Gabby H.
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Leadership is the process of guiding, directing, and influencing others to achieve specific goals. Individuals with relevant work experience who seek to enhance their leadership skills can pursue a master’s in leadership online program. An online leadership master’s equips students with the necessary knowledge, skills, and dispositions to operate effectively at a leadership level. It enables them to excel in their current roles, make ethical decisions, and effectively lead organizations. By obtaining an online leadership master’s degree, graduates can pursue diverse leadership positions such as corporate trainer, human resource manager, school principal, health service manager, C-level executive, and more. This comprehensive guide delves into the details of pursuing a master’s in leadership online, providing prospective students with essential information to make informed decisions about their educational journey.

Master’s in Leadership

Table Of Contents

Featured Online Programs

Southern New Hampshire University

PROGRAM: Online Masters Degrees in Criminal Justice with Counter Terrorism Concentration

Southern New Hampshire University is a private, nonprofit, accredited institution with more than 3,000 on-campus students and over 60,000 online students, making us one of the fastest-growing universities in the country. Founded in 1932, we’ve been relentlessly reinventing higher education ever since and have gained national recognition for our dedication to helping students transform their lives and the lives of those around them.

We’re proud to provide affordable, accessible education that students can pursue on our 300-acre campus in Manchester, NH, over our innovative online platform or at our regional centers in Manchester, Nashua, Portsmouth and Salem, NH, and Brunswick, ME.

SNHU has earned the Best Buy and Best of Business – Best Online Degree awards and is consistently ranked as a top Military Friendly® School by G.I Jobs®.

The Best Master’s in Leadership Online Programs

Prospective students must enroll in universities ranked best in terms of reputation, teaching and faculty experience, accreditation, scholarship and funding, faculty research interests, support services, and more. Students should also ensure that the programs and universities align with their personal and professional goals. To maintain objectivity and accuracy in our rankings, we conducted thorough research and analysis of each program. We gathered data from reliable sources and obtained valuable insights through surveys conducted among students and professionals in the nursing field. Detailed information on our evaluation and ranking process for the Master’s in Leadership programs can be found on our methodology page. This ensures transparency and provides a comprehensive understanding of how we assessed and ranked these programs.

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College Name & AddressTuitionGraduation Rate
Pepperdine University
24255 Pacific Coast Hwy, Malibu, California 90263
Averett University
420 W Main St, Danville, Virginia 24541
Gonzaga University
E 502 Boone Ave, Spokane, Washington 99258
Saint Louis University
One North Grand Blvd, Saint Louis, Missouri 63103
Crown College
8700 College View Drive, Saint Bonifacius, Minnesota 55375
Fort Hays State University
600 Park St, Hays, Kansas 67601
American Public University System
111 W Congress St, Charles Town, West Virginia 25414
Southeast Missouri State University
One University Plaza, MS2025, Cape Girardeau, Missouri 63701
Charleston Southern University
9200 University Blvd, Charleston, South Carolina 29406
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University
1 Aerospace Blvd., Daytona Beach, Florida 32114
Lincoln Christian University
100 Campus View Drive, Lincoln, Illinois 62656
Minot State University
500 University Ave W, Minot, North Dakota 58707
Trine University
1 University Ave, Angola, Indiana 46703
Baker University
615 Dearborn Street, Baldwin City, Kansas 66006
University of Northwestern-St Paul
3003 Snelling Ave N, Saint Paul, Minnesota 55113
Regis University
3333 Regis Blvd, Denver, Colorado 80221
Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota
700 Terrace Heights, Winona, Minnesota 55987
Concordia University-Saint Paul
1282 Concordia Ave, Saint Paul, Minnesota 55104
University of Wisconsin-Platteville
1 University Plaza, Platteville, Wisconsin 53818
University of South Dakota
414 E Clark St, Vermillion, South Dakota 57069

Source – Integrated Post Secondary Education Data System & University Data
*Tuition rates are for in-state and per year. Program specific rates may apply.
**NA – data not available

What Master’s in Leadership Online Programs Entail

A master’s in leadership online degree helps professionals develop their leadership skills. It will help them lead organizations and teams through complex change. The online leadership degree is designed for professionals who are working and have a good amount of experience but want to enhance their leadership skills and enter senior leadership and management roles. Students will require 30 to 36 credit hours of coursework to complete their program. Some master’s programs have concentration areas for students to choose from according to their interests.  Students can also select their electives depending on their career interests.

The master’s in leadership is offered in online, offline, and hybrid learning modes. Online learning is flexible and helps students balance their work and studies, while offline students must attend university and face-to-face classes. The hybrid learning mode is a combination of both offline and online learning. Students will have most of their classes online and a few of them in person.

