Best online doctorate in organizational leadership 2021: Top picks

    If you’re a manager looking for the perfect degree to boost or validate your skills, consider pursuing an organizational leadership degree.

    Organizational leaders set high-level goals and guide their company and its employees toward achieving them. Pursuing an organizational leadership doctorate will impart deep knowledge of this field and could help you ascend to the top of your company.

    According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, America’s business will employ 11% more training and development managers by 2029. An organizational leadership doctorate can be your portal to this and other in-demand leadership management positions, along with roles in education.

    Read on for our ranking of the best online organizational leadership doctorates, along with more details on what you’ll gain and learn by enrolling.

    The best online doctorate in organizational leadership degrees

    Before browsing our rankings, take a moment to peruse ZDNet’s ranking methodology. We use publicly available, carefully curated data to select the highest quality academic programs at schools around the country.

    Unless otherwise indicated, data is drawn from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System and College Scorecard.

    1. Concordia University Chicago

    River Forest, Illinois

    About the program: CUC, part of one of the largest Lutheran schools in the nation, offers an online organizational leadership doctorate. Students can pursue the degree as a research-focused educational specialist (Ed.S.) degree or a management-practice focused Ph.D.

    • Acceptance rate: 75%
    • Graduation rate: 49%
    • Avg. annual net price: $16,512
    • Years to completion: Three to five
    • GRE/GMAT: Requirement waived through 2022
    • Minimum GPA: 3.0
    • Enrollment periods per year: Three
    • Course delivery methods: Online

    Accreditation: Concordia University Chicago is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

    2. East Tennessee State University

    Johnson City, Tennessee

    About the program: ETSU offers several online doctorates in educational leadership. The school leadership specialization caters to established professionals looking to work in central office positions or refine their leadership skills in their current position.

    • Acceptance rate: 86%
    • Graduation rate: 49%
    • Avg. annual net price: $14,332
    • Years to completion: Three to five
    • GRE/GMAT: Not required
    • Minimum GPA: Not required
    • Enrollment periods per year: Three
    • Course delivery methods: Online

    Accreditation: East Tennessee State University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

    3. Gardner-Webb University

    Boiling Springs, North Carolina

    About the program: Gardner-Webb’s online catalog includes a nine-semester, 63-credit online doctor of education in organizational leadership. The program consists of six semesters of core course modules, followed by three more of specialized topics.

    • Acceptance rate: 67%
    • Graduation rate: 60%
    • Avg. annual net price: $21,296
    • Years to completion: Three to five
    • GRE/GMAT: Required; minimum scores not publicly available
    • Minimum GPA: Not required
    • Enrollment periods per year: Three
    • Course delivery methods: Online

    Accreditation: Gardner-Webb University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

    4. Gonzaga University

    Spokane, Washington

    About the program: Gonzaga University educates management students in the liberal arts tradition of Jesuit schools. The school’s online leadership studies doctorate covers three areas: the leader as an individual, organizational structures, and global leadership.

    • Acceptance rate: 62%
    • Graduation rate: 85%
    • Avg. annual net price: $33,793
    • Years to completion: Three to five
    • GRE/GMAT: Not required
    • Minimum GPA: Not required
    • Enrollment periods per year: Rolling
    • Course delivery methods: Online

    Accreditation: Gonzaga University is regionally accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU).

    5. Governors State University

    University Park, Illinois

    About the program: GSU offers an online doctor of education in interdisciplinary leadership that consists of 60 credits. The online program allows students a choice between higher education leadership and not-for-profit leadership concentrations.

    • Acceptance rate: 46%
    • Graduation rate: 62%
    • Avg. annual net price: $12,077
    • Years to completion: Four to five
    • GRE/GMAT: Required. GRE minimum score of 300.
    • Minimum GPA: 3.0
    • Enrollment periods per year: Rolling
    • Course delivery methods: Online

    Accreditation: Governors State University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

    6. Indiana Institute of Technology

    Fort Wayne, Indiana

    About the program: Indiana Tech’s online doctorate in global leadership offers a concentration in organizational leadership. Concentration course topics include multinational management, international strategy, and an optional global practicum.

