Best Online Doctorate in Organizational Leadership Programs

Oct 30, 2021

What is an Online Doctorate in Organizational Leadership Program?

Students interested in studying business at the doctoral level can pursue a wide range of on-campus and online degree programs. For instance, students can choose from doctorates in business analytics or management information systems, as well as online doctorates in the field of business, such as human resources or international business.

Those who are interested in leadership may consider earning an online doctoral degree in organizational leadership. This degree can be applied to business and several other fields. Doctoral degree programs in organizational leadership are most often offered as Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degrees, but Doctor of Education (EdD) and Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) degrees in the field are also available. Although doctoral programs in organizational leadership are available online, several of these programs have some in-person requirements, such as practicums and/or residencies. Learn more about these degree programs below.

What is the Difference Between a PhD in Organizational Leadership and an EdD or DBA in Organizational Leadership?

There are several differences between a PhD, EdD, or DBA in Organizational Leadership. PhD programs are primarily designed for students wishing to conduct research in the field. Graduates of these programs typically go on to work as postsecondary educators or researchers. However, they can also serve in practitioner roles, as well. PhD programs commonly require a dissertation and may take longer to complete than EdD or DBA programs.

EdD programs also examine organizational leadership within the context of education. Students may examine how organizational leadership applies to schools, school systems, and districts. Some of these programs may also require a dissertation, but it is common for EdD programs to include other hands-on learning activities, such as practicums or capstone experiences. Graduates of these degree programs may work in advanced positions in school systems or other education-related organizations.

Finally, a DBA in Organizational Leadership is a more business-focused degree that includes advanced business courses and some specialization courses in organizational leadership. These programs are designed for business practitioners; many conclude with a capstone experience.

Why Should I Get an Online Doctorate in Organizational Leadership?

Some students opt for online business graduate certificates, such as online certificates in business management. A doctoral degree is typically going to provide students with more detailed and advanced knowledge in a given field than a graduate certificate. Certificates typically take under a year to complete and are designed for highly specialized study while a doctorate in organizational leadership lets students dive into their studies for several years and provides opportunities to become leading experts in the field.

In addition, online programs typically allow students to work at their own pace and have fewer in-person requirements than campus programs. Students who are interested in pursuing a degree in organizational leadership should enjoy leadership in diverse settings. These degree programs equip students with the necessary knowledge and skills to move into advanced positions, as well as conduct research in the field.

Admissions Requirements for Online Organizational Leadership Doctorate Programs

Admissions requirements for online organizational leadership doctoral programs vary from institution to institution, as well as from program type to program type. For example, these doctoral programs commonly require applicants to take the GRE, but business-related programs in organizational leadership may accept the GMAT. Almost all doctoral programs in organizational leadership require applicants to hold a master's degree. Some programs may also have a minimum GPA requirement.

Applicants typically need to fill out the appropriate application and include their transcripts, letters of recommendation, and a resume or CV. It is common for programs to require an essay or writing sample as well. Finally, depending on the program, applicants may be expected to complete an admissions interview.

What Should I Expect from an Online Doctorate in Organizational Leadership?

Although it varies from program to program, students in online doctoral programs in organizational leadership can expect to complete between 60 and 90 credits of coursework. Most of these programs are offered in full-time formats, but there may be some programs that offer part-time formats. Students can also expect to complete some kind of culminating experience. Most often this is a dissertation, but several programs utilize a capstone in its place. Students will likely take several research-based courses, as well as some general courses in business and specialized courses in organizational leadership. Learn more about the time and curriculum requirements for these programs below.

How Long is an Online Doctoral Organizational Leadership Program?

Most commonly, online doctoral programs in organizational leadership take around 4 years to complete. However, some programs allow students to complete their degree in as few as 3 years. Some programs may give students a 3-year and 4-year track option, which changes how many courses students take at once.

Besides course load, the other factor that greatly determines the time to degree completion is how long it takes students to complete their dissertation. Some students can complete their dissertation in 1 year or less, while others may take several years. Depending on the program, some online doctoral programs in organizational leadership may also accept transfer credits, which can help decrease the time to degree completion.

