Best Online Doctorate Degrees in Organizational Leadership: Guide to Online Programs for 2021

Best Online Doctorate Degrees in Organizational Leadership: Guide to Online Programs for 2021
Imed Bouchrika by Imed Bouchrika
Chief Data Scientist & Head of Content

A doctoral degree in organizational leadership can prove to be an asset for any employee. Through these degree programs, managers and leaders develop in-depth business knowledge and management skills to help them further advance their careers. The best online doctorate degree in organizational leadership also teaches transferable skills, making this degree a good choice for employees in any industry.

Similar to other doctorate degrees, a doctorate in organizational leadership can unlock numerous career opportunities and higher earning potential for employees. This guide aims to provide comprehensive information on this advanced degree, including costs and courses commonly offered.

Online Doctorate Degree in Organizational Leadership Table of Contents

  1. Can you get a degree completely online?
  2. Will employers take my online degree seriously?
  3. Are online degrees recognized all over the world?
  4. Online vs. Traditional Doctorate Degree in Organizational Leadership
  5. How much does an online Doctorate Degree in Organizational Leadership cost?
  6. What are the requirements of an Online Doctorate Degree in Organizational Leadership?
  7. Courses to Expect in Online Doctorate Degree in Organizational Leadership
  8. Things to Look for in an Online Doctorate Degree in Organizational Leadership

Can you get a degree completely online?

Yes, you can get a doctoral degree in organizational leadership completely online. Online degrees have become commonplace in today’s educational landscape, especially for popular fields of study, such as business and education. According to the website OnlineU, there are currently over 400 schools offering more than 1,800 programs in organizational leadership alone (Logan, 2021).

According to Kentnor (2015), online education itself had become mainstream by the mid-2010s. The recent shift to purely online classes due to the COVID-19 pandemic has also contributed to the slow yet steady growth of online or remote learning in the last decade (Koksal, 2020). By the fall semester of 2019, 33% of post-baccalaureate online students were enrolled exclusively in remote learning courses.

With the current accessibility of educational technology and applications in general, it’s also a good time to pursue a degree completely online. Through learning management systems and communication software like Skype and Zoom, students can easily access course materials and interact with peers and instructors. Technology such as social media has also proven to be useful in supporting online education.

Various studies have indicated the usefulness of social media in educational settings. One study by Giannikas, titled “Facebook in Tertiary Education: The Impact of Social Media in e-Learning,” explored how post-graduate students and teachers used Facebook for communication as well as the benefits perceived from using the social media site. The study was published in the Journal of University Teaching and Learning Practice in 2020.

According to the study, “The benefits mentioned in the participants’ responses were peer learning, developing an improved rapport with their instructor, higher quality of work and increased engagement…. This study’s findings suggest that Facebook is a social tool that can encourage interactive and collaborative learning within an environment where students do not meet in the traditional sense. The online learning context can alienate students, but Facebook can be the ‘pedagogical glue’ that brings them together and helps them settle into contemporary university life.”

Source: 2021 Trends in Online Education

Will employers take my online degree seriously?

Yes, employers will take your online degree seriously. Online degrees used to have a stigma, due to doubts about these programs’ credibility and academic quality. However, the stigma has largely disappeared as numerous well-known educational institutions have started offering degrees delivered in an exclusively online format (College of William and Mary, n.d.).

According to Akhter (2020), aside from the delivery format of a degree program, employers also consider the credibility of the institution issuing the degree. Employers may also consider an applicant’s relevant skills and professional experience in making hiring decisions.

Are online degrees recognized all over the world?

The perception of online degrees and online education, in general, has become more positive over time. Many major universities around the world have started to offer online degree programs and online learning platforms such as Coursera are seeing significant year-over-year enrollment growth (Jones, 2020).

However, despite changing views on online degrees, students must still be discerning of the institutions and programs they choose for online education. An institution’s accreditation and reputation have a significant effect on the perception of an online degree (Online MBA, 2021).

employers on online graduate degrees

Online vs. Traditional Doctorate Degree in Organizational Leadership

An online doctorate degree in organizational leadership prepares students for taking high-level executive roles in a wide variety of organizations. Students typically take courses in business-related fields, such as leadership theory, team-building, and interpersonal dynamics. In many cases, these doctoral degrees build upon the knowledge and skills students learn from a master’s degree in organizational leadership.

The best online doctorate degree in organizational leadership programs offer the same curriculum as their on-campus counterparts. However, there are significant differences to consider between on-campus and online delivery formats for this degree program.

Learning environment and pace

One of the biggest differences between a traditional degree and an online degree is that online degree programs tend to encourage a more independent learning style. Lectures and other course materials are made available through a web-based platform or virtual classroom that’s readily accessible to online students. Students then go through course materials on their own, unlike in on-campus classes that accommodate simultaneous learning in classes.

