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Online Master’s in Organizational Leadership Degree Programs

Organizational leadership represents a growing field of academic inquiry in which the qualities and characteristics of effective leadership are studied, systematized, and formalized. Drawing on theories of social psychology, principles of management, and case studies in business successes and failures, organizational leadership provides a framework for developing and refining leadership skills. Training in organizational leadership involves instruction in business practices, organizational structures, performance assessment, conflict resolution, decision making, interpersonal communication, and many other factors that relate to successful governance and effective leadership. This training is applicable across a broad range of enterprises, from publically traded corporations and private businesses, to governmental and non-profit organizations.

What is a Master’s in Organizational Leadership Degree?

A Master’s in Organizational Leadership or a Master of Science in Organizational Leadership (MSOL) is a professional degree that offers multi-disciplinary training in theories of leadership and in the practical application of those theories to real-world business challenges. Often, these programs are designed for professionals seeking to further their careers and who already have some relevant work experience. Students in these programs learn the behavioral science that underpins our understanding of group dynamics, motivation, persuasion, conflict resolution, and other key social interactions that impact the function of organizations. They learn how to recognize personal strengths and weaknesses, develop the ability to assess strengths and weaknesses in others, and cultivate management strategies based on this knowledge. They study methods to motivate, persuade, and otherwise inspire others to action, and are introduced to different types of professional interactions – directive, ethical, participative, supportive, transactional, and transformational. The goal of these programs is to prepare students for leadership roles in business and other areas by providing them with the theoretical knowledge and complementary practical skills to succeed in a range of organizational settings.

Online MSOL Programs

Online master’s in organizational leadership programs offer a more convenient and flexible alternative to traditional campus-based programs by using distance learning platforms and technologies. Students in online MSOL programs receive the same instruction as students in campus-based MSOL programs without having to commute or relocate. All or most of the coursework in these programs can be completed online, including exams, discussions, and interactions with other students. Some online programs do require a limited number of campus visits as part of the curriculum, but many are 100% online and do not require students to travel to a particular location for instructional activities.

Identifying Online Master’s in Organizational Leadership Programs

Organizational leadership is by definition a multi-disciplinary field of study. It combines aspects of business management and economics with psychology, communications, and other social sciences. In addition, organizational leadership incorporates elements of educational pedagogy, as formal and informal instructional techniques can be useful in a variety of leadership scenarios. MSOL are offered through schools of business, schools of education and psychology, and schools of professional studies. There is no formal naming convention for these degrees; instead, they are most easily identified through a curriculum that focuses on using a variety of theories and techniques to better understand the tools of effective leadership and the dynamics of organizational behavior. The list below details some typical names for master’s in organizational leadership programs:

  • Master of Science in Organizational Leadership (MSOL)
  • Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership
  • Master of Science in Organizational Development and Leadership
  • Master of Arts in Leadership and Management
  • Master’s in Strategic Leadership
  • Master of Professional Studies in Psychology of Leadership
  • Master of Science in Management, Strategy and Leadership
  • Master of Arts in Education and Human Development in Organizational Leadership and Learning

How Classifies Online Master’s in Organizational Leadership Programs classifies and categorizes MSOL programs based on clear criteria. All of the programs included on the site are offered by accredited, non-profit colleges and universities. Through independent research of each program’s structure and curriculum, makes several determinations. Programs that require more than two campus visits per year are considered hybrid programs and are not currently included on the site. The programs on the site are either 100% online, or they require no more than two campus visits per year. In addition, the programs classified as online master’s in organizational leadership programs have a curriculum that covers core theories and skills in areas of social science, business management, and communications that apply to organizational leadership. Some schools offer MBA programs with a specialization in organizational leadership. At this time, MBA programs on the site are classified separately from non-MBA master’s degrees in business related fields like organizational leadership.

What Students Learn in Online MSOL Programs

A typical online master’s in organizational leadership program includes business courses, management courses, and coursework that centers around learning, communications, critical thinking, and other “soft” skills that are valued among successful leaders. Students learn how research is conducted in the field of organizational science so that they can better understand how theories of organizational leadership are formulated, synthesized, and deployed in real-world settings. They use case studies in business success and failure to explore critical leadership skills like crisis management and resolution, the implementation of organizational change, and social and cultural issues that impact the effective management of large organizations. In many programs, students must then apply this knowledge as part of a final capstone project.

