The world always needs leaders, and this especially holds true in business. Companies everywhere seek dynamic individuals who know how to make decisions, solve problems, communicate effectively, and inspire people to do great work. An online MBA in leadership readies you to step into this role.
A growing market for leaders awaits. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that almost three-quarters of a million positions in management will need filling in the next decade. That represents a faster growth rate than the average for all occupations.
Read on to learn more about the opportunities an online MBA in leadership can create. You’ll discover the top online MBA programs, what to look for, how to pay for your education, and where to turn for resources when you graduate.
What Is an MBA in Leadership?
An MBA in leadership provides a broad foundation in the basics of business and a highly focused course of study in management. The traditional MBA takes an overarching view of finance, economics, accounting, and marketing, grounding students in each subject. An MBA in leadership also features a core curriculum in the fundamentals of management, teaching participants how to effectively run an organization.
An online MBA in leadership readies graduates for executive roles. The BLS projects that management positions will continue to grow at a rate faster than other occupations from 2018-2028. Distance learners gain skills in the areas they need to step into these jobs, including communication, decision-making, problem-solving, personnel management, and strategic thinking. The top online MBA in leadership programs offer a modern perspective on timeless leadership skills, combining business wisdom with current best practices.
Online MBA Programs for You
Grow your career, leadership, and business acumen with an accredited online MBA program.
Why Should You Get an Online MBA in Leadership?
Every organization needs management, whether in the corporate boardroom, a government office, or a local nonprofit. The opportunities remain vast for graduates of online MBA programs. Distance learners in online MBA programs gain the kind of transferable skills that employers value. Problem-solving, communication, critical thinking, strategic vision — these never go out of style, and an online format offers a convenient platform to learn these skills.
Many students in MBA programs continue to work while they earn their degree, making school more affordable. Some already hold down executive roles, bringing great experience to the discussion and opening avenues for networking.
With an online MBA in leadership, you can pivot in many directions. Some who earn an online MBA advance into CEO roles, earning wages of more than $157,000, according to PayScale. Others might land a job in operations, administrative services, or district management, earning annual salaries from $75,000-$125,000.
What Can You Do With an MBA in Leadership?
Chief Executive Officer
CEOs run companies and nonprofits. They serve as the final decision-makers on all aspects of a business or organization, overseeing the entire operation. PayScale reports that they tend to make the highest salaries in the nation, with the median income in the $157,000 range. Incomes, of course, tether to the industry in which the company operates, and many CEOs earn far more.
This position requires an array of skills, including communication, critical thinking, strategy, personnel management, and leadership. Because every company needs a CEO, job growth remains strong.
Vice President, Operations
Sometimes called the chief operating officer, the VP of operations sits just below the CEO in the chain of command. These executives typically run the day-to-day functions of a business, supervising all department heads. They enjoy substantial compensation packages, too; PayScale reports median earnings of $128,000, which again depends on the industry. Many profit further from bonuses and company shares.
Much like CEO, this position requires strong interpersonal skills, the ability to strategize and make shrewd decisions, good communication, and excellent problem-solving abilities. VPs of operations remain in high demand.
Divisional Vice President, General Manager
Divisional vice presidents oversee individual divisions or departments of a company, usually reporting to the VP of operations or the CEO. They take charge of personnel and projects, set goals, and strategize to achieve goals. Like other high-ranking executives they earn a comfortable living; PayScale reports median earnings of $135,000 for this position.
These managers need similar skill sets to CEOs and COOs, including strategic thinking, decision-making, problem-solving, and personnel management skills. Growth in the field remains steady.
Administrative Services Manager
Administrative service managers supervise the support services of an organization. These might include areas such as manufacturing, HR, record keeping, training, or facilities management. These professionals often operate at an executive level.
Like other managers, they must make decisions, create strategies, solve problems, and oversee personnel. Job growth is faster than average, and the BLS reports a median annual salary of $96,000 for this position.
As their title suggests, these managers run projects for companies. They lead staff teams from the beginning to the end of a major operation. Some serve as executives, but most sit in middle management.
This position requires the ability to strategize, communicate, solve problems effectively, and delegate. It usually requires an ability to see both the big picture and the fine details. PayScale reports the median annual income for project managers is $75,000.