Common Courses for Online Organizational Leadership Doctoral Programs

While there are some differences in course titles for doctoral programs in organizational leadership, students can generally expect to take a range of research, leadership, and business courses for these programs. These courses are designed to give students an understanding of different leadership styles, how organizations function, the role of leaders in an organization, and the types of theories and philosophies associated with the field. Coursework also trains students in the collection, analysis, and interpretation of research within the field of organizational leadership. Some differences in coursework arise between the different types of degree options. For instance, PhD programs and DBA programs may have more general business leadership courses, while EdD programs may also include some more education-specific courses or examples. Below are some examples of possible course topics for online doctoral programs in organizational leadership.

Leadership and Management Philosophies/Theories

Courses in leadership and/or management philosophies and theories help students explore the different ideas circulating in the field. Students may examine past and current theories, as well as theories pertaining to the individual, team, and organizational levels. Depending on the course, students may have the opportunity to apply some of these theories through various exercises. Other topics may include ethical leadership, self-awareness, and accountability.

Systems Thinking

Courses in systems thinking may emphasize systems design and/or systems innovation. Courses focused on design explore the different roles of organizations, stakeholders, institutions, and more while also discussing interventions for change. Those that focus on systems innovation will compare a learning organization to the traditional organizational structure. Both kinds of courses will examine the challenges and consequences of various kinds of actions and decision-making.

Diversity/Leading Across Cultures

Students in diversity courses learn about accessibility and further develop their leadership skills to work in a global environment. These courses focus on the leadership theories involved in leading people of various cultures, while also addressing the various issues that may arise in a diverse workplace. These courses often include literature from non-Western viewpoints to expand students' critical-thinking skills.

Research Courses

Students will likely take multiple courses in the area of organizational leadership research. These courses may be broken into subjects such as analyzing and interpreting research, research design, data collection, and more. Often, these courses are used to help prepare students for their dissertation project and typically work to develop students' analysis skills. Students may learn how to use data to create valuable information for stakeholders and the various data collection and analysis techniques used in the field.

Online Organizational Leadership Doctorate Degree Specializations

Sometimes, organizational leadership is offered as its own concentration, such as in the case of a DBA degree. Some doctoral degree programs offer different specialization tracks, but these programs are not common. Students may be able to find programs that offer tracks in areas such as business management, nonprofit and public administration, or educational administration. Typically, concentration areas are designed to equip students with specialized skills and knowledge in a given area to help prepare them for a specific kind of future career, such as a career in business management or working for a nonprofit. Although many doctoral degree programs in organizational leadership do not have strict concentrations available, several programs cover different domains or areas of focus, such as research, team-building, organizational interventions, culture, change, and globalization. Some programs also include elective courses that can be personalized to fit a student's future career goals and research interests.

Doctoral Dissertation for Organizational Leadership

Many doctoral degree programs in organizational leadership conclude with a dissertation. This is an extensive research project where students design and implement an independent research project. They must then analyze their findings, discuss them in a research paper and make a presentation to a committee.

Typically, once students have completed their coursework for the program they must pass comprehensive or qualifying exams. These assessments test students' knowledge of the field and ensure that they have enough understanding of organizational leadership to proceed with their doctoral research. Depending on the program, assessments may include a portfolio, presentation, paper, or a combination of these different evaluations. Students must then begin forming their dissertation committee, usually under the guidance of their primary advisor.

Once students have determined their dissertation committee, they must begin working on their dissertation proposal. Some schools offer a course that guides them through this process. The proposal is meant to help students outline their project and conduct their literature review to ensure they have enough information for their project. The dissertation committee must review and approve the proposal for students to carry on to the next step of independent research. During this phase, students collect and analyze their data and then write their dissertation. Once they have completed their dissertation it is time to defend their dissertation in front of their committee. This entire process can take at least a year and often lasts several years.

How to Choose the Right Online Organizational Leadership Doctorate Program

There are many online doctoral programs available in organizational leadership, so finding one that is a good fit can be a challenge. Students should first consider which type of doctoral degree best aligns with their personal career goals and interests. For example, a student interested in research may choose a PhD program, while a student interested in working in a school system may choose an EdD program. After figuring out which kind of degree to pursue, students should begin to compare courses and specialization options to find a program that best aligns with their interests and goals. Students may also want to research any unique features of programs, such as hands-on learning opportunities and projects.

