Best Online Master’s Degrees in Leadership

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Master of Professional Studies in Psychology of Leadership

  • First-of-its-kind degree that helps you gain a deep understanding human behavior based on psychological principles.
  • 100% online, through the advanced online learning platform of Penn State’s World Campus.
  • 700K+ alumni network.

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Master of Arts in Leadership and Organizational Development

  • Focus on workplace dynamics and building life-long leadership skills via proven methods.
  • Flexible program, with eight-week terms and the ability to take up to 30 credits per year as a part-time student.
  • Discounted tuition for veterans, active-duty military, and first responders.

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Master’s in Organizational Leadership

  • Learn to take a holistic view of how leadership impacts fiscal responsibility and market conditions.
  • 100% online degree with flexibility for specific areas of study and/or certifications.
  • Graduate in as little as 18 months; no GMAT or GRE required.

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Master of Science in Leadership

  • Develop leadership skills based on best practices, ethics, and strategic thinking.
  • Accelerated program of study available for human resources professionals with a SHRM-CP or SHRM-SCP credential.
  • Select from seven areas of concentration, including Human Resources Management and Organizational Communication.

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Is a graduate degree in leadership for you? Read on to find out.

Why Focus on Leadership?

Every industry in every corner of the world has one thing in common: people. The success or failure of every venture rests on the shoulders of human beings. Yet, rallying individuals and teams to work together toward a common goal in a healthy, cohesive way may be one of the biggest challenges that enterprises face.

The fact is, there is no technical solution that can harness human potential, create corporate cultures that inspire, or spark collaboration and creativity. We need strong leaders to do that.

Earning a master’s degree that focuses on leadership can help you empower your company to run more efficiently by keying in on how human behavior impacts strategic goals.

If you’re a working professional who’s in a leadership role, or who aspires to be in one, a graduate degree that emphasizes leadership can be a strong indicator that you’re prepared to take on new challenges in your career.

Best of all, you can now earn your degree from an accredited university while working full-time and completing your coursework 100% online. Thanks to advanced digital learning platforms, it’s possible to work through assignments on your own schedule, while still retaining the ability to interact and build relationships with your professors and classmates. That especially beneficial when you’re pursuing a degree that focuses on human dynamics and interaction.

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Benefits of a Leadership Degree

  • You’ll learn how to make change happen faster. Gaining insight into motivation, group dynamics, and strategic thinking can give you the tools to help your organization run more efficiently by targeting the human behavior that powers the business world.
  • You’ll be a more effective leader. Earning a master’s degree in any business-related area signals a commitment to advancing in your professional knowledge. A master’s that focuses on leadership not only puts a credential behind your name, it helps you develop demonstrable leadership skills that will help you become a more effective manager.
  • You’ll develop a unique skill set. By focusing on the human side of business, you can differentiate your core competencies from colleagues who may have focused on the operations side of business during their MBA studies.
  • You’ll be more resilient in the face of career disruption. Because a leadership degree is concentrated on human behavior rather than business processes, you’ll develop a portable skill set that may make it easier to transition between different industries. That kind of flexibility can be extremely beneficial if your current industry faces disruption due to technological advances, market changes, global economic conditions, or other variables.
  • You’ll make lasting connections. Building personal connections can be a key component to career longevity. Many of today’s online programs were designed to facilitate a high degree of interaction between classmates and professors, allowing students to build personal connections despite being in disbursed locations.

What is the Master’s in Leadership?

A master's degree in leadership may be called by a few different titles. For example, Penn State's online program is the Master of Professional Studies in Psychology of Leadership. You may also see leadership programs referred to under the name "organizational leadership," or simply "leadership."

In general, a leadership degree is for working professionals who are deeply interested in how people work, what motivates them, and how to create alignment among disparate groups.

Unlike MBA curriculums, which largely focus on business operations, the master’s in leadership examines the human side of what makes businesses run. Typical programs of study include topics designed to build emotional intelligence among leaders in the workplace. Communication techniques, team dynamics and development, and leadership theory are common areas of focus. While this degree is intended to have broad applicability across industries, some programs may include areas of concentration such as human resources, project management, or supply chain management.

There is often a practical component to this degree, in which students are required to complete certain requirements within a business setting. This is often referred to as a capstone experience. Online programs generally allow students to coordinate and carry out this component remotely, with monitoring and guidance from a professor.

Opportunities for Graduates

Because this degree focuses on human dynamics rather than business operations, it has extremely broad applicability to nearly every professional field.

Graduates are well-suited for management and executive positions across a variety of industries, including:

  • Non-profit organizations
  • Military
  • Education
  • The service industry
  • Law enforcement
  • The public sector
  • Technology
  • Healthcare
  • Manufacturing

This degree can also be an excellent springboard to a career in business consulting, focusing on executive coaching, team building, interpersonal dynamics, and corporate culture.

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Who is a Good Candidate for this Program?

If you’re a working professional who is in a leadership position or who aspires to be in one, this degree program may be a good fit for you. If you define yourself as a “people person,” you may be especially well-suited to tis area of study.

Most programs require applicants to have a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited school in the U.S., or an equivalent credential from a school in another country.

