Top 10 Affordable Master’s in Leadership Online 2024

Graduate of master's in leadership program

Reviewed By: Melissa Anderson, MS.Ed.
Reading Level: Grade 9
Reading Time: 17 minutes, 36 seconds
Original Publication Date: September 2016
Updates:
2

Whether you’ve been working for years or are fresh out of your bachelor’s degree program, if you’re interested in becoming a leader, consider applying to an online masters in leadership.

The various degree program types mentioned in this article include the following:

Featured Programs

  • Online Master of Organizational Leadership
  • Online MS in Organizational Leadership
  • Online MA in Organizational Leadership
  • Online MS in Management with concentrations like Organizational Leadership, Organizational Leadership and Change, Executive Coaching
  • Online MBA with concentrations like Leadership, Strategic Leadership and Management in Global Business, Nonprofit Leadership, Corporate Innovation, Executive, Virtuous Leadership
  • Online MPS with concentrations like Industrial/Organizational Psychology, Organizational Leadership, Psychology of Leadership, Organization Development and Change
  • Online MA in Leadership, Public Policy & Social Issues
  • Online Master’s in Strategic Management and Executive Leadership
  • Online MS in Organizational Performance
  • Online MS in Leadership and Coaching
  • Online MS in Industrial and Organizational Psychology

Regardless of what field you’re in or trying to enter, a master’s degree program in organizational leadership will allow you to climb the ranks and become the leader you wish to be.

While an MBA program might offer a broad foundation for all things business, master’s programs in organizational leadership are often shorter, more accessible and focus mainly on the principles of leadership. They can be utilized in virtually any career field, not just business.

If you’re already a working professional, today’s continuously improving world of online education offers you hundreds of options for earning a degree while working part- or full-time. Most of the degree programs here are asynchronous. This means you don’t need to be logged in at any specific time or day. They allow you to take as few as one course at a time, and most of them will allow you to work at the degree for five or more years, in case life throws in any interruptions. Only a few of them require any kind of face-to-face interactions, but they all offer the same diploma you would receive as an on-campus student. Many of these degree programs even offer the chance for you to tailor your class assignments to the job you already have.

These are graduate school programs so you need to have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution in order to apply. The MBA programs may want you to have a business-related bachelor’s degree, but most of the leadership programs don’t discriminate. Like most master’s degree programs, some of those listed below expect you to have at least two years of related work experience, but there are plenty listed that will accept you regardless of your work history.

Research Methodology for Master’s in Leadership Online

To keep things simple and straightforward in our search and evaluation of master’s in leadership online programs, we focused on the schools’ cost, return on investment, academic quality, online support system, and unique features.

We began our research process with a general search to gather around 200 of the best online colleges and universities offering a graduate degree program in organizational leadership or related studies. These include the various degree titles listed above.

From there, we utilized the rating and ranking methodology below to whittle the list down to the 10 most inexpensive Master’s in Organizational Leadership degree programs. To find the cheapest colleges, we compared each school’s tuition, as reported by the National Center for Education Statistics’ College Navigator Database. We then ranked that list using the point system below so that we could highlight those that are the most affordable while offering flexibility, quality, and accessibility.

Ranking the Top Online Master’s in Leadership Degrees

Tuition

  • Net Price Below $10,000: 4 points
  • Net Price Below $15,000: 3 points
  • Net Price Below $18,000: 2 points
  • Net Price Below $20,000: 1 point

Academic Quality of the Program

  • Student-Faculty Ratio: <10:1 (3 points), <15:1 (2 points) and <20:1 (1 point) *student-faculty ratios are as reported by NCES, unless otherwise stated
  • ROI (as reported by Payscale): Among the top 50 schools (3 points), top 100 schools (2 points) and top 150 schools (1 point)
  • Content Customizations (e.g. Minors, Concentrations, Specializations, etc.)—1 Point Each
  • Format Flexibility (e.g. Hybrid/Online, Full-time/Part-Time, etc.)—1 Point Each
  • Online Student Support Network—1 Point Per Item