Online MBA in Leadership Curriculum
The curriculum for an MBA in leadership program combines business management and leadership, and the focus at every school varies. Make certain to check with the schools that interest you to explore how their offerings align with your career goals.
Participants in this course learn how to effectively communicate, negotiate through conflicts, work with stakeholders, and encourage staff. They also explore how to delegate and set priorities within an organization.
In this course, future leaders study the most effective ways to reach high employee performance goals. Skills include setting goals, assessing work, and recognizing the stages of professional growth.
This course series puts students in positions of leadership at the head of a team. They lead their colleagues on several projects, putting what they’ve learned about management into practice.
How to Choose the Right Online MBA in Leadership Program
Many schools now offer online MBA in leadership programs, so contemplating which program to choose can be daunting. You must weigh an array of considerations, including the rigor of the program, the cost, the online format, and the internships and networking opportunities it provides.
Cost ranks as one of the primary factors for most students preparing for college. Web-based learning offers good value for the investment, and many of the top online MBA programs pay for themselves in short order. On digital campuses, savings come from the lack of commuting costs and room and board fees, and many schools offer in-state tuition to distance students.
The ability to work while you learn is another great bonus of an online program. Of course, holding down a job affects whether you can attend full time or part time, so keep that in mind.
Finally, make certain you do your homework on the particularities of individual programs. A master’s in management studies will not offer the same coursework as a master’s in organizational management or a master’s in business leadership. Check the curriculum of each school carefully, making sure you understand the classes, internships, and practicums required of each.
Scholarships for Leadership MBA Programs
Several foundations, corporations, and communities provide scholarships specifically for business programs. Others offer financial assistance to college students no matter their major. These sources of funding can significantly help with all of the various expenses associated with higher education. A few ideas follow below.
INKAS Rising Star Scholarship
Who Can Apply: Sponsored by Inkas Armored Vehicle Manufacturing, these scholarships go to eligible students in business programs in the U.S. and Canada. Applicants must hold a 75% average or better at an accredited university.
Who Can Apply: The Jewish Community Federation and Endowment Fund supports Jewish students in undergraduate and graduate programs who demonstrate financial need. The funds must go to an accredited, nonprofit institution.
Who Can Apply: CustomerServ awards scholarships to full-time undergraduate and graduate business students at accredited universities. Applicants must hold a 3.0 or better GPA and submit a 500-word essay.
The networking alone makes professional organizations worth joining. These associations sponsor conferences, workshops, and webinars where professionals in the same industry can meet and greet to share ideas. Most professional organizations disseminate the latest industry news updates, offer continuing education, and host job boards. They can serve as vital career resources for students and young professionals, especially in business.
An association designed for students, PBL offers academic competition, travel, networking, and career services. Members can develop professional portfolios, access publications, and attend conferences.
As a membership organization intended for students, BPA strives to provide educational opportunities for personal development and professional growth. To that end, BPA sponsors regional and national leadership conferences and webinars.
A nonprofit membership organization based in Dayton, Ohio, NMA promotes management skills and professional development. Through chapters across the country, the organization sponsors workshops, conferences, and publications.
One of the world’s largest executive coaching organizations for small and mid-size businesses, Vistage boasts members all across the country. The organization offers professional development and mentoring opportunities for all levels of management.
Top Online MBA Programs in Leadership for 2020
How We Rank Online MBA Programs
Want to know how we create our rankings? We assess schools based on academic quality, affordability, online flexibility, and student success.
Creighton University, a Jesuit-affiliated higher education institution in Omaha, Nebraska, offers one of the top online MBAs in leadership. The program comprises 33 credits of coursework, including core and concentration courses in leadership and organizational behavior, leadership insights from modern media, and management of environmental risk.
Distance learners may also pursue dual degrees, adding fields like law or negotiation and conflict resolution to their graduate studies. Graduates from Creighton's MBA program over the past 15 years earn about 20% more each year than the national median annual salary for all occupations.
Creighton applicants should possess a bachelor's degree demonstrating a minimum 3.0 GPA. Applicants whose GPAs fall below this threshold may submit applications along with GMAT scores.
