How to Choose a PhD in Organizational Leadership Degree + Online Option

This article describes the PhD in organizational leadership degree program, some of the subjects and courses it covers, and why completing this PhD may be a positive career move. It also presents an online PhD in organizational leadership program that you may want to consider.

What Is a PhD in Organizational Leadership?

The PhD in organizational leadership is an upper level degree based on research, with a focus on management. Generally speaking, a number of very specific academic requirements are included as part of the degree. Often, these include ethics, technology, strategy, and systems design. Usually, as part of the degree, students must also complete a piece of independent research, which they then have to present and defend.

The area in which the students have to conduct their independent research will vary depending on the emphasis of their program, or their chosen elective courses. Indeed, most universities that offer this degree offer completely unique programs, tailored to the needs of the student. Some common areas of concentration, however, including business leadership, servant leadership, educational leadership, and risk management.

Completing a PhD in organizational leadership ensures that graduates are specialized in a certain field of management, but also one that targets strategic organizational change. Graduates go on to become senior leaders, managers, and agents of change. They are leaders and managers that can drive their chosen organization towards the future. To achieve this, they complete courses in areas such as organizational strategy and systems thinking, but equally in large-scale transformation, change management, leadership, company culture, and more. HR management, employee motivation, and performance management are usually also key elements of interest.

Most of the time, these degrees are designed to prepare students to become leaders, consultants, and teachers. It is important for those who have an interest in this degree to have some awareness of where they want it to take them. For instance, some will focus on business, whereas others will focus on education, psychology, nonprofit management, and so on. The variance in what is offered will usually depend on the mission of the university and in which department the PhD is delivered.

It generally takes at least three years to complete this type of degree, with most universities requiring around 60 credits. Acceptance criteria vary depending on the university. However, it is common for schools to require at least a graduate degree in a relevant field.

The degree being a PhD is focused on research, although students also learn to master advanced theories. Most of those who finish the degree want to become scholars, although some aim to improve their management style. Usually, the first part of the degree involves completing rigorous coursework in areas such as:

  • Worldview
  • Interpersonal Dynamics
  • Personal Growth
  • Leadership Theory

Students take part in intensive seminars during which they learn how these issues can be put into practice, by working together with other students and with faculty leaders. Students also choose certain courses to improve their research and survey skills, so that they understand how to collect data and analyze it for their thesis project.

Universities can set their own curriculum for a PhD in organizational leadership, but it is common to see courses in areas such as:

  • Innovation and Entrepreneurship
  • Advanced Global Leadership
  • Adult Learning
  • Statistical Research Design
  • Team Building
  • Psychological Theories of Motivation
  • Strategic Change Management
  • Organizational Interventions

Why Earn a PhD in Organizational Leadership?

Completing a PhD in organizational leadership prepares you to make decisions on and create new policies designed to ensure private or public companies are able to meet their goals. The degree prepares students for executive positions in leadership, include roles such as coordinator, director, or planner. People with this type of degree are in high demand, as they have the skills and knowledge required to meet pertinent issues in organizations today, caused by economic changes, technological advances, and general globalization. There is a strong need for leaders to develop their skills, and those with a PhD in organizational leadership are not just equipped with the skills to do that, they can also teach others to do the same.

According to, those who complete the PhD in organizational leadership can expect to earn around $91,075 per year as of June 2016. However, after working for ten years or more, this salary is expected to increase to $127,500 per year.

Online Option for PhD in Organizational Leadership

The Chicago School of Professional Psychology

If you are interested in a PhD in Organizational Leadership, you may want to consider the program offered by The Chicago School of Professional Psychology, which takes three years to complete online. It is targeted towards supervisors and managers who want to become better at what they do. Graduates can take on executive positions in both for profit and not for profit organizations. The program is guided by highly respected practitioner faculty and focuses on areas such as:

  • Human Diversity and Ethics
  • Research Strategies
  • Strategic Change Management
  • Team-Building
  • Organizational Interventions
  • Interpersonal Dynamics
  • Psychological Theories of Leadership and Motivation
  • A range of electives to support each student’s individual career goals

Graduates from this program take on consultancy positions at high levels in today’s multicultural, global business environment. It is a degree for those who wish to significantly advance their career and take it to the top level by developing and implementing new models of leadership that meet the needs and objectives of their organization.

Because the program is delivered online, it is highly flexible and convenient. Students receive access to the Global Student Dashboard, where all their assignments and other coursework are listed. The dashboard also enables students to interact and allows participants to contact their instructors and other faculty.

Core courses of the degree include:

  • Management Philosophy and Practice
  • Emerging Theories of Leadership
  • Envisioning the New Health and Human Service Organizations

For graduates of the PhD in organizational leadership, numerous career opportunities exist for them. This is because they have advanced understanding and skills in the field of leadership principles, which is required in any organization and industry. Some of the most common positions taken on by graduates include:

  • Labor relations specialist
  • Consultant
  • Business administrator
  • Diversity manager
  • Human resources director
  • Nonprofit administrator

Being a PhD degree, some decide to move into education and become academics and faculty members. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has reported that this is a particularly lucrative career for those who wish to enter the field of training and development.


Clearly, completing a PhD in organizational leadership is an opportunity to greatly advance any career, regardless of the industry in which you work. You can become a consultant, a senior executive, or an academic, to name but a few. Either way, you will be respected for your advanced skills and knowledge on leadership across the board.