Because of an online degree’s asynchronous learning format, online students also have the freedom to study at their own pace. To lend a sense of structure to an online degree program, some universities have suggested learning paths that students can follow. Many schools also require students to complete coursework within a certain amount of time (Friedman & Moody, 2020).

Academic support

While on-campus students can have after-class discussions with their peers and instructors, online students can connect to their classmates and professors through email, chat, and instant messaging. These communication features are typically built into the web-based learning platforms or virtual classroom software used by colleges and universities.

Online students can also interact with peers outside of virtual classrooms through social media and communication software such as Zoom (Friedman & Moody, 2020).

Schedule flexibility

Since online degree programs in organizational leadership encourage self-paced study, students pursuing these degrees often have the freedom to choose their own schedules. They can access course materials at their own convenience, without the need to stick to a strict class schedule. Depending on the institution they choose, students may also be allowed to enroll in one or two courses at a time.

This flexible schedule can be an advantage to professionals who plan to pursue their doctoral degrees while working.

Time to complete

The time it takes to complete online degree courses in organizational leadership depends on each program’s credit requirements. Typically, these online programs require students to complete 40 to 60 credits before graduation. Completing this requirement can take anywhere between three to four years of study.

Is an online degree cheaper?

In general, online degree programs can turn out to be more affordable than on-campus programs. In some cases, tuition costs for online programs are lower because these require a lower overall overhead to operate (Krakoff, 2019).

Moreover, unlike on-campus students, online students don’t have to deal with additional expenses for room and board, transportation, food, and entertainment. Online students can enjoy significant savings on room and board in particular, as the cost of room and board can reach $11,900 per year at four -year institutions (Hanson, 2021).

Is an online degree as good as a regular degree?

Despite their differences, online degrees and traditional on-campus degrees can be of equal quality. This is especially true for online degree programs offered by accredited, reputable institutions. Accreditation ensures that online programs have curricula that meet rigorous academic standards.

Source: Equilar

How much does an online doctorate degree in organizational leadership cost?

Until a free college education becomes the norm, it’s best to carefully consider the costs of pursuing an online doctorate in organizational leadership. Tuition costs for the best online doctorate degree in organizational leadership programs tend to vary across institutions. Factors such as required credits for completion and out-of-state tuition fees can also drive the costs of pursuing doctoral degrees online.

Many institutions also charge a variety of fees to online students. Eastern University, for instance, charges a program fee per semester, along with a graduation fee, and a test-out fee (Eastern University, n.d.).

To give students an idea of how much an online doctorate degree in organizational leadership costs, below are per-credit tuition costs for the degree and similar programs at various universities in the country.

Per-Credit Costs of an Online Doctorate Program in Organizational Leadership at Selected U.S. Universities

UniversityPer-Credit Costs
University of Arizona Global Campus $1,082
Chicago School of Professional Psychology $1,537
Eastern University $1,061
Regent University $995
Northcentral University$1,241
Adler University $1,532
Concordia University Chicago $751
Indiana Wesleyan University$881
Nova Southeastern University$1460
Southeastern University$795

Is an online organizational leadership doctoral degree worth it?

An online doctoral degree in organizational leadership can prove to be a worthwhile pursuit for individuals who want to develop their leadership and management skills. These degree programs can provide a wealth of knowledge in fields such as performance management, global leadership, and management philosophy. The advanced knowledge can be a valuable advantage for professionals looking to step into C-suite roles at organizations.

This online degree can also be worth it for professionals in any industry. Graduates of these degrees are primed to take on top executive roles, which usually come with high pay and a certain amount of prestige. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, an estimated 218,300 openings for top executives are expected annually until 2029.

CEO average annual base salary

What are the requirements of an Online Doctorate Degree in Organizational Leadership?

Admission Requirements

Admission requirements for an online doctoral degree in organizational leadership vary from one institution to another. In most cases, however, applicants are required to have a master’s degree from an accredited institution. For many universities and colleges, students must also have a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0 at the master’s level to apply for doctoral programs.

Below are other common requirements for applying to an online doctorate degree in organizational leadership.

  • Official transcripts from all previously attended institutions
  • Updated resume or curriculum vitae
  • Recommendation forms or letters
  • GRE or MAT scores
  • TOEFL or IELTS scores, for international students

Program-Specific Requirements

Some institutions also have specific requirements for applicants to an online doctoral program for organizational leadership. Many of these programs require students to submit a statement of purpose and leadership-specific writing samples prior to admission.

For instance, Regent University requires applicants to its Ph.D. in organizational leadership program to submit a leadership essay on “the most pressing leadership issue of today” (Regent University, n.d.).

What are the technological requirements of students for online learning?

To access course materials and submit coursework, online students must have a computer and a stable Internet connection. Desktops and laptops may not be strictly required, especially as a third of online students use smartphones and tablets to complete their coursework. Peripheral devices such as speakers and webcams can help students communicate with their peers more effectively as well.