Curriculum and Coursework

The online master’s in leadership program is designed for individuals who want to acquire leadership skills and expand their opportunities in leadership and management roles. This program requires 30 to 36 hours of coursework to be completed. Students can choose their electives depending on their interests and goals. They will also have to complete a capstone project as a part of the master’s in leadership online degree. To customize their degrees, students can choose from various concentrations that align with their interests and professional goals. Some examples of core leadership courses in the program include:

  • Organizational Behavior
    This course uses several managerial, organizational & behavioral theories, principles & concepts in predicting, analyzing, diagnosing, and guiding human behavior within organizations committed to public service. It focuses on leadership, motivation, organization development, change, group dynamics, and personality.
  • Leading Productive Teams
    This course analyzes the role of leadership and team dynamics in supporting effective team outcomes. It reviews team effectiveness and small-group development. It also examines cultural diversity, collective performance evaluations, performance pay, and individual proficiency issues.
  • Leadership Theory
    This course examines leadership concepts, theory, and practice. It will help students identify leadership styles and leaders and apply their knowledge to positively affect and better understand their organization. Students will learn to identify their leadership practices and styles to identify their personal development and growth areas.
  • Financial Analysis
    This course provides an overview of budgeting, financial, and accounting practices and their relationship with organizational responsibilities for executive leadership. Topics such as control and planning issues reporting, cash and cost budgeting practices, working capital management, and cost of capital are covered. This course provides students with skills to evaluate the financial viability of an organization.
  • Strategic Planning and Execution
    This course analyses the strategic dimension of leadership. Strategic planning, establishing a vision, and implementing strategic initiatives are some topics included in this course. Students will examine strategic issues and learn to apply their knowledge to positively affect their institution, organization, or business.

Learning Outcomes and Skills Gained

The master’s in leadership program will give students a strong foundation of skills and knowledge to lead an organization. Among the many skills, students of this degree program would have gained the ability to:

  • Use cutting-edge strategies in change management, innovation, and design thinking;
  • Master principles of motivation and human behavior to maximize the use of human resources;
  • Articulate important leadership theories in leadership studies, critique and analyze these theories, and apply them while addressing a variety of organizational problems and issues;
  • Provide visionary and innovative leadership to take an organization to the next level;
  • Develop organizational-wide skills in coordination, structure, policy, and design of sub-units;
  • Identify current challenges by interacting with executive-level leaders from the community and find solutions to address them;
  • To act morally and rationally when presented with difficult choices and
  • Utilize the most recent concepts and tools emerging in leadership and management.

Degree Types

There are three types of online master’s in leadership degrees. They are Master of Arts in Leadership, Master of Science in Leadership, and Master of Education in Leadership. Students can choose anyone depending on their personal and professional interests.

Master of Arts in Leadership

The Master of Arts or MA in leadership online is oriented towards subjects of liberal arts and humanities. It focuses more on research with a theoretical approach. This degree type suits individuals intending to pursue their doctoral studies.

Master of Science in Leadership

The Master of Science or MS in leadership online has a more scientific and technical approach with subjects from the STEM field. It gives professional competency to students by gaining more practical skills. The M.S. program also consists of research.

Master of Education in Leadership

The Master of Education or M.Ed. leadership online focuses on theories and skills that can be applied across education. It focuses more on the practical aspects of the program.

Note: Some business schools offer a Master of Business Administration (MBA) emphasizing leadership.

Master’s in Leadership vs. MBA

Master’s in Leadership and Master’s of Business Administration (MBA) have similarities but do not replace each other, nor can they be each other’s substitute. Both degrees offer courses on management and leadership. Here are some of the differences between a Master’s in Leadership and an MBA:

Master of Arts or Master of Science in Leadership

Master’s in Leadership is mainly designed for individuals who want to create a change, impact, and lead within an organization. Typically, individuals already working in an organization and with good experience enroll in the leadership master’s program. It focuses on the principles of leadership and its aspects. It can be completed within one to two years.

Master’s in Business Administration (Leadership Emphasis)

The MBA in leadership attracts people interested in business and wants to acquire knowledge on a variety of topics in business, such as accounting, management, finance, entrepreneurship, and marketing. Not all students who enroll in an MBA program have work experience. It focuses on business aspects such as marketing, finance, economics, etc. An MBA will take an average of 2 to 3 years to complete.