Accreditation

  • 1 point per University-wide and program-specific accreditors

Wow Factor

  • 1 point awarded for each unique feature or program that “wowed” us

#10. Union Institute & University

Cincinnati, OH

MS in Organizational Leadership

Website
Points: 17

Graduate Tuition: $15,911

Union Institute & University is a private, nonprofit research university, specializing in adult/nontraditional higher education. Union’s online MS in organizational leadership includes individual faculty coaching sessions and course projects adaptable to your personal interests and profession. Requiring 36 semester hours, this curriculum is cohort-based and divided into three modules focused on:

  • innovation
  • networking
  • analytics

Completable in as few as 12 months, this MSOL offers three start dates per year. Additionally, Union now offers a graduate certificate in leadership, or you may be interested in the MA in Leadership, Public Policy & Social Issues. This 36-credit online master of arts emphasizes ethical leadership and social responsibility, enhancing your understanding of conflict within any type of institution. This program will take at least 16 months to complete and is a bit heavier on the research side of academia.

Pros:

  • More diverse
  • Smaller class sizes

Cons:

  • Lower graduation rate
  • Less selective
  • Less reputable institution
  • Limited career services

#9. Colorado State University Global

Aurora, CO

Master’s in Organizational Leadership

Website
Points: 18

Graduate Tuition: $9,000

CSU Global is the online university of the CSU System. It offers a variety of flexible personalized learning paths for both bachelor’s and master’s degree programs. Its online courses have monthly start times, and its student support services include:

  • career counseling
  • financial planning
  • tutoring
  • a Writing Center
  • a mobile app and more

CSU Global offers an MS in organizational leadership, which you can complete via the Practitioner Track or Research Track. Both options are comprised of eight three-credit courses and an optional internship. The practitioner students focus more on qualitative and quantitative analysis and decision making. The research students focus more on a theoretical understanding of leadership as it applies to the critical evaluation of research and theory. Otherwise, you can choose from the MSOL Executive Express Path or a dual degree option that combines the MSOL with an MS in management.

Pros:

  • Flexible curriculum
  • Top-rated online programs
  • No GMAT/GRE required
  • ACBSP-accredited

Cons:

  • Lower graduation rate
  • Less diverse

#8. Western Kentucky University

Bowling Green, KY

Online MA in Organizational Leadership

Website
Points: 19

Graduate Tuition: $12,140

WKU Online offers 90 online degree and certificate programs that follow a term-based calendar or non-semester-based calendar through its On Demand course option. Here, you’re able to complete each course in as few as seven weeks, or you can take as long as nine months. To cater to its distance learners, WKU offers a host of online resources through its Student Resource Portal, like:

  • an online student orientation
  • online course test drive for prospective students
  • online math lab
  • tutoring
  • career services
  • writing assistance
  • presentation coaching

The online master of arts in organizational leadership prepares you for a management role in a variety of professions. The 30-credit curriculum is practical and applied, with opportunities for real-world experiences. In addition to the 15 required course credits, you may choose 15 credits of electives or a graduate certificate program, tailoring the program to your interests. You can transfer in up to 12 credit hours, and neither the GRE or GMAT are required for admission.

Pros:

  • Flexible curriculum
  • Transfer friendly
  • Experiential learning

Cons:

  • No live course options

#7. Wilmington University

New Castle, DE

Online MS in Management with a Concentration in Organizational Leadership

Website
Points: 19

Graduate Tuition: $9,216

Offering career-focused degree programs online and in-person, WilmU enrolls over 20,000 students with a 66 percent retention rate. Serving both high school graduates and nontraditional adult students, WilmU’s courses are available in 15-week, 7-week and weekend modular formats with classes starting every eight weeks.

A number of online master’s degree programs at this university come with an organizational leadership concentration option, including an MS in homeland security and the MS in administration of justice. Mainly, we’ll focus on the MS in management online with a concentration in organizational leadership. Even without the concentration, this MSM centers on leadership and management, requiring a total of 36 credits. It’s completable within just one year and culminates in an independent project.

Yet another organizational leadership route at WilmU, the online MBA offers the same concentration. It also requires 36 total credits and can be finished in one year. This curriculum puts an emphasis on executive skills development. It’s designed so you can complete it at your own pace. Both of these programs are available in a hybrid format, and neither require the GMAT.

