Online Ph.D. In Organizational Leadership


Updated April 10, 2023

Online Ph.D. In Organizational Leadership is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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What You'll Learn with a Ph.D. in Organizational Leadership and Career Potential

Executive leaders pride themselves as resilient and courageous risk takers in effecting organizational change. Many leaders enjoy applying strategy to solve complex problems and build strong teams. An online doctorate in organizational leadership equips business managers and supervisors to take on higher levels of responsibility at for-profit or nonprofit organizations. This degree also prepares business professionals to conduct research in the field at a university, nonprofit, or other relevant organization.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects overall job growth for top executives to reach 8%, about average compared to all other occupations. Over the next half decade, new and expanding organizations across industries will spur job growth in this field. is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Featured Online Ph.D. in Organizational Leadership Programs

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Reasons to Pursue an Online Doctorate in Organizational Leadership

While the two share a similar scope, a master's in business administration (MBA) and a doctorate in organizational leadership typically result in different career paths. Both master's and doctoral programs equip students with the advanced knowledge and skills needed to assume a top leadership role or serve as a professional consultant in any organization.

Professionals who aim to teach at the postsecondary level must also earn a Ph.D. Many online Ph.D. in organizational leadership programs also require students to first complete a master's degree before starting an advanced study. A master's degree often suffices for students who have no desire to conduct research or teach at the postsecondary level.

What Can I Do With an Online Doctorate in Organizational Leadership?

Potential career paths for those with an online doctorate in organizational leadership vary, depending on past professional experience and career goals. Graduates may decide to apply their past management experience toward teaching postsecondary students and conducting research. A Ph.D. also prepares professionals to assume specialized leadership roles in education administration, healthcare institutions, and government agencies.

Other Ph.D. graduates may apply their extensive knowledge of business systems to serve as management analysts or consultants in government or private industry. A management analyst designs and implements studies to help solve organizational problems, as well as assisting to redesign company structures that allow an organization to function more efficiently. Individuals with a Ph.D. serve in director-level roles, such as a finance or planning director, where they focus on the highest levels of strategy to make significant organizational improvements.

Common Career Paths and Salaries

Though career paths in upper-level management vary across industry and level of experience, an online Ph.D. in organizational leadership opens doors for the highest leadership positions in the private, public, and nonprofit spheres. Those with a doctorate are also qualified to teach and conduct research as professors at postsecondary institutions. The following job profiles offer candidates an idea of the positions typically in demand for individuals with this degree.

Top Executives

Median annual salary: $104,700

Top executives, such as CEOs and operations managers, create and lead strategic plans that help an organization achieve specific objectives. They also direct or oversee an organization's operations to hit these goals, including finance and human resources.

Organizational Development Director

Median annual salary: $117,679

An organizational development director formulates an organization's goals and the strategic plan to meet those goals. The director often serves as a liaison between top executives and employees, helping to ensure that each team has the resources to turn strategy into action and complete stated objectives.

Salary Progression

Salaries vary by location, level of experience, industry, and employer. Top-paying industries for chief executives include insurance companies, pipeline transportation of natural gas and textile furnishing. Levels of pay also differ by state, based on job competition and cost of living. The highest-paying states for chief executive and management positions include California, Florida, and Illinois. Industries with the highest employment levels for chief executives include company and enterprise management, local government, and school administration.

Requirements and Outcomes of Online Doctorate in Organizational Leadership Programs

Many online doctorates require a minimum of 2-3 years of professional experience, along with a master's degree earned in administrative management or a related field. Other admission requirements may include a professional resume, a personal essay or stated plan for research, and copies of transcripts for all undergraduate and graduate programs completed. Admission for doctoral candidates typically requires a minimum 3.0 GPA earned in all other graduate work. Applicants pay an average $50 fee for each application submitted.

Programs may require one or more in-person residencies, which typically include course instruction, dissertation preparation and defense, or an experiential learning opportunity in the field. Most online doctoral programs in organizational leadership require anywhere from 60-100 credit hours and take an average of three years to complete.

Common Courses

Other Requirements


Earning a doctorate requires completion of a dissertation, a formal research study that showcases a student's synthesis of academic learnings and professional experience and interests. Students choose a topic of study related to organizational leadership and apply formal research and cognitive skills to find answers to their initial inquiry. Dissertation research may also result in the contribution of new insights to the field.


Some online doctorate programs require an in-person residency component. The residency experience sometimes occurs at the beginning of the program and then again during the final semester, though specific length requirements vary by school. These may take place on campus, another central location within the United States, or abroad. Residencies also provide a chance for students to gain a familiarity with their peers and faculty.

Comprehensive Exam

Often referred to as "comps," this exam measures a student's understanding and synthesis of organizational leadership content and skills. Doctoral students typically complete this exam before completing their dissertation, but after finishing most other core and major course requirements. Comps often consist of both a written and oral section that take place at different times, usually within consecutive semesters.

Skills and Competencies

An online Ph.D. in organizational leadership allows students to master crucial skills for both scholarly research and the highest levels of management. Read on for a list of these important abilities.

Professional Organizations

Joining a professional organization provides benefits for both Ph.D. students and organizational leaders. When deciding on a professional organization, it helps to consider your area of expertise or industry. Several business and leadership organizations span industries and bring together experts from different backgrounds, while others provide resources and services to professionals in a specific niche, such as finance or healthcare.

Different organizations also offer varying benefits, so decide which resources and opportunities may further your academic or professional goals. Many professional organizations publish specific research journals and host one or more formal conferences. Others may provide professional development opportunities and training or career services.

Graduate students might look for organizations that offer reduced membership fees and opportunities to present their dissertation research at conferences. Most professional organizations also offer opportunities for member involvement. Options may include helping to organize an event, establishing and leading a local chapter, or serving on a supervisory board.

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