A degree in organizational leadership—a form of management that emphasizes the human elements of running an organization—teaches students both the technical and human needs of running an organization.
What, for example, is the best way to organize a company during an acquisition? How can you make your employees more productive while creating a good work culture? Studying organizational leadership will give you the knowledge to tackle these questions.
It’s a degree that can be especially useful for jobs that are responsible for organizing and overseeing groups of people, like managerial, executive, or human resource positions. The degree can be applied to a variety of industries, including the business, healthcare, government, or nonprofit sectors.
Read on to find what exactly an organizational leadership degree is, what you can do with one, and other information to help you decide if it’s the right fit for you.
An organizational leadership degree is an academic degree that develops a student’s understanding of how organizations run by focusing on human elements of leadership. Students in this degree program may take coursework that focuses on soft leadership skills—like communication, team building, and ethics—and hard skills like data analysis and human resource knowledge. A graduate should be prepared to lead by understanding both the larger goals of an organization and the needs of the individuals that compose it.
Courses might dive into the following topics to build soft skills in leadership:
Courses may include some of the hard skills necessary to lead organizations like:
Regulation in human resources, such as equitable employment laws
Research methods and data analysis
Some programs may offer concentrations, like global business, healthcare management, or business technology, enabling you to hone in on a specific interest.
Organizational leadership degrees are offered as bachelor’s or master’s degrees. Abbreviations you might see for these degrees include MSOL (Master of Science in Organizational Leadership), or MAOL (Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership).
Many graduates of organizational leadership degree programs go into management positions at public and private companies, nonprofits, or the government. A healthcare manager with an organizational leadership degree, for example, might oversee a hospital facility by laying out its goals, managing its budget, and supervising its hiring process.
Jobs for organizational leadership degree graduates can include:
Business and management consultant
Human resources manager
Medical and health service manager
Sales and marketing manager
Leadership coaching or development
Business or organization executive
There’s some good news for those who are interested in management. Management positions are expected to grow five percent from 2019 to 2029 in the US, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The medium annual wage for such a position was $105,660 in May of 2019 .
If you’re still considering your options, here are a few other types of degrees for you to consider.
Business management or administration: A degree in business management or business administration will likely emphasize quantitative business skills like accounting or sales, in addition to including courses that teach leadership qualities. If you want a broad base of understanding on the soft and hard skills of how to run a business, this could be a good option.
Economics, finance, accounting: These fields will give you a solid foundation in the nuts-and-bolts quantitative skills that can help you understand the monetary aspects of running a business, and the world of finance beyond. They’ll also be transferable to work in several different industries.
MBA (Master of Business Administration): MBA programs, like organizational leadership degrees, teach leadership skills like fostering teamwork, communicating effectively, and motivating employees. MBAs, however, put a stronger emphasis on the technical parts of running a business. This typically means more coursework in finance, economics, accounting, and marketing.
Graduates often go on to work in managerial or executive positions in a business. You can find many MBA options online as well.
Organizational leadership degrees focus more on the human elements of leadership than MBAs do. Students who enter a master's program in organizational leadership might not necessarily be interested in knowing, for example, how best to market a product or the larger economic trends of the day. If you’re more interested in building out leadership skills, organizational leadership might make more sense for you.
HR Management: A Master of Human Resources Management will dig into HR-specific topics. These might include compensation and benefits, recruitment and training, ethics, or legal issues. Like organizational leadership degrees, a human resource management degree can focus on aspects of behavioral psychology and leadership. If you want to delve more specifically into HR, a master's in human resource management could be a worth looking into.
An organizational leadership degree can bring many benefits into your life—and not just monetary ones. Sharpening yourself into a leader in your field can help your organization grow intelligently, motivate your workers, and be personally gratifying.
See if organizational leadership is for you through Northwestern University’s Organizational Leadership Specialization. If you’re still new to management practices, check out the Google Professional Certificate in Project Management.
1. US Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Management Occupations, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/home.htm." Accessed March 26, 2021.