As organizations adjust to the long-term impact of COVID-19 on business, they need effective leaders now more than ever. A master’s degree in organizational leadership can be an asset to employees looking to move up the ranks and prove their worth as managers and executives.
This master’s program can help individuals hone their management skills, including relationship building, decision-making, and task prioritization. Unlike master’s degrees that are highly specialized, an online master’s degree in organizational leadership can be useful to professionals in a wide variety of fields.
This guide aims to provide comprehensive information on online master’s programs in organizational leadership, including details on estimated costs, admission requirements, and courses to expect.
Yes, it is possible to get a degree completely online. Exclusively online degree programs have been around since the late 80s (Sarkar, 2020). According to online education statistics, enrollment in online courses has grown throughout the years. Even top-rated institutions, such as Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology now allow students to pursue degrees online.
An online master’s degree in organizational leadership or similar programs are available at over 290 schools across the United States (OnlineU, 2021). These schools include the University of Colorado, Denver, The University of Texas at Dallas, and Pepperdine University. Many of these programs are completely online, with flexible schedules and multiple start dates to help professionals juggle between work and studies.
Business degrees and management have always been popular, whether online or in-person. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, degrees in business and related fields make up 24% of master’s degrees conferred in 2019, the largest share compared to other fields of study.
Source: National Center for Education Statistics
You can rest assured that employers will take your online degree seriously, especially with shifting employer perspectives on online educational credentials. According to a national survey of HR leaders, 61% of these leaders believe that online degree programs and on-campus degrees are generally of equal quality (Gallagher, 2018). The same survey showed that the majority (52%) of HR leaders think that, in the future, most advanced degrees will be completed online.
While online education was met with skepticism in its early years, online business degrees have become commonplace today (Online MBA, 2021). According to the Graduate Management Admission Council’s The Global Demand for Graduate Management Education report, 82% of business schools offered online class options for students.
Despite the prevalence of online programs, it’s important to note that factors such as an institution’s reputation and accreditation may affect the perception of an online degree (Colorado State University Global, 2019).
Online masters in organizational leadership programs are advanced business degrees that prepare students for efficiently managing companies and organizations. Organizational leadership is an interdisciplinary field, so many of these degree programs offer concentrations in areas such as social entrepreneurship, human resource management, and career development (Dellinger, 2021).
These online degree courses train students in all aspects of effective leadership, preparing them for management and executive positions in their respective organizations. Most master’s programs in organizational leadership require a minimum of 30 credits to complete.
One of the biggest differences between an online master’s degree in organizational leadership and its on-campus counterpart is the pacing of the program itself. Traditional degrees typically have a set class schedule that students must follow. Meanwhile, many online degrees support asynchronous learning, where students can learn at their own pace, within a certain timeframe (Scheiderer, n.d.).
With an online program, students can access lectures, coursework, and other learning materials at their convenience. For most of these programs, however, students must still follow deadlines for coursework and enroll based on the standard academic term (Carlton, 2021).
Since most online degrees support asynchronous learning, an online master’s degree in organizational leadership usually offers more flexibility to students. Students can access course materials according to their own schedule, which can prove to be beneficial to students who have to split their time between studies, work duties, and family responsibilities (TheBestSchools, 2020).
Many of these programs also offer multiple start dates, offering further flexibility for busy professionals who want to go back to school. Rider University, for instance, offers six start dates for its Online Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership (Rider University, n.d.).
Given the asynchronous nature and flexible schedules offered by online degrees, it’s understandable that online degree courses offer a significantly different learning experience. While pursuing a traditional degree means talking to classmates and professors in class, most online students interact with their classmates and professors via chat or email.
For many of these programs, online students log into virtual classrooms or learning management systems to access the learning materials they need. These online portals also provide features for instant messaging, video conferencing, and digital whiteboards for real-time demonstrations, if needed (Sam, 2020).
The lack of in-person interactions is widely thought to be a disadvantage of online classes Brooks, 2019). Many studies have also explored the effects of the lack of face-to-face interactions in the learning experience offered by these degree programs.
In 2019, Christopher Aylwin, a consultant at the Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, performed a case study of the faculty-student interactions in a purely online Master of Science program. Aylwin aimed to examine these interactions against the characteristics of the Community of Inquiry framework.
After content analysis of asynchronous and synchronous discussion forums, Aylwin found that “a Community of Inquiry can be created within the different learning activities of the course. The discussion forums integral to online courses are a rich source of interaction, with the ability to promote social interaction, teaching presence, and cognitive learning. The results show that meaningful interaction between faculty and students can be achieved in online courses, which is important to ensure deep learning and reflection.”
