Doctorate in Organizational Leadership Online

Updated January 26, 2023 · 5 Min Read

Thinking of pursuing an advanced degree in organizational leadership? Get program details and career info for online doctorate programs to determine if this degree is right for you and your career! 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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Organizations face ongoing challenges to establish and sustain success in an information saturated and rapidly changing global context. The increased demands on organizations require better prepared leaders at all levels. If you want to create healthy, profitable organizations, then consider earning a doctorate in organizational leadership online. Pursuing this degree may also provide the funding and time needed to create, analyze, and apply evolving leadership information to organizations. This degree attracts senior executives, academics, consultants, and managers who seek to build the deep understanding needed to improve the profession.

Earning a doctorate in any field demands a serious investment of both time and money. As such, one must weigh both personal and professional considerations carefully before committing to a program. Consider pursuing an online doctorate in organizational leadership If the following points appeal to you.

  • You want to effectively guide an organization at the highest levels of leadership. An online doctorate program in organizational leadership guides students through a deep exploration of the most demanding aspects of helping organizations anticipate and adapt to change.
  • You prefer to distinguish yourself as a first-rate consultant with an unparalleled level of education for helping organizations in a variety of industries.
  • You thrive on conducting original research in order to improve the profession as a whole.
  • You desire to boost your income. Among the many factors that contribute to income earning potential, earning a doctorate in the fields of leadership and management opens doors to some of the more lucrative positions within an organization.

Those who have worked successfully for a number of years in the field of organizational leadership can continue to build a strong career, as achieving a doctorate raises the earnings ceiling in many industries. Furthermore, it establishes the requisite foundation for those wanting to build a career in theoretical research to advance the discipline.

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

Earning an online doctorate in organizational leadership demonstrates an intent to lead at the highest levels of an organization. A doctorate also indicates a deep commitment to improving organizational leadership as a professional discipline. Whether in the research-driven climate of academia, or in the highest level offices of a major corporation, a doctorate opens opportunities to establish yourself as a leader in the profession.

Of the five occupations listed below, only two, school superintendent and college professor, systematically require doctorates. As such, the median income figure provided accounts for the doctoral level requirement; however, the other three options do not always require a doctorate in the field. A doctoral degree provides a competitive edge to qualify for the highest level of responsibility. Consistent with that advantage, an online doctorate in organizational leadership usually brings a clear income advantage.

Career Profiles

Top Executives

Serving at the highest ranks of an organization's leadership, top executives direct the major divisions of an organization. Some serve as the chief executive officer of an organization. In addition to overall organizational management, these executives bear the responsibility for facilitating strong corporate culture.


School district superintendents serve as the chief executive officer for an entire school district. Reporting to a board of trustees elected by the community, the superintendent also advocates for improved state and federal policy and funding.

College Professor

College professors pursue their passion for organizational leadership through conducting research and graduate level instruction to improve the effectiveness of the profession.

Government Affairs Director

Large corporations employ government affairs directors to ensure that the company successfully anticipates and navigates shifting legal currents. The director works with senior management, department directors, and key political leaders.

Senior Management Consultant

Senior management consultants capitalize on their professional backgrounds and advanced education by consulting for top level leaders in both private and public sector organizations.

Organizational Leadership Ph.D. Program Overview

Consistent with the demands and challenges within the field of organizational leadership, postsecondary institutions have created several types of doctoral programs with unique emphases. Even within the same degree type, different universities structure programs to meet their institutional goals. The sections below describe the degree types along with sample curriculum options and program outcomes. Note that dissertation requirements vary by degree type and institution, as do admission requirements.

Types of Doctorate Degrees in Organizational Leadership

Those interested in pursuing a doctorate in organizational leadership can choose between several degree types to suit their professional interests. All degrees typically focus on research, but the type and purpose of the research differs in most cases.

The doctor of philosophy (Ph.D.) in organizational leadership focuses more on theoretical research in the field than other options. The degree fits those who prefer to make their impact on the field of organizational leadership as a scholar. Key activities include researching and publishing theoretical gaps in the field.

