Master's in Business Management