In general, students can expect lower costs and expenses when pursuing an online degree. The lower overhead required to operate online programs may translate into smaller tuition fees, and there are virtually no transportation and housing costs for online degrees (Krakoff, 2019). However, online degree costs will still vary depending on factors such as the student’s choice of institution and out-of-state tuition rates.
Due to accreditation standards, online degrees can be considered just as valuable and useful as traditional degrees. An online program in a particular field typically has the same curriculum as its on-campus counterpart, so online students don’t have to worry about getting subpar education. That said, factors such as an institution’s accreditation can affect the quality of online education you get (Friedman, 2016).
Source: BestColleges 2021 Online Education Trends Report
The cost of pursuing online masters in organizational leadership programs usually varies across institutions. There are certain factors that can affect the costs of this degree, including out-of-state tuition rates, the number of credits required for completion, and miscellaneous fees.
For instance, students planning to pursue an Online Master of Science (MS) in Organizational Leadership at the Arizona State University must include a program fee and technology fee when calculating their expenses (Arizona State University, n.d.).
To give students a general idea of how much they can expect to pay for tuition, below are the per-credit tuition costs of an Organizational Leadership master’s degree at various universities in the U.S.
|Teaching Methods||- Primary mode of instruction is lecture inside the classroom|
- Interaction via facilitated discussions
- Demonstration by teacher
- Supplemented by required readings
- Reinforced through assignments and individual or group projects
- Feedback and evaluation through oral recitation and examinations, which are conducted inside the classroom
|- Lectures can be live (synchronous) or
- Online whiteboards emulate the classroom whiteboard
- Online demonstration
- Teaching method can vary per session or topic as teacher surveys the available technologies and materials he/she can use (i.e. use gamified learning content* in one session, a teacher-created video in the next, and a virtual tour of a historical site after that)
- Reinforced through
assignments and individual or group projects
- Feedback and evaluation through live oral or virtual recitation
- Examinations through learning management systems or examination software
|Learning Materials||- Typically textbooks and assigned reading materials|
- Some e-books or PDF readings
- Other teaching aids brought by the teacher
- Online materials may be discussed or assigned
- Field trips or physical travel to subject-relevant places
|- Learning Materials are on line (Learning Management Systems/LMS, online learning platforms, or other education technologies)
- Downloadable, pre-recorded lectures
- Other resources shared on the cloud (i.e. Google docs, Drive, etc.)
- Content on relevant websites
- e-books and PDF readings
|Environment||- School campus setting, at different school facilities and venues|
- With teacher and classmates
|- Online, at home or any preferred location
|Schedule||- Fixed, regular weekly meetings||- Flexible – when available, when in a good mood to study, when not busy with other responsibilities
- Semi-flexible –live/synchronous online class meetings may be scheduled when convenient for the majority
|Pacing||- Pace is set by teacher, based on syllabus and length of academic term|
- Can complete a degree in 4 years at 30 academic credits per year
|- Pace is set by student, based on his personal objective of completing his degree, priorities, and available time
- Many complete a degree in 4 years
|Time Management||- School hours are fixed and very little time management required of students who only need to show up in class||- Time management is the student’s responsibility|
|Study-Life Balance||- Student’s scheduled class hours are exclusively for studying, unable to schedule personal errands and tasks during these times||- Student is free to set his/her personal priorities: life-responsibilities, work/profession, studies/classes, relationships, etc.|
|Mode of inter-personal interaction with teacher and classmates||- Physical, face-to-face interaction with teacher and classmates|
- Live interaction / discussion usually impromptu
- Finding professors / instructors and arranging a personal meeting on campus, during school hours, can be challenging
- The classroom is the usual venue for collaboration/activities among students
|- Virtual: video calls, web conference, chat, instant messaging, e-mail, discussion boards, cloud collaboration apps (i.e. Google Docs, Drive, etc.);
-Interaction / discussion can be asynchronous and give more time for students to prepare responses
- Since online and asynchronous modes of communication are available, consulting with teachers and collaborating with classmates is not a problem
A student’s acceptance at a preferred school is limited by:
|- Enrollment limits at traditional degree or class|
- Distance of school from home (and associated expenses, i.e. board and lodging, transportation, etc)
- Ability to afford the school’s tuition
|- An online class, not being dependent on physical space, is able to accommodate more enrollees
- School is where you are and where you want it to be (no location-related expenses)
- Student is able to afford schools he could normally not afford (i.e. Ivy League schools)
- Part of fees are for the use of school’s facilities and equipment
|- Much more affordable
- Student is responsible for his study venue and shoulders the cost of internet access, etc.
|Additional Expenses||- Clothes for school|
- Food allowance, etc.