Specializations for Leadership Students

Specialization helps students sharpen their skills and knowledge in specific areas of interest. It also has other advantages, such as high salaries, career advancement, and industry recognition. Various specialization options are available within the leadership master’s program. Some of these leadership concentrations are:

Area of FocusDescriptionCareers This Concentration Prepares For
Human Resources ManagementThis specialization focuses on the application of the study of human resource principles. It consists of various areas of study, such as employee relations, benefits, and compensation.Human Resources Specialist, Employee Relations Manager, Compensation Analyst
Public AdministrationThe main focus of this concentration is leadership skills required in the public sector, such as conflict management, coaching, human resource management, and team building.Public Administration Manager, Government Affairs Specialist, City Manager
Organizational Leadership and CommunicationThis specialization focuses on leadership strategies to prepare students to advance in upper management, middle management, and administrative positions in all fields.Organizational Leader, Communication Manager, Administrative Director
Marketing Communications LeadershipThis specialization provides students with highly demanded and unique marketing skills while acquiring leadership abilities to drive high-performance firms and clients.Marketing Communications Manager, Brand Strategist, Advertising Director
MinistryThis concentration helps in enhancing the professional skills of ministry leaders.Ministry Leader, Chaplain, Pastoral Counselor
Project ManagementThis concentration will equip individuals with the knowledge, mindset, and skills to lead and manage others to build high-performing organizations.Project Manager, Program Director, Operations Manager
Health Leadership and ManagementThis specialization gives students the skills and knowledge necessary for managerial and leadership roles in healthcare settings.Health Services Manager, Healthcare Administrator, Medical Practice Manager
Sports LeadershipThis concentration provides foundational knowledge of the necessary core concepts to run functional areas of a sports team or organization. It will help students develop and refine their leadership abilities in sporting environments.Sports Team Manager, Athletic Director, Sports Program Coordinator
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion LeadershipThis specialization explores race, culture, gender, and ethnicity in executive writing, leadership, evidence-based practices, evaluation and statistics, and the roles of laws and policies.Diversity and Inclusion Manager, Equity Officer, HR Diversity Specialist
Non-Profit Leadership and ManagementThis specialization provides students the training and skills to lead a complex, mission-driven, non-profit organization.Non-profit executive Director, Program Manager, Fundraising Coordinator

Some of the other available concentrations in a master’s in leadership online degree program include

  • Leading and Managing Technical Projects
  • Organizational Communication
  • Sport and Social Change
  • Corporate Communications & Marketing
  • Executive Leadership & Organizational Development
  • Change Management

Graduation Timeline

The graduation timeline for a Master’s in Leadership typically ranges from 1 to 2 years, depending on the program and the student’s course load. The program is typically structured in semesters or quarters, combining core courses, elective courses, and potentially a capstone project or thesis. Students usually focus on foundational leadership theories and concepts in the first year, while the second year allows for more specialization and advanced coursework. Throughout the program, students may have opportunities for internships, leadership development activities, and networking events. The timeline may vary based on factors such as part-time or full-time enrollment, program requirements, and the student’s individual pace.

Accelerated Master’s in Leadership Online Programs

An accelerated master’s in leadership online can be completed in less time when compared to traditional master’s programs. Students can earn their degrees faster by opting for transfer credits, fast-track programs, and covering more classes in less time. Alternatively, many institutions offer integrated programs combining bachelor’s and master’s degrees that can be completed in 5 years instead of 6 years. Here are examples of some accelerated master’s in leadership:

  • North Central University1 – offers an accelerated master’s in organizational leadership, which can be completed in 12 months. The course structure of this program is intense and fast-paced.
  • Manhattan College2 – offers an accelerated master of science in organizational leadership that is well-suited for working professionals.
  • Northeastern University3  – offers a master of science in organizational leadership that can be completed within one year.

Admission Requirements for Master’s in Leadership Online Programs

Before beginning the application process, prospective students must review the admission requirements for the master’s in leadership online program. Most of the admission requirements are similar across the universities. However, many might have specific requirements depending on the university and program. Here are some of the master’s in leadership admission requirements:

  • Completed application form & application fee
  • A bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution
  • Official and unofficial transcripts from all the previous institutions attended
  • A Grade Point Average (GPA) of at least 2.7 on a scale of 4.0
  • A Statement of Purpose or Personal Statement
  • At least two Letters of Recommendation
  • A Graduate Résumé
  • GRE scores (required by some schools)

Master’s in Leadership Online No GRE Programs

In most instances, students must take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) or Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) and submit their scores before applying to a graduate program. However, some universities skip this requirement for students with high GPAs or substantial work experience. Examples of universities offering master’s in leadership with no GRE programs include Miami Herbert Business School4, University of San Diego 5, Belhaven University 6, etc.