Pros:

  • No GMAT/GRE required
  • Self-paced learning

Cons:

  • Low graduation rate
  • Less reputable online programs

#6. Pennsylvania State University World Campus

University Park, PA

Online Master’s in Strategic Management

Website
Points: 20

Graduate Tuition: $24,164

Penn State World Campus, or Penn State Online, was launched in 1998 and  enrolls more than 14,000 online learners. Its online programs have career-focused curriculums and supportive student services like online tutorials and career counseling resources.

PSU’s wide variety of online master’s programs include multiple degrees related to organizational leadership:

  • Master’s in Strategic Management and Executive Leadership
  • MBA with a Strategic Leadership concentration
  • MPS in Psychology of Leadership
  • MPS in Organization Development and Change

Pros:

  • Numerous online programs
  • Top-ranked business degrees
  • AACSB-accredited

Cons:

  • Less affordable
  • Possible on-campus requirements

#5. Bellevue University

Bellevue, NE

Online MS in Organizational Performance

Website
Points: 20

Graduate Tuition: $11,340

Bellevue offers one of the widest varieties of online master’s degree programs related to organizational leadership on this list. Its online classes have a maximum of 24 students in each and a career-focused cohort format. There are also supportive resources like online tutoring and writing help. Among its extensive list of online degrees are the following programs:

  • MS in Organizational Performance
  • MS in Industrial and Organizational Psychology
  • MS in Management

Pros:

  • Robust support for online learners
  • Flexible curriculum

Cons:

  • Lower graduation rate
  • Higher student-to-faculty ratio

#4. Arizona State University

Tempe, AZ

Online Master of Applied Leadership and Management

Website
Points: 23

Graduate Tuition: $12,014

Arizona State University is an innovative public research university and one of the largest colleges in America by enrollment; It graduates more than 20,000 students annually. Accredited by the HLC, ASU’s faculty includes almost 200 Fulbright American Scholars as well as MacArthur Fellows and Nobel laureates.

ASU Online offers common and unique student support services, like:

  • its online library
  • online tutoring
  • study abroad
  • career services, including virtual career fairs
  • Venture Devils: year-round Entrepreneurship + Innovation (E+I) resources and support
  • The Pitch: a messaging app that connects students to coaches, their classes, advisors and faculty
  • Sun Devils Connect: an online student community, hosted by the Online Success Center
  •  an annual survey used to improve its offerings

Offered through the Thunderbird School of Global Management, its online Master of Applied Leadership & Management (MALM) is designed to give you globalized leadership skills and preparation for high-growth and emerging markets. The 30 required credits can be completed fully online or in a hybrid format. There’s an optional in-person capstone experience, which is also referred to as a “business and strategic plan bootcamp experience.”

Additionally, ASU offers an online Master of Nonprofit Leadership and Management for those interested in entering the nonprofit sector. Its 33-credit-hour curriculum covers subjects like fundraising and fiscal management. Both programs offer 7.5-week classes, and they require a 3.0 GPA from the last 60 credit hours of your undergraduate degree program.

Finally, if you’re interested in a more specific leadership degree program, you can apply to the Master of Arts in Public Safety Leadership & Administration (PSLA) or Master of Sustainability Leadership.

Pros:

  • More diverse
  • Hybrid learning options
  • High ranking online business programs

Cons:

  • Larger class sizes
  • GMAT/GRE may be required

#3. Regent University

Virginia Beach, VA

MA in Organizational Leadership

Website
Points: 24

Graduate Tuition: $16,028

Regent’s online learning includes over 135 areas of study with flexible eight- and 15-week courses. Its online student support services include virtual networking, online tutoring and more.

The online MA in organizational leadership at Regent requires 33 total credit hours and is available in a fast-track option, which is completable within 12 months. This MAOL curriculum includes core courses like Small Business Data Mining & Management. It offers the following concentration options:

  • Global Business Leadership & Communication
  • Healthcare Management
  • Human Resource Management
  • Interdisciplinary Studies
  • Leadership Coaching & Mentoring
  • Not-for-Profit Management
  • Organizational Development Consulting
  • Servant Leadership
  • Small Business Technology Management
  • Social Entrepreneurship

Another option is Regent’s ACBSP-accredited online MBA program, which has concentrations in leadership and global business leadership & communication. This customizable, 42-credit-hour curriculum includes data-driven approaches and concentration courses like Managing People and Multinational Organizations.