Based in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, Messiah College offers an online MBA with a concentration in strategic leadership. Distance learners can complete the 36-credit program in two years.
Courses last eight weeks during the fall and spring semesters, and six weeks during the summer terms. Students can expect to dedicate 10-15 hours on coursework every week; this follows an asynchronous format and includes streaming lectures and participating in digital forum discussions.
The strategic leadership concentration includes courses like leading leaders and followership, teamwork, and group dynamics. Each learner must also enroll in a capstone course, which allows them to pursue a field project with the guidance of a faculty member of their choice.
Applicants should possess bachelor's or master's degrees demonstrating a minimum 3.0 GPA. They must also submit a personal statement and one recommendation letter.
Located in Baldwin City, Kansas, Baker University offers distance learning MBA with a concentration in leadership and organizational change. The curriculum for this top online MBA focuses on upper-level management, featuring courses like sustainability for future success and corporate social responsibility and accountability.
The full program requires 30 credits of coursework. Students can finish the degree in 18-20 months, or even in one year if they take two courses at a time. Distance learners who double up on their coursework must maintain a minimum 3.5 GPA.
Distance learners must also complete a capstone course called strategic planning for competitive organizations. During this capstone MBA, candidates complete simulated projects, designing long-term strategies for businesses.
Prospective students who hold bachelor's degrees can apply for this MBA. Baker does not set minimum GPA requirements or mandate that applicants submit GMAT scores.
Marist College, based in Poughkeepsie, New York, offers its distance learners an online MBA in ethical leadership. Online students can pursue this degree while working full time. The program focuses on management and administration skills using ethical decision-making.
This degree comprises 36 credits, and part-time students graduate in 2.5 years. Distance learners can petition to enroll full time, which allows them to pursue the degree at an accelerated pace. Courses last eight weeks, and they follow an asynchronous format. This allows distance learners to stream lectures and complete assignments on their own time.
Concentration courses include ethical management of organizations and leadership, power, and influence. Students can also choose from electives covering collective bargaining, nonprofit management, and healthcare ethics.
Marist requires applicants to submit GMAT or GRE scores. They should also submit their undergraduate transcripts, a resume, and a personal essay.
Waltham, Massachusetts-based Bentley University allows students to pursue an online MBA in leadership at an accelerated pace. Through this program, MBA candidates can graduate as quickly as in 18 months.
Bentley designed this MBA program for distance learners who work full time. The six-week terms let students enroll in one asynchronous course at a time, though professors may require occasional scheduled meetings.
Students may take courses in emotionally intelligent leadership and leading change, and the global strategy course serves as a capstone. This course explores how multinational companies maintain strategic innovation, and students participate in research projects and discussions of international case studies.
As a part of the 17-institution Sisters of Mercy higher education system, Gwynedd Mercy University offers an online MBA in strategic management and leadership. The 30-credit degree explores topics like ethical decision-making and corporate social responsibility, managing human capital, and organizational theory and design.
Professionals who work full time can enroll in this distance learning degree, which only requires students to take one course at a time. Distance learners must complete weekly assignments, but they can log on at their own convenience. In addition, each course only lasts seven weeks. At the end of the program, MBA candidates design business plans, which fulfill their capstone requirements.
Individuals may apply for this program if they earned a minimum 3.0 undergraduate GPA. Prospective students can apply even if they did not complete business courses during their bachelor's degree, but they would need to take one extra foundational course at GMercyU.
The online MBA at Salve Regina University offers two concentration options for individuals interested in pursuing leadership programs: nonprofit management and healthcare administration and management.
This 36-credit top online MBA requires students to take 12 courses, including 10 required core courses and two electives. Distance learners may complete the program in 18-24 months. Courses that fall within the leadership and management fields include leading innovation and managerial decision-making.
Master's candidates may complete an independent study course or internship. The independent study option involves writing a 20-page research paper on a topic of interest to the student. Those who chose the internship experience must work for 120 hours over the course of a semester. All students must take a capstone course in strategic management.
Applicants do not need to submit GMAT scores. They should send in their undergraduate transcripts, a personal statement, and two professional letters of recommendation letters.