    • Acceptance rate: 60%
    • Graduation rate: 36%
    • Avg. annual net price: $19,305
    • Years to completion: Three to five
    • GRE/GMAT: Not required
    • Minimum GPA: Not required
    • Enrollment periods per year: Rolling
    • Course delivery methods: Online

    Accreditation: Indiana Institute of Technology is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

    7. Johnson University

    Knoxville, Tennessee

    About the program: Private Christian school JUTN offers a 60-credit online doctorate in leadership studies. Students can pick elective tracks in organizational leadership, educational leadership, or missional leadership.

    • Acceptance rate: 53%
    • Graduation rate: 57%
    • Avg. annual net price: $18,915
    • Years to completion: Three to five
    • GRE/GMAT: Not required
    • Minimum GPA: Not required
    • Enrollment periods per year: Rolling
    • Course delivery methods: Online

    Accreditation: Johnson University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

    8. Northcentral University

    La Jolla, California

    About the program: NCU’s online catalog features an online doctorate in organizational leadership targeting students interested in education and leadership. Course topics include ethical leadership, communicating change, and building organizational capacity.

    • Acceptance rate: Not publicly available
    • Graduation rate: 25%
    • Avg. annual net price: Not publicly available
    • Years to completion: Three to five
    • GRE/GMAT: Not required
    • Minimum GPA: Not required
    • Enrollment periods per year: Rolling
    • Course delivery methods: Online

    Accreditation: Northcentral University is regionally accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, the Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC).

    9. Nova Southeastern University

    Fort Lauderdale, Florida

    About the program: NSU offers a 55-credit online doctor of education in organizational leadership. Learners may complete a strategic research project instead of a dissertation.

    • Acceptance rate: 80%
    • Graduation rate: 48%
    • Avg. annual net price: $23,905
    • Years to completion: Three to five
    • GRE/GMAT: Not required
    • Minimum GPA: 3.0
    • Enrollment periods per year: Rolling
    • Course delivery methods: Online

    Accreditation: Nova Southeastern University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

    10. University of Southern California

    Los Angeles, California

    About the program: USC offers an online doctor of education in organizational leadership. The program is structured around three themes: leadership, problem-solving, and reflection.

    • Acceptance rate: 11%
    • Graduation rate: 92%
    • Avg. annual net price: $29,528
    • Years to completion: Three to four; can only be completed part-time
    • GRE/GMAT: Required
    • Minimum GPA: 3.0
    • Enrollment periods per year: Three
    • Course delivery methods: Online

    Accreditation: University of Southern California is regionally accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, the Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC).

    What to expect in an online doctorate in organizational leadership degree program

    There are two broad types of online doctorate in organizational leadership degrees. With a Ph.D., you can expect a high-level management degree, generally focused on a specific field such as healthcare. If you pursue an Ed.S., expect a degree that prepares you for an educational career. Both degrees culminate in a dissertation.

    This 40-50-credit degree takes three to six years to complete and blends practical and theoretical learning.

    To succeed in a doctoral organizational leadership program, you need strong skills in business communication, teamwork, and self-motivation. The program also refines skills in critical thinking, leadership, and collaboration.

    Doctorate in organizational leadership courses

    Organizational leadership doctoral programs can widely differ in curriculum offerings, especially in programs that focus on one industry, such as education or healthcare. In all programs, though, you can be expected to learn about leadership theory, structural organization, and research methods.

    Many programs offer electives in organizational culture, leadership and diversity, and contemporary leadership issues.

    The following courses represent common course offerings in doctoral organizational leadership programs.

    Leadership theory

    This course overviews different leadership approaches across organizational settings, unpacking the practices and theoretical concepts that create successful leaders. Students leave this course equipped to analyze and evaluate different leadership styles across industries.