|- No additional expenses|
|Support for persons with disabilities, timid personalities, less privileged or from minority groups||Persons with disabilities, who are timid, less privileged, or from minority groups can feel disadvantaged or discriminated upon in physical class settings||Virtual presence in virtual classrooms makes irrelevant the disabilities, personal inhibitions, social inequalities, or other hindrances which prevent a student from performing his best in class|
An online organizational leadership master’s degree is worth it if you want to gain a professional edge and advance your career to leadership positions. These degree programs help students develop key management skills, including communication, efficient decision-making, and relationship-building. These degrees are interdisciplinary as well, so skills learned during the program are transferable to management jobs in nearly any industry.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2021), management occupations are also expected to grow at a rate of 5% until 2029. The continuously high demand for management jobs makes an online organizational leadership master’s degree worth it.
Universities and colleges usually have their own admission requirements for an online master’s degree in organizational leadership. In general, however, students must have a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited institution to apply for postgraduate degrees. Below are the most common admission requirements for these degree programs:
Applicants must also meet or submit certain requirements specific to a master’s degree program in organizational leadership. In most cases, prospective students must submit letters of reference from employees, professors, or peers they’ve previously worked with. Professional résumés are also a common requirement to get into these master’s programs.
Many of these programs also require students to submit writing samples such as admission essays or personal statements. Depending on the institution, these pieces of writing may detail an applicant’s personal and professional goals as well as his purpose for applying to graduate school.
Some universities offering this degree also require applicants to have some full-time work experience. To get into Creighton University’s Master of Science in Organizational Leadership program, for instance, students must have two years of full-time work or leadership experience (Creighton University, n.d.).
Students must have a stable, high-speed Internet connection and a laptop or mobile device to access online portals and view or download course materials. Webcams, speakers, and headphones may also help students make the most of learning resources.
Students must also have some proficiency in using software and applications for email and web browsing. Having the right hardware and technological skills ensures that students can easily adjust to the online learning experience.
Source: BestColleges 2021 Online Education Trends Report
Similar to admission requirements, courses offered by online master’s programs in organizational leadership vary from one university to another. Available courses will also depend on the specialization or track a student chooses for his master’s degree.
Below are some common courses that a student can expect from these master’s programs:
In addition to core and elective courses, many universities also require students of the program to complete a capstone project, which demonstrates skills and knowledge acquired during the course of study. At Johns Hopkins University, for instance, students in the MS in Organizational Leadership degree program are required to submit “an independent, faculty-approved project that will address a substantive or methodological challenge in Organizational Leadership” (Johns Hopkins University, 2020).
Thanks to growing interest in business degrees, online master’s degree programs in organizational leadership are offered by numerous universities and colleges across the country. The following factors can help students decide on the best program and school for their needs.
According to 58% of HR leaders, an institution’s brand and reputation are the factors that most influence the value of educational credentials, whether earned online or not (Gallagher, 2018). In most cases, it’s safe to trust the quality of an online program at a widely known university or college. It wouldn’t hurt to do some research on a school’s reputation online before submitting your application.
It’s important to choose a regionally accredited institution for your master’s degree in organizational leadership. Regional accreditation is widely known to be an indicator of prestige and academic quality (Drexel University, n.d.). Aside from having a curriculum that meets academic standards, regionally accredited institutions accept credit transfers from similarly accredited schools.
Moreover, students at accredited institutions are eligible for federal financial aid and corporate tuition reimbursement plans.
Depending on the institution, a master’s degree in organizational leadership may also offer concentrations or specialized tracks. Through these specializations, students can gain more focused knowledge in a specific area of leadership. For instance, Creighton University allows students to earn concentrations in the field of business leadership or healthcare leadership.
Students of online master’s degrees are eligible for a wide variety of financial aid options. Graduate students are typically eligible for federal financial aid, including the Federal Stafford Loan. Grants, scholarships, and work-study programs can also help students save money on earning their master’s degree. The availability of these financial aid options typically varies across institutions, so it’s best to check with the school of your choice.
Many companies, especially large enterprises, also offer tuition reimbursement programs for employees planning to go back to school. Bank of America, for instance, has Tuition Assistance & Academic Support Program that offers vouchers or tuition reimbursement for up to $7,500 per calendar year (Bank of America, n.d.).
An online master’s degree in organizational leadership may be the ideal option for professionals who want to prepare for managerial or executive positions at their organizations. Theoretical knowledge and skills learned during this program are transferable, so a master’s degree in organizational leadership can be an asset to professionals in nearly any industry.
Moreover, the positive career outlook and higher salary associated with management occupations may also make these master’s programs an attractive option for many employees. If you’re interested in postgraduate degree programs in fields similar to organizational leadership, you can check our guide to online master’s degrees in project management.