At Denver-based Regis University, distance learners can pursue an online MBA with a concentration in health industry leadership or project leadership and management. The program requires at least 39 credits of coursework, and students who choose two specializations must complete an additional six credits.
Courses follow an accelerated, eight-week format. Distance learners may keep their full-time jobs while studying, and they can graduate in just over two years.
Courses for the health industry leadership emphasis area cover strategic management, organizational ethics, and marketing in healthcare settings. Students pursuing the project leadership and management concentration enroll in courses exploring employment law, strategic compensation, performance management, and labor relations. Learners must also complete a culminating project during their final capstone course.
In making admissions decisions, Regis considers undergraduate GPA, work experience, recommendations, and an admissions essay. Applicants do not need to take the GMAT or GRE.
A private school of about 9,000 students based in Malibu, California, Pepperdine University offers an online MBA in leadership and organizational change for individuals with at least two years of business experience. The degree comprises 54 credits, which students can finish over the course of six terms (two years).
Pepperdine's web-based MBA program uses synchronous and asynchronous formatting. Students participate in a live, online class each week, which allows them to interact with their professors and fellow students. Courses may also include small group discussions and live chats. Distance learners can finish assignments at their own convenience.
Although the curriculum features primarily online courses, students must also participate in an immersion experience at one of Pepperdine's corporate partners in Los Angeles. MBA candidates complete this one-credit course during their first semester.
Applicants with less than three years of work experience should submit GRE or GMAT scores. All applicants must submit a statement of purpose along with their application.
Union University offers an MBA in leadership, which students can complete at the university's Jackson, Tennessee campus and online. The program requires 36 credits, and the curriculum prioritizes ethics and social issues in management.
Students who choose the leadership concentration take courses like business and the legal environment, ethical management, and social issues in management. The degree only requires distance learning courses, but students can also opt to take part in an internship experience. All learners must earn a minimum 3.0 GPA to graduate.
Union allows undergraduate business majors to take MBA courses during their senior year, allowing them to earn their bachelor's and master's degrees at an accelerated pace. Incoming students from other programs may also transfer in up to nine credits.
Applicants must submit their undergraduate transcripts and GRE or GMAT scores. Union offers a GRE/GMAT waiver for individuals with at least five years of professional business experience.
At Norwich University, the MBA program allows students to complete their degrees online, with the exception of a one-week residency at the university's campus in Northfield, Vermont. Distance learners who choose the concentration in organizational leadership learn about strategic management and leading change in businesses.
On average, students complete the 36-credit program in 18 months. Courses last 11 weeks, and distance learners can start taking classes at four start points throughout the year.
At the end of their program, all distance learners must pass a comprehensive exam evaluating their knowledge of the entire curriculum. Master's candidates must also complete the one-week residency for their culminating experience. About 90% of graduates said their Norwich degrees gave them a competitive edge in the job market.
Applicants do not need to send in GMAT or GRE scores, but they should submit their undergraduate transcripts.
Located in Newark, the University of Delaware runs a 44-credit online MBA program with a concentration in strategic leadership. Through intensive, seven-week courses, distance learners may complete the program in as few as 16 months.
While pursuing the strategic leadership concentration, students take courses in negotiation and conflict resolution, leadership in international business cultures, and positive leadership theory and practice. UD offers several resources to its online MBA students. Learners can access tutoring services for courses in analytics and economics. They can also take advantage of DU's career services, including career coach consultations, networking events, and career fairs.
Applicants should hold a bachelor's degree with a minimum 2.8 GPA and at least two years' work experience. Most applicants must submit GMAT or GRE scores, but they should check with admissions counselors to learn whether they qualify for waivers. Incoming students may also apply for scholarships from UD, including one specifically for MBA students.
The online MBA at Burlington, Vermont-based Champlain College offers an online MBA with eight different concentrations, including leadership. In addition to core business coursework, the degree offers two courses for those pursuing the leadership specialization: theory and practice of organization change and leadership foundation.
Champlain designed the 36-credit degree for working professionals. Courses last eight weeks, and students can expect to spend 15-20 hours each week on their schoolwork. Incoming students who do not possess bachelor's degrees in business or management must take two additional courses, bumping up their required coursework to 42 credits.