Both programs have eight start dates per year and offer part-time and hybrid course options. Finally, Regent has other related online degree programs like:

  • the MA in business and design management
  • the online doctorate in organizational leadership
  • graduate certificate programs in leadership

Pros:

  • No GMAT/GRE Required
  • Flexible scheduling options
  • Customizable curriculum
  • Robust tech support

Cons:

  • Lower graduation rate
  • More competitive admissions

#2. Purdue University Global

Davenport, IA

Online MS in Management and Leadership

Website
Points: 25

Graduate Tuition: $9,472

Previously known as Kaplan University, Purdue University Global is a newer part of the Purdue University System, offering 180 online programs tailored for working adults. With university-wide accreditation from the HLC, Purdue Global’s business programs are also accredited by the ACBSP (including the MSML).

Purdue Global’s online master of science in management and leadership requires a total of 56 credits. This program’s online courses run six weeks at a time, and you can choose from one of six concentration options:

  • health care management
  • human resources
  • information technology
  • leadership
  • organizational design and development
  • project management

This curriculum, which is monitored and updated by an advisory board, culminates in a self-designed capstone research project that combines theories with real-world application. It has almost-monthly start dates, and it’s completable within less than two years while taking just one to two courses per term. If you’re looking for a different type of organizational leadership degree, you can also apply to the online MS in psychology, which has a concentration option in industrial/organizational psychology. Other unique offerings include:

  • math, writing and science tutoring
  • extensive career services, including online mock interviews and virtual career fairs
  • interactive live seminars
  • workshops and self-paced tutorials

Pros:

  • Comprehensive suite of online student services
  • Flexible curriculum

Cons:

  • Low graduation rate
  • High student-to-faculty ratio
  • Less reputable online programs

#1. The University of Texas at Dallas

Richardson, TX

Online MS in Leadership and Organizational Development

Website
Points: 26

Graduate Tuition: $15,088

In the Naveen Jindal School of Management at UT-Dallas, you have a few online master’s in leadership degree options to choose from, like the fully online Executive MS in Leadership and Organizational Development. This 36-credit-hour curriculum focuses on the description and explanation of how people behave in organizations. It’s two years in length (six semesters) with fall, spring and summer start dates. It also requires applicants to have five years of work experience. It does not require a GMAT/GRE or a minimum GPA. Online students can benefit from free, regularly scheduled Expert Forums in a variety of related subjects, as well as the following concentration certificate options:

  • Executive and Professional Coaching
  • Organizational Consulting
  • Negotiation and Mediation
  • Strategic Human Resources

A second online-only master’s degree at UTD is the Online Global Leadership MBA (GLEMBA), which offers eight-week online classes. Completable within 21 months, the curriculum can include an international management concentration and a second concentration of your choice. GMAT and GRE scores are not required, but admissions expects applicants to have three years of work experience.

Finally, UTD’s 53-credit hour Professional Online MBA includes 23 elective credit hours, which can be filled with up to two of the 15 available concentration options, including Leadership in Organizations or Healthcare Leadership and Management. The leadership concentration includes the study of the psychological, sociological and organizational behavior disciplines. The program can last from 16 to 72 months, and local online students can select an on-campus version of any class they choose. While work experience is not required to apply, UT Dallas’ MBA students have an average of five to 10 years of work experience. Finally, online students are also able to take advantage of:

  • numerous double MS/MBA degree options
  • bachelor’s degree/GMAT/GRE waivers
  • virtual professional development and program information sessions throughout each year
  • career management services

Pros:

  • Customizable curriculum
  • More diverse

Cons:

  • More competitive
  • Large class sizes

FAQ Concerning Organizational Leadership Graduate Degree Programs

Q: What can I expect going into an online master’s program in organizational leadership?
These programs range from 30 credits to over 50 credits, depending on the route you take. Some of the schools listed above actually offer online MBA programs, but they include concentrations in organizational leadership. The MBA programs are usually more extensive and can take longer to complete, but many of these degree programs can be completed in as few as 12 months.

Some, like the MBA’s, have a solid business foundation of core courses with elective or concentration courses in organizational leadership. Others focus entirely on leadership with little-to-no business-specific context.