Typical Courses in an Online Master’s in Organizational Leadership Program

The table below includes a selection of courses that are commonly found in online master’s in organizational leader program curricula:

Course TitleCourse Description
Fundamentals of Organizational LeadershipAn introduction to traditional and contemporary leadership research and its practical application in problem solving, conflict resolution, delegation, empowerment, and other leadership modes.
Human Behavior in OrganizationsAn overview of theories of human behavior in groups and organizations, and of how teams interact in the workplace.
Managerial EconomicsThe application of economic theory to strategic decision making, cost benefit analyses, budgeting, and other business concerns.
Leading and Managing ChangeExamining the process by which organizational leaders implement and manage changes, with attention to budgeting, resource allocation, labor agreements, political considerations, and consumer demand.
Organizational LearningExploring the concept of organizational cognition, or how organizations process and utilize information.
Research Design & Evaluations in Organizational LeadershipThe application of social science methodologies to organizational science, including data analysis, research projects, and the use of theoretical and applied studies in organizational leadership.
Leadership Across Cultural & Global BoundariesAn examination of organizational communications and leadership across social, cultural, and global boundaries, with a focus on issues of race, gender, and ethnicity.
Strategic Human Resource ManagementAn overview of recruiting, training, and developing talent within an organization, with an emphasis on practical considerations like compensation, collective bargaining, affirmative action, and other regulatory procedures and requirements.

Admissions Requirements for Online Master’s in Organizational Leadership Programs

The basic requirement for admissions to an online MSOL program is a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited college or university. Many organizational leadership master’s programs are designed for professionals who are already working in the field; these program may require applicants to have two or more years of professional experience. Other common admissions requirements include: two or more letters of recommendation; a written personal statement of between 500 and 1000 words; and GRE or GMAT scores. Some programs prefer or require applicants to have a minimum cumulative undergraduate grade point average of 3.0, while others may waive this requirement for applicants who have a certain number of years of professional work experience. Similarly, the GRE/GMAT requirement may be waived for applicants who have been working in the field for several years or who have already earned a master’s level degree in another discipline.

Online Master’s in Organizational Leadership Program Formats

Online MSOL programs are generally designed for students who are already working in business or a related field. As such, they are typically flexible enough to accommodate students who may continue to have significant commitments outside of school during the program. While online instruction offers convenience and flexibility, not all online programs are the same. There are crucial differences in how these programs are structured and formatted that may make one program more ideal compared to another for individual students. Three key areas of concern in this regard are the method of instructional delivery; the number of credits students are expected to complete per semester; and the presence or absence of mandatory campus visits.

Synchronous vs. Asynchronous Instruction: Different programs use different online course delivery systems and different modes of online instruction. Synchronous instructions requires students to be present online at specified times to view and participate in lectures, discussions, and other course activities. It is similar to traditional classroom instruction in this regard, however it does allow students to log on from any location with an Internet connection. Asynchronous instruction does not have set times during which students must view lectures and other presentations. Instead, students are given round-the-clock access to course materials, which may be more convenient, but also require a greater level of self-motivation. Students who would prefer online classes that more closely resemble a campus-based classroom experience may prefer the structure of synchronous instruction. Students who require maximum flexibility may find asynchronous instruction to be more ideal.

Part-time vs. Full-time Enrollment: Many online master’s in organizational leadership programs do not adhere to a traditional, semester-based academic calendar. Programs with four or more eight-to-ten week terms per calendar year are not uncommon. This can provide online students with additional flexibility, particularly regarding the number of courses they’re enrolled in at one time. Students who opt for full-time enrollment typically must complete the equivalent of three or four courses per academic semester, and should be able to graduate in 18-to-22 months. Students who enroll part-time take fewer courses per term, but their time to graduation lengthens accordingly. A student enrolled part-time in an organizational leadership master’s program will typically take two or more years to graduate.

Campus Visits: There are master’s in organizational leadership programs that are 100% online and do not require any campus-based sessions. However, some programs incorporate campus visits, often referred to as immersions or intensives, into their curriculum. These on-campus sessions are instructional and offer students opportunities to participate in group learning activities, networking events, and interactive workshops with instructors and other students. They can last anywhere from two days to a full week. Students who value the hands-on, face-to-face learning opportunities that immersion sessions provide, should explore programs that include campus visits. However, it’s important to consider the costs incurred in traveling to a campus or another designated location, which may not be included in the program’s tuition costs and fees. does not currently include online MSOL programs that require more than two campus visits per year.