Students pursuing the doctor of education (Ed.D.) in organizational leadership also conduct considerable research with a view to addressing practical problems in the field. Considered a "practitioner's degree," the Ed.D. still demands rigorous academic research. While the degree can offer a focus on the education industry, most Ed.D. programs address organizational leadership across a variety of organization types.

The doctor of business administration (DBA) in organizational leadership stands as the practitioner's doctorate for those focused on business administration. Students usually identify practical problems from their businesses to research for their dissertation project. The practical emphasis of the degree lends itself well to part-time study.

Application Requirements and Admission Criteria

Application procedures and admission criteria vary by degree type and the university granting the degree. At minimum, all programs require applicants to have earned both an undergraduate and a master's degree from accredited colleges or universities with at least a 3.0 GPA at the master's level.

Commonly, applicants must submit two to three letters of recommendation and at least one essay outlining professional interests in pursuing the degree. The essay and all other written materials you submit demonstrate your ability to communicate. Application review committees place a heavy emphasis on an applicant's ability to communicate in both written and oral contexts. A few schools require little to no experience in the field; however, some universities require as many as 10 to 12 years of professional experience.


Each doctorate in organizational leadership online offers a distinctive approach to the field of organizational leadership. Specific features vary by degree type and by university, so review the options while considering long-term professional goals. Despite the differences, all programs share some common curriculum attributes. Most programs build on a 60-68 credit curriculum, including the dissertation. All programs require students to complete two or more courses related to research design and statistical analysis prior to starting their dissertation.

Dissertation length varies by degree, with the Ph.D. characterized by the most rigorous demands. Students typically focus almost exclusively on dissertation work during the latter half of their program. Some programs also require a reflective, and experience-based capstone project or comprehensive exam in addition to the dissertation. Students usually spend at least four years to complete the curriculum, although a few can be completed in less time. The courses listed below provide a sample of options common to many of the degree and institution options.

Social, Cultural, and Political Foundations of the Workplace
Viewing the workplace through historical and sociological perspectives, students analyze the general nature and trends of the workplace as a foundation for analyzing the distinctives of a specific workplace.
Organizational Learning, Performance, and Change
Students review the different theoretical aspects of how organizations learn and progress. Building on the principles of organizational culture, students address strategic planning alternatives, such as scenario planning.
Creativity and Innovation
Students dive deep into the process of creative thinking and innovation with a view to moving an organization more effectively into collective innovation.
Developing the Organization's Human Capital
Students explore human resources policies and practices including employee development, workforce diversity, employment law, and supervision strategies.
Research Design
Students prepare for their dissertation by learning to structure their project according to the elements of statistically valid research and analysis.

Program Outcomes

An online doctorate in organizational leadership guides students through a deep analysis of supervision and management. Building on that knowledge, students pursue the more expansive emphasis of organizational assessment with a view to crafting and driving systemic innovation and change. Students learn how to capitalize on the factors of personal change to build a culture that encourages foresight and risk-taking.

Graduates leave equipped to balance the dynamics of policy and politics with organizational priorities and plans. They gain skills in helping all levels of an organization craft, own, and pursue a sound mission and plan. Many graduates apply their training in a single organization, while others prefer to extend their services to multiple organizations through consultant work. Ph.D. graduates conduct original organizational leadership research, presenting their findings in scholarly publications and academic conferences.

Accreditation for Online Organizational Leadership Doctorate Programs

While evaluating the different degree and institutional options, review the specific program and institutional accreditation held by the universities. Such accreditation provides the type of third-party validation future employers may require. An online doctorate in organizational leadership represents a large investment of time and money. Be sure to enroll in a school with proper accreditation. Start by checking the Council for Higher Education Accreditation to ensure a prospective school holds national or regional accreditation. Schools may also hold programmatic accreditation from organizations such as the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs, or the International Assembly for Collegiate Business Education.

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