Students will also need to consider the logistics of these different online organizational leadership programs. For instance, many of these programs have some residency requirements. This may help determine the location of the degree program, as students will need to be on-campus occasionally. The format of a program needs to fit into a student's schedule and desired timeline. For example, some programs are available part-time, while some full-time programs allow students to finish in 3 years vs. 4 years. Finally, many students need to consider the cost of a program and any available financial aid or funding options.

Accreditation for Schools with an Organizational Leadership Doctorate Program

It is always important for students to search for and find an accredited school that offers their program of interest. Employers often prefer graduates from accredited institutions and accreditation also enables students to accept financial aid and transfer credits more easily if necessary. Many institutions that offer online doctoral degree programs in organizational leadership are regionally accredited by institutions approved by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). These include organizations like the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE), the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE) and the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU).

However, some organizational leadership programs are offered in business schools that hold business-specific accreditation for some or all of their programs. This program-specific accreditation comes from organizations such as the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP). This means that in addition to the general academic standards that the institution has met for accreditation, the business school/department and its programs have met additional, business-specific standards for academic quality. This may stand out to employers and help graduates find a job.

Job Outlook for Organizational Leadership

Students wondering 'what can you do with a PhD in Leadership?' will be happy to know that there are many different fields with a range of jobs that involve leadership. Specifically, organizational leadership careers are available in fields such as business, education, healthcare, and more as managers, executives, and administrators. While many graduates with their doctorate in organizational leadership enter the workforce as some kind of advanced leader in their field, others may pursue careers as researchers or academics. Still others may become consultants and pursue leadership coaching certification or other credentials to help others develop their leadership skills. Below, we will explore just a few career options for graduates in further detail.

Top Executive

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), top executives made a median annual salary of $106,180, as of 2020. The BLS also reported that these professionals had a job outlook of 8% from 2020 to 2030, which is as fast as average. Top executives include job titles such as chief executive officers (CEOs), school superintendents, university presidents, general managers, executive directors, and more. While the specific job duties for these professionals vary by role and organization, in general, top executives are responsible for creating plans to help their organization meet its goals. They may conduct contract negotiations, oversee staff members, develop policies and procedures, and review financial statements.

Postsecondary Education Administrator

The median annual salary for postsecondary education administrators is $97,500, as of 2020, per the BLS. The job outlook for these administrators is 8% from 2020 to 2030. Postsecondary education administrators can be broken up into several categories, such as admissions, student affairs, the registrar's office, and provosts or academic deans. Each area has different administrative roles and responsibilities, but in general, these professionals help the students at their institution and ensure that the school is running smoothly. Helping students may involve registering them for classes, planning events, reviewing admissions applications, and more, depending on the position.

Human Resources Manager

As of 2020, the BLS reports that the median annual salary for human resources (HR) managers is $121,220. According to the BLS, the job outlook for these managers from 2020-2030 is 9%, which is also as fast as average. HR managers help manage the various administrative functions of an organization. For example, they may oversee the employee benefits program, consult on HR issues, address staffing issues, and manage the recruitment and interview process for their organization.

Financial Aid and Scholarships for Online Organizational Leadership Doctorate Programs

To help minimize the out-of-pocket cost of earning an online doctorate in organizational leadership, students should research and explore all of their financial aid options. This process typically begins by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This form allows students to see their federal loan and grant options. Loans have to be repaid with interest, so students may also want to check for any available funding from their institution and other outside organizations.

Students should be sure to check if their online program qualifies for different funding options. For example, many schools offer graduate and research assistantships, but these opportunities may not be available to online students. Institutions may also offer various kinds of discounts, such as military discounts for active-duty service members or employer discounts.

Scholarships are another great source of funding that students may qualify for based on a wide range of reasons. Many schools offer various kinds of merit scholarships, as well as field- or subject-specific scholarships. Some of these awards are based on academic performance, while others may be based on interests, demographics, or other factors.

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