Accredited Programs

Accreditation is the strict process of evaluation that institutions go through to maintain their standards of educational quality. Accredited universities design and implement their education to the highest standards students, parents, and the industry expect. Prospective students should choose from accredited leadership colleges for easy employability and a better career outlook. Here are some of the main accrediting agencies in the United States:

More information on accreditation and its importance is available in the Accreditation Guide.

Free Master’s in Leadership Online Courses

Free courses help in providing additional information on a subject. However, free courses are usually unaccredited and do not lead to a master’s degree. While there are no free master’s in leadership online courses, in particular, some online platforms provide short free courses in leadership that can help students with their projects and assignments. Some examples are:

CourseDescriptionProvided by 
Leadership Skills13This course offers comprehensive training to develop essential leadership abilities. Participants will learn effective communication, decision-making, team management, and problem-solving skills, enabling them to confidently lead and inspire others to achieve organizational success.Coursera
Ethical Leadership14In this free online course, participants will study the essential traits of effective leadership. These traits include honesty, moral courage, vision, creative thinking, and selflessness. The course also examines the intersection of these leadership elements with classical ideals of virtuous leadership. This course is an excellent resource if anyone seeks to enhance leadership practices or gain a deeper understanding of successful leadership.Alison
Communicate Like a Leader: How to Get People to Listen -Lite15This free course (Communicate Like a Leader: How to Get People to Listen -Lite) provides valuable insights and techniques to enhance communication skills for effective leadership. Participants will learn strategies to engage and captivate audiences, foster active listening, and deliver impactful messages that inspire and influence others.Udemy

How to Pay for Your Online Degree

An important factor to remember while applying to a master’s program is the overall cost, including the tuition fee, transport, housing, and meals. The cost of a master’s program varies from different programs and institutions. Although the added benefit for students pursuing their master’s online is that they can save on travel and accommodation, they must still pay for course materials, tuition, and distance learning fees. Students can consider various funding mechanisms to fund their master’s in leadership online programs. 


Scholarships are popular funding mechanisms among students. They are awarded based on the academic merit of students. Private and public institutions, universities, and commercial organizations fund scholarships.


Students can consider grants as one of their funding options. Grants are usually not offered based on the student’s academic success but are awarded based on specific factors such as region, economic status, or particular areas of education and research.

Graduate Assistantships

Students can work part-time as graduate assistants, helping professors in their academic activity and teaching undergraduates in exchange for a fee waiver or stipend. 

Work-Study Programs

Students can work part-time for several hours while studying to support themselves. Although the money one earns may not suffice to pay the tuition fees, it would help meet other educational expenses. 

Employer Sponsorships

Because most students applying to a master’s in leadership online program are likely to be already employed, they could check with their employers for sponsorship programs or fee reimbursement options.

Financial Aid & Assistance

Prospective candidates of graduate programs can fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid

or the FAFSA form to determine their eligibility for financial aid from the federal government.

Discover more about education-funding-related matters:
Cost of Master’s | Scholarship Scams | Financial Aid Guide

Scholarships for Master’s in Leadership Students

Graduate school scholarships are offered to students with excellent academic track records. They are awarded by universities, associations, and external organizations after determining the student’s eligibility and levels of merit. Some examples of scholarships for master’s in leadership online students are:

ScholarshipDescriptionAward/AmountApplication Deadline
APF Queen-Nellie Evans Scholarship16The APF Queen-Nellie Evans Scholarship is offered to a graduate student from an underrepresented group who has shown a financial need and is committed to reducing gaps in societal structures and issues that adversely impact communities of color, particularly communities of African origin.$4000Jan 31,  2024
PMI Eric Norman Fellows Scholarship 17The PMI Eric Norman Fellows Scholarship, administered by the Project Management Institute (PMI), honors Eric Norman’s dedication to project management excellence. This scholarship supports outstanding graduate students pursuing degrees in project management, fostering leadership, and contributing to advancing project management practices and knowledge.$2000TBA

Career Paths and Average Salaries for Leadership Graduates

Leadership graduates with an online master’s degree can embark on diverse career paths, contributing to organizations in various leadership and managerial capacities. This versatile qualification prepares individuals for a broad spectrum of roles across different settings, providing them with the skills and knowledge necessary for impactful contributions in their chosen fields.