    Organizational theory

    This course investigates psychological and sociological elements at play in effective organizational design for procedure, leadership, and workflow. Topics may include human relations theory, contingency/decision theory, and environmental and symbolic structures.

    Ethics and leadership

    Students explore ethical issues that interact with a leader’s role and responsibilities. The class might explore how legal and regulatory issues interact with ethical behavior in a particular industry, such as education or healthcare.

    Fiscal management in educational leadership

    This course surveys financial and facility management from an educational leader’s perspective. Learners investigate how educational leaders determine budgeting based on federal funding, best practices for fund management, and models for assessing educational programs’ effectiveness.

    Organizational leadership degree levels

    Different degree levels and credentials in organizational leadership cater to different career plans. To make the most out of an organizational leadership degree, pick a degree that offers the most possibility for your professional goals.

    Read on for the curriculum, career outlook, and time expenditure you can expect from different degree levels in organizational leadership.

    Certificate in organizational leadership

    Length: One year

    Cost: $2,000-$10,000

    Post-grad careers: Sales manager, store manager, administrative assistant

    Certificates and diplomas are quicker, cheaper non-degree credentials that you can generally earn in a few months to a year. Generally, this credential caters to working learners with busy schedules looking to move up. A certificate in organizational leadership might serve as a way to move from a low-level customer service representative role to becoming a low-level manager.

    These programs generally teach introductory coursework on concepts such as change management, organizational behavior, and leadership studies.

    Associate in organizational leadership

    Length: Two years

    Cost: $10,000-$20,000

    Post-grad careers: Executive assistant, project manager, store manager

    Though you generally do not need a degree to work as a manager in retail, construction, and IT, it can help to earn an associate degree in organizational leadership.

    This type of degree typically caters to working learners who want to validate or boost their credentials in management. It takes around two years to earn. Course topics in this degree usually include sociology, organizational leadership, and leadership theory.

    Credit earned towards this degree may sometimes be applied to a four-year bachelor’s, too.

    Bachelor’s in organizational leadership

    Length: Four years

    Cost: $40,000-$150,000

    Post-grad careers: Human resources manager, sales manager, industrial production manager

    A four-year bachelor’s in organizational leadership may open many job opportunities. For example, human resources positions sometimes require an organizational leadership degree.

    A 120-credit organizational leadership bachelor’s often emphasizes projects and experiential learning. It may culminate with a portfolio presentation or allow students to pursue an internship.

    This degree usually delves deeper into psychology, sociology, and organizational behavior theory and develops people skills in business communication, conflict resolution, and collaborative leadership.

    Master’s in organizational leadership

    Length: Two to three years

    Cost: $50,000-$100,000

    Post-grad careers: Management analyst, compensation and benefits manager, medical and health services manager

    An organizational leadership master’s can open job opportunities at or near the highest management level in industries including healthcare, education, and manufacturing.

    This two-year, 30-40-credit degree explores advanced leadership theory and practice, organizational behavior theory, and psychology. The degree cultivates people skills in collaborative leadership and business communication alongside hard skills such as fiscal management and project management.

    This is a terminal degree for many learners, as it can prepare you for C-level leadership positions across many settings.

    Doctorate in organizational leadership

    Length: Three to six years

    Cost: $50,000-$200,000

    Post-grad careers: Training and development manager, top executive, university professor

    A doctoral degree in organizational leadership can qualify you to become a training and development manager or C-level leader who evaluates and defines organizations’ goals and practices. It can also qualify you to become a university professor in the organizational leadership field.

    The degree teaches the most advanced leadership and organizational behavior theory and practice, plus quantitative and qualitative research skills. Students leave this degree with sharpened skills in leadership evaluation and analysis, problem-solving, and collaborative leadership.

    In conclusion

    A doctoral degree of any kind is an undertaking.

    Some managers may feel hesitant to pursue an organizational leadership doctorate. However, this unique terminal degree may send you to the top of the ladder, where you can not only lead others but analyze and improve the state of leadership for your organization as a whole.

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