loans. Fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to start the process. Once submitted, students can learn about specific financial aid offerings from the federal government, including subsidized loans and grants. The government offers relatively low interest rates and sometimes permits deferments or forgiveness.

Students can also pursue school funding through their chosen university, philanthropic organizations, and industry organizations. Industry organizations typically require membership fees to access scholarships, but that can be a good investment for possible financial aid funding.

Student Finance Resources and Guides

There are a number of online resources that can help answer your questions about financial aid and point you in the right direction for developing your own financial aid package. You may want to start with the following websites:

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Learn more about online degrees, their start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.