For their last course, distance learners complete a capstone project. They can accomplish this with their current employer, through an internship, or in a service learning project at a nonprofit organization.
Prospective students should submit their undergraduate transcripts demonstrating a minimum 2.5 GPA, but they do not need to take the GRE or GMAT.
The online MBA in strategic leadership at the University of Dallas requires 42 credits of coursework. Students take six- and 12-week courses year round. Enrolling full time, they may graduate in 2-3 years.
Distance learners may choose from many leadership courses, including storytelling as a mode of thinking, spiritual leadership, and leading through adaptive changes. Students can opt to participate in an internship, as well. All master's candidates must complete a capstone experience during their last semester, which involves a comprehensive consulting project for a real business.
To qualify for the admissions process, interested individuals should possess bachelor's degrees demonstrating a minimum 2.0 undergraduate GPA. They must also have passed foundational courses in marketing, management, and business economics.
The MBA degree at James Madison University includes a program in executive leadership, which operates in a hybrid format. Experienced professionals enroll in this program to obtain skills to advance their careers.
The degree comprises 42 credits, and students enroll in one course at a time. With courses lasting eight weeks, learners can graduate in 28 months. In addition to completing online coursework, students also meet on JMU's campus for four hours on a few Saturdays each term.
The executive leadership program prepares students for C-suite positions like CEO or CFO. Learners take courses like leadership through big data analytics, managing risks in global environments, and managing innovation. JMU prefers applicants with 5-10 years of work experience for this executive program. Applicants should also submit their GMAT scores and undergraduate transcripts.
At the University of Massachusetts Lowell, students can obtain an online MBA in managerial leadership. The program comprises 42 credits, unless incoming students already possess an undergraduate business degree, in which case the program requires only 30 credits.
The managerial leadership specialization equips students with skills for top administrative roles, like business strategy and performance management. Courses within the concentration include management consulting, workforce analytics, and advanced professional communication.
Distance learners at UMass Lowell do not need to visit campus for any coursework. Web-based courses follow an asynchronous format, so students get the freedom to study at their convenience. Distance learners generally dedicate 8-12 hours to each course every week, and students can take 1-5 courses each semester. Full-time master's candidates can graduate in 18 months.
Applicants should submit their official transcripts, three recommendation letters, a personal statement, and their GMAT scores.
Based in Fairfax, Virginia, George Mason University offers a 48-credit online MBA, which prioritizes collaborative communication and leadership in its curriculum. Students can take several elective courses focused on strategic leadership, including negotiations, project management, leadership, and international business strategy.
Mason's MBA gives students two unique ways to customize their learning experience. Learners can supplement their degrees with graduate certificates in business analytics, which train them in data analysis within the business industry. They can also participate in a global residency option. This involves going to a foreign country for one week to complete a team project and observe how international companies work.
Part-time students typically graduate within three years. Online learning at Mason follows an asynchronous format, allowing distance learners to access course materials at any time.
To apply, prospective learners should hold a bachelor's degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA. They should also submit GRE or GMAT scores, two recommendation letters, and a statement of purpose.
At Queens University of Charlotte, students can choose to enroll in the MBA through on-campus, online, or hybrid courses. Queens' distance learning option still includes two residency requirements at its campus in North Carolina. These immersive experiences last a few days over the course of a weekend, and attendees meet with an executive coach and listen to keynote speakers.
Otherwise, distance learners complete their 36-credit program online. The leadership and change concentration includes courses in conflict and negotiation, transformational change, and management consulting. This specialization prepares students to lead business organizations in some period of transition. Students match with executive coaches, who mentor them throughout the degree.
The university requires applicants to submit GRE or GMAT scores, unless they meet one of the following requirements: at least seven years of relevant work experience, three years' work experience along with a 3.0 undergraduate GPA, a professional certification, or a relevant graduate degree.
The University of Mary operates as a private Catholic university in Bismarck, North Dakota. The school integrates religion into all of its degrees, including the online MBA, which offers a concentration in virtuous leadership. The program partners with the Havard Virtuous Leadership Institute to provide a curriculum focused on ethical decision-making in the business sector.