Online students must also be comfortable with using applications for email, web browsing, and communication. Proficiency in these tools gives students a better chance of achieving an online degree.

Source: New America Higher Ed Survey


Courses to Expect in Online Doctorate Degree in Organizational Leadership

Courses offered by an online doctorate degree in organizational leadership typically vary from one university to another. Curricula for these programs may also differ depending on the specific type of doctoral degree pursued by the student. For instance, a PhD in organizational leadership tends to be more focused on research. Meanwhile, a doctor of education degree in the same field emphasizes the application of leadership theories and research in educational settings (Pepperdine University, n.d.).

Below are some common courses students can expect to take while pursuing an organizational leadership doctoral program.

  • Leadership Theory and Practice – This course tackles modern leadership styles and theories, including their application in various professional settings. Students also learn how to critically evaluate and apply these theories to their own leadership strategies and practices.
  • Organizational Culture – This course discusses organizational culture and climate, focusing on the effect of a leader’s personal values on these factors. Students also learn how organizational values influence an organization’s distinct culture.
  • Ethics and Leadership – Students examine the ethical foundations that affect a leaders’ personal and professional ethics while considering the organization’s role as a moral agent in the world. Strategies for developing an organization’s ethical culture are also discussed.
  • Global Economics and Public Policy – This course explores economic issues on a global scale as well as the application of microeconomics and macroeconomics principles to various social issues. Students also investigate how economic policies can affect workforce development.
  • Strategic Planning and Change Management – Students learn about the impact of effective leadership on the creation and execution of strategies within organizations. The course also teaches students the importance of proper change management and resilience in today’s economy.

Aside from core courses and electives, doctoral students are also expected to complete a dissertation or capstone project before graduation.

Things to Look for in an Online Doctorate Degree in Organizational Leadership

Many universities and colleges today offer an online doctoral degree in organizational leadership. Considering the factors below can help students pick the right program and school for their career goals.


An institution’s accreditation is particularly important in an online degree, as this indicates a program’s curriculum has met certain academic standards. Students looking for the right online doctorate program in organizational leadership will want to choose an institution that has regional accreditation. There are currently six main regional accrediting agencies:

  • Higher Learning Commission
  • Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
  • Western Association of Schools and Colleges
  • Middle States Commission on Higher Education
  • New England Association of Schools and Colleges
  • Southern Association of Colleges and Schools

It’s wise to choose an institution with accreditation from these agencies to ensure the quality of an online degree and its curriculum.


Many online doctoral programs in organizational leadership offer various specializations and concentrations. With these specialty tracks, students can pursue coursework that’s more aligned with their career goals.

For instance, the PhD in Leadership Studies program at Johnson University offers six concentrations: Educational Leadership, Missional Leadership, Theology of Leadership, Organizational Leadership, Ministry Leadership, and Philosophy of Leadership (Johnson University, n.d.).

Financial aid or scholarship options

Pursuing a doctoral program, even online, can be a significant investment. Scholarships and financial aid can help students deal with the costs of going to graduate school. The good news is that graduate students are eligible for various forms of federal financial aid, including direct unsubsidized loans. Many universities also offer their own scholarship programs and grants to help financially needy students.

Source: CollegeBoard

Preparing for an Online Doctoral Degree in Organizational Leadership

An online doctoral degree in organizational leadership is a good choice for any professional, especially those who want to prepare for executive or C-suite roles. However, it’s best to consider a variety of factors when choosing among the many organizational leadership doctoral programs available online.

First, learners must consider the reputation and accreditation of the institution offering the degree. A degree from a university with a well-known reputation and regional accreditation is more likely to be trustworthy, especially to employers. Second, they must consider the curriculum and concentrations offered by an online doctorate in organizational leadership, to ensure that it aligns with their career goals.

Lastly, would-be doctoral students must take into account the costs of pursuing these online degree programs in organizational leadership. Universities each offer their own per-credit tuition costs and credit requirements, along with scholarship and tuition assistance options.

For more information on related advanced business-related degrees, you can check our guide to online master’s degrees in finance.



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  4. Giannikas, C. (2020). Facebook in Tertiary Education: The Impact of Social Media in e-Learning. Journal of University Teaching and Learning Practice17(1), 3. ERIC
  5. Hanson, M. (2021, July 10). Average cost of college & tuition. EducationData
  6. Johnson University. (n.d.). Ph.D. Concentrations. Johnson University
  7. Jones, J. (November 30). Will online degrees become more ‘legitimate’? BBC
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  9. Koksal, I. (2020, May 2). The rise of online learning. Forbes
  10. Krakoff, S. (2019, November 22). The cost of online education vs. traditional education. Champlain College Online
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  12. Online MBA. (2021, April 29). What do employers think about your online degree?. Online MBA
  13. Pepperdine University. (n.d.). EDD in organizational leadership.  Pepperdine University
  14. Regent University. (n.d.). PhD organizational leadership degree (Online). Regent University

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