 Some examples include but are not limited to:

  • Corporate Sectors
  • Healthcare Settings
  • Schools
  • Government Agencies
  • Consultation Company
  • Community Organizations
  • Non-Profit Sectors

Some job roles graduates of online master’s in leadership usually take on are:

  • Leadership Development Program Manager
  • Corporate Trainer
  • Consultant
  • Sales Manager
  • School Principal
  • C-Level Executive
  • Community Service Manager
  • Health Services Manager
  • Staff Officer
  • Project Coordinator

Here are a few career options for leadership master’s graduates, along with their reported annual median salaries and job growth:

Occupation Median Annual Salary Job Growth (up to 2030) Job Description 
Elementary, Middle, and High School Principals18$101,3201% (little or no change)Elementary, middle, and high school principals are educational leaders responsible for managing schools, fostering a positive learning environment, supervising staff, implementing curriculum, and ensuring students’ overall academic success.
Human Resource Managers19$130,0005% (faster than average)Human resource managers are professionals responsible for overseeing the strategic management of an organization’s workforce. They handle recruitment, hiring, employee relations, training and development, compensation and benefits, and ensure compliance with employment laws to foster a productive and harmonious work environment.
Public Relations and Fund Raising Managers20$125,6206% (faster than average)Public relations and fundraising managers oversee organizations’ communication and fundraising efforts. They develop and implement strategic plans to build and maintain a positive public image, manage media relations, coordinate fundraising campaigns, and cultivate relationships with donors to support organizational goals and initiatives.
Training and Development Specialists21$63,0806% (faster than average)Training and development specialists are professionals who design, implement, and evaluate training programs to enhance the knowledge and skills of employees. They assess training needs, develop instructional materials, deliver training sessions, and measure the effectiveness of training initiatives to support employee growth and organizational success.
Top Executives22$100,0903% (as fast as average)Top executives are senior-level professionals who lead and oversee the strategic direction and operations of organizations. They establish goals, develop policies, make high-level decisions, manage resources, and provide guidance to ensure the success and growth of the organization following its mission and objectives.

Certifications and Licensing for Leadership Graduates

Individuals looking to enhance their career prospects and get a boost in their salary can get certified in their field. Certifications help widen one’s job opportunities and gain additional knowledge. When it comes to online master’s in leadership, there are no particular certifications required for graduates as the master’s itself is sufficient to increase their career potential. Nevertheless, some organizations offer training and certifications for leadership professionals, such as:

  • Korn Ferry Certifications23
    Korn Ferry is a consulting organization offering extensive training and certifications for leadership and working professionals. Their objective is to improve project performance and deliver organizational success. They offer leadership and professional development programs that will benefit a professional organization.
  • Certified Leadership Professional (CLP)24
    The Certified Leadership Professional (CLP) designation is given to individuals who have demonstrated knowledge, abilities, and competencies in leadership. Essentially a Canadian certification, candidates must meet the Canadian College for Leadership & Management (CCLM) requirements.

Additional Resources for Students

Tapping into various resources will help leadership professionals stay relevant in the field. One can stay updated with colleagues and gain a broader perspective on their subject. Connecting with peers, joining organizations, staying up to date with journals and publications, and attending seminars and workshops are ways of gaining a competitive edge over others. Some valuable resources for master’s in leadership online professionals are:

  • Interaction Associates25
    Interaction Associates is a pioneer of collaborative leadership, creative problem-solving, and group facilitation. Companies worldwide use their tools to foster inclusive behavior, engage personal accountability, engage employees, and achieve results.
  • Klemmer and Associates26
    Klemmer and Associates aim to support corporations and individuals to increase their results. They provide personal mastery services, private team training, and more.
  • American Management Association (AMA)27
    The American Management Association (AMA) offers various training programs and webinars on leadership, such as HR management, business enhancement, project management, finance and accounting, leadership, management & supervisory skills, etc.
  • American Society of Association Executives (ASAE)28
    The American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) is the premier association management organization covering organizations and individual association professionals. ASAE nurtures a community of smart, creative, and interesting people and helps them achieve previously unimaginable performance levels.
  • NMA – The Leadership Development Organization29
    NMA – The Leadership Development Organization is a not-for-profit professional association dedicated to “the growth and development of its members by empowering them with the leadership skills needed in today’s workplace and beyond.”

FAQs About Master’s in Leadership Online Programs

What is a master’s in leadership?

A master’s in leadership provides a deep foundation in leadership ability that combines practical and theory-based applications for evolving and complex organizations. It extends and builds skills and understanding of leadership practices necessary to lead an organization.

Why should you do an online master’s in leadership degree?

What can you do with a master’s in leadership degree?

How long is a leadership master’s?

Are online master’s in leadership programs as reputable as on-campus programs?

Is a leadership master’s worth it?

Is it necessary to have a bachelor’s degree in leadership to pursue a master’s?