The degree requires 36 credits of coursework. The virtuous leadership specialization includes courses like the philosophy of happiness, business and Catholic social teaching, and culture and public service. Distance learners may also pursue a virtuous leadership immersion. Core courses cover more traditional business topics, like finance, accounting, and marketing.
Applicants must hold an undergraduate degree demonstrating a minimum 2.75 GPA.
Located just outside Chicago, Dominican University runs an MBA program in leadership, which allows students to pursue their degrees almost entirely online.
The degree comprises 46 credits, but incoming students who already completed undergraduate business courses may waive up to six foundational courses. As one of their first courses, the business gateway practicum allows learners to consult for real business clients. Leadership students must take specialization courses, including leadership development, cross-cultural negotiation, and strategic human resource management.
Learners may also choose to participate in a global immersion experience or short trips to places like China, France, and South Africa. During these experiences, students observe how businesses work in foreign countries.
Applicants should submit their GRE or GMAT scores, plus undergraduate transcripts, two recommendation letters, and a personal statement. Dominican does not set minimum GPA requirements.
At Oregon State University, students can pursue an MBA in organizational leadership either completely online or in a hybrid format. Oregon State designed its degree for individuals who want the financial and human skills to move into upper management positions.
Oregon State operates on a quarter system, with terms lasting 11 weeks, and the degree comprises 60 quarter credits. Courses in the organizational leadership specialization include business law for managers, managing products, managing human resources, and negotiations.
All learners must complete a series of two integrative capstones before graduation. Students conduct research for a business organization, exploring factors like competitors and the competitive markets. At the capstone's end, master's candidates must make a presentation suggesting solutions to potential business problems.
Prospective students may apply if they earned a minimum 3.0 GPA in their undergraduate coursework.
The University of Kansas offers an online MBA in management and leadership, comprising 42 credits. The full curriculum includes 14 courses, each lasting eight weeks. This allows students to graduate in about 27 months. Moreover, distance learners do not need to travel to the university's Lawrence campus for any residencies.
Management and leadership students enroll in specialization courses, such as strategic organizational design and change management, developing effective management and team skills, and managing internationally. Before they graduate, students must also complete a six-credit cumulative capstone course, which they can cover in four blocks. At the end of every block, students develop a data-driven case study.
To apply, interested individuals should hold a bachelor's degree demonstrating a minimum 3.0 GPA. They should also submit GMAT scores, three recommendation letters, and a personal statement.
The online MBA at Michigan-based Spring Arbor University includes an executive leadership concentration, which prepares students for top management positions. Distance learners can follow the accelerated track, allowing them to graduate, or they can take one course at a time to finish the program in 18 months.
Though students can complete most of their coursework through web-based learning, they may take the international business course, which includes a trip to New York City. On this trip, students attend an international business summit and learn about how global companies operate. In addition, all learners must enroll in a capstone course, which allows them to consult for a real-world organization or client.
For the executive leadership specialization, students complete foundational coursework and concentration courses. These include strategic leadership, strategic management and planning, and management of organizational behavior.
At Rutgers University, students can obtain an MBA in strategic leadership, which prioritizes managing creative, productive, and efficient businesses. The degree comprises 18 courses, or 54 credits overall. Students can pursue the degree through online learning, either full or part time.
The strategic leadership concentration includes four specialization courses: leadership and managing human capital, conflict resolution and negotiation, leading change and organizational development, and leading innovation and creativity. Students may also enroll in an international business environment course, which allows them to study abroad in countries like Brazil, South Korea, China, Panama, Turkey, or Taiwan.
Incoming students typically possess at least 11 years of work experience, and they often start the degree in their 30s. Applicants need bachelor's degrees and GMAT or GRE scores to qualify for admission.
The online MBA at the University of Texas at Dallas comprises 53 credits and offers 15 possible concentrations, including a leadership in organizations concentration.
Distance learners study at their own pace, completing the degree in 2-6 years. The leadership concentration introduces students to leadership theory and organizational change. Courses focus on sociological and organizational behavior and how managers can use their understanding of that behavior to lead businesses.
Applicants to the MBA program must submit GMAT scores, undergraduate transcripts, one recommendation letter, and an admissions essay. Students may also pursue a master of science and an MBA simultaneously, or even a medical degree and an MBA. These programs may set different admissions requirements, however.