At least one program listed above requires some face-to-face time, but most of them do not require you to physically attend any classes outside of the online learning. Some might require you to complete an internship or hands-on requirement close to where you live, or even with the employer you currently work for.

When it comes time to finish your degree, most of these programs require a “capstone” course or project, while others offer a thesis track or the option of a final examination.

Q: What do I need to gain admission to an online master’s degree program in organizational leadership?
For every one of the schools listed above, you should have already earned a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution. Still, some of the schools offer a five-year bachelor’s to master’s program, which can save you time and money.

Many of the programs want to see that you earned a 3.0 GPA or higher as an undergrad, but some will accept a 2.5. Typically, if your GPA is lower than average, submitting good GRE or GMAT test scores will supplement a lower GPA. Otherwise, a majority of the programs listed above do not require you to submit test scores. The MBA programs are more likely to require testing.

Finally, a minimum of two or three years of related work experience is a requirement for a number of these schools. Some of them will accept you as soon as you earn your undergraduate degree, but others want you to be able to apply real-world experience to what you’ll be learning. It’s also nice to be able to learn from your classmates’ work experiences.

Q: How long does it take to earn an online master’s in organizational leadership?
Many of the above programs will allow you to enroll part-time, taking as few as just one class per semester. Otherwise, most of them will allow you to pack in as many classes per term as you can handle, so it can take anywhere from one to three or more years to finish your degree. Depending on the school’s transfer credit policy, you may be able to earn credits for life or work experience, or even test out of having to take certain classes, saving you both time and money.

Master’s in Organizational Leadership Career Questions

Q: What can I do with an online master’s degree in organizational leadership?
The beauty of getting a degree in organizational leadership, rather than an MBA, is the fact that it’s useful far beyond the realm of business. An online master’s degree in organizational leadership can be used in public or private organizations, government agencies, nonprofit organizations, healthcare and more. Below are some careers you could get after completing one of the listed programs:

  • Education Administrator, School Principal or Postsecondary Education Administrator
  • Training and Development Manager
  • Career Counselor
  • Talent Manager
  • Marketing Manager
  • Instructional Coordinator
  • Healthcare Manager or Strategist
  • Strategy Consultant or Strategic Planner of Innovation
  • Small Business Owner or Business Entrepreneur
  • Business/Organization Development Manager
  • Project Manager
  • Account Executive
  • Marketing Manager
  • Business/Management Analysts or Consultant
  • Customer Service Manager
  • Human Resources Manager
  • Administrative Service Manager
  • Sales Manager
  • Top Executive, VP, CEO, CFO or CIO
  • International Team Manager
  • International Relations
  • Corporate Recruiter
  • Law Enforcement
  • Military Officer
  • Nonprofit Director
  • Departmental Director
  • Special Events Coordinator
  • Social & Community Service Manager

Q: What are some professional organizations in organizational leadership that I might benefit from joining?
Again, because of the expanse of opportunities opened up by this specific degree, a number of professional organizations are available for graduates to join. Some examples are:

  • American Business Women’s Association
  • American Management Association
  • American Society of Association Executives
  • National Management Association (NMA)

Q: What is the career outlook for those with a master’s degree in organizational leadership?
Very good! Depending on your personal focus when it comes to applying this degree, your outlook may differ. Still, whether you’re a top executive, training and development manager, sales manager or a social and community service manager, your job growth outlook is average or above average, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Jobs in management are projected to grow faster than average between 2022 and 2032.

Q: What can I expect to make after earning a master’s degree in organizational leadership?
According to the BLS, the 2022 median pay for some occupations related to this degree are as follows:

  • Administrative Services Managers: $101,870
  • Human Resources Managers: $130,000
  • Medical and Health Services Managers: $104,830
  • Postsecondary Education Administrators: $99,940
  • Sales Managers: $130,600
  • Social and Community Service Managers: $74,240
  • Top Executives: $100,090
  • Training and Development Managers: $120,000

Sources

  • Payscale
  • National Center for Education Statistics
  • U.S. News & World Report
  • Bureau of Labor Statistics
  • Grad School Hub
  • The Princeton Review
  • GradSchools.com