The typical degree candidate is working full-time in a professional position. While some programs present material through a human resources lens, leadership degree programs are generally intended for managers within any area or department of an organization.

Skills You Will Gain

While every program is different, there are certain key outcomes you can expect from most programs, including:

  • An understanding of both positive and negative influences that may affect team dynamics.
  • A foundation of leadership principles and ethics that you can adapt and apply to real-world situations across multiple industries.
  • Insight into different personality types, and how to best work with each.
  • The ability to defuse toxic attitudes and behaviors that may negatively impact an enterprise's goals.
  • How to motivate individuals and teams to advance business initiatives.


How is this degree different from an MBA?

MBAs typically focus on business operations, including marketing, accounting, and management. Leadership-focused degree concentrate on how interpersonal dynamics can be improved in order to make business run more efficiently.

How long does it typically take to earn this degree?

Online masters’ programs vary in length depending on the school and the number of credits you opt to take per year. Some accelerated programs can be completed in as little as 18 months, while others may take up to three years (for part-time students).

Can I earn this degree while working full-time?

Yes. In fact, many students who pursue their master’s online do so while maintaining their full-time work schedules. Colleges and universities are very aware of this, and many have created their online programs with working professionals in mind.

If you’re working full-time while pursuing your degree, it’s important to consider how much time you’ll have to devote to coursework on a regular basis. You’ll be more likely to finish your program if you create a reasonable pace for yourself.

Program summaries for recommended schools

Penn State World Campus

Master of Professional Studies in the Psychology of Leadership

Penn State, a world-class university, has harnessed its academic prowess to create a program that is truly unique within business studies.

The Psychology of Leadership program goes a level deeper than traditional graduate-level leadership tracks. Students will learn about the psychological underpinnings of human behavior and group dynamics, as well as how each manifests within the business world.

While helping students keep a firm sight on their enterprise's goals, the Psychology of Leadership program guides working professionals in how to take a people-based approach to business. It helps leaders develop the empathy, insight, and emotional intelligence needed to connect with employees on a human level in order to increase the health and success of their company, non-profit, agency, or other venture.

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This program can be completed entirely online while working full-time.

Classes are asynchronous, meaning that you can view lectures, participate in online forums, and complete assignments any time during the day or night.

Thirty-three credit hours must be completed to graduate, including required courses, psychological and non-psychological electives, and a three-credit capstone experience.

What you’ll learn:

  • Psychological and ethical foundations that contribute to effective leadership practices.
  • The psychology behind behavior, motivation, and attitudes at work, at the individual and team level.
  • How to use psychological principles to lead individuals and teams, including contexts that involve diverse and disbursed workforces.

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Saint Louis University

Master of Arts in Leadership and Organizational Development

This program teaches leadership skills that can be applied in work situations, as well as other areas of life. With a foundation on leadership principles and theories, students will learn how to use evidence-based approaches to solve interpersonal issues within context.


  • Complete your coursework entirely online, on your schedule.
  • Courses are offered in 8-week terms instead of 16-week semesters. You can opt to take up to 30 credit hours per year; 36 credits are required for graduation.
  • Discounts offered for active-duty military, veterans, and first responders.
  • Applicants should have three years of work experience and should have completed coursework in at least one basic statistics or research methods course.

What you’ll learn:

  • How to apply organizational development theory in intervention design.
  • How to apply leadership principles appropriate to specific situations and contexts.
  • How to utilize argumentation skills appropriate for a given problem or context.

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University of Denver

Master’s in Organizational Leadership

With easy enrollment and certificate options to choose from, University of Denver allows you to customize your online program to your needs. You'll learn how to effectively manage change, people, and processes within dynamic environments while focusing on your area of interest.


  • Classes are offered in 10-week terms. Complete your coursework 100% online, using an asynchronous format, or opt for a hybrid or “hy-flex” program, with a mix on online and on-campus instruction.
  • No GMAT or GRE required.
  • Complete your master’s in as little as 18 months; certificate options are also available.
  • Focus your study in in one of five concentration areas, including Human Capital in Organizations, Organizational Development, Project Management, Strategic Innovation and Change, or Supply Chain Management.

What you’ll learn:

  • How to align mission, vision, people, resources, and goals to maximize success and value over time.
  • How to develop and sustain a fiscally responsible organization through strategic partnerships.
  • How to contextualize the economic, cultural, and technological landscapes impacting organizations.

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Northeastern University

Master of Science in Leadership

This program leverages students’ existing interdisciplinary backgrounds to build a foundation of leadership capabilities than can be adapted to real-world scenarios within the workplace.


  • Human Resources professionals who have earned the SHRM-CP or SHRM-SCP certification through the Society of Human Resource Management may be eligible to participate in an accelerated program that substitutes practical experience in place of transfer credits.
  • Coursework can be completed entirely online.
  • Students can choose an area of concentration, including Health Management, Human Resources Management, Leading and Managing Technical Projects, Nonprofit Management, Organizational Communication, Project Management, or Sport and Social Change.

What you’ll learn:

  • How to develop your existing leadership competencies.
  • How to apply management best practices, ethics, and strategic thinking to leadership practices via action-learning and research projects.
  • How to prepare for the challenges and opportunities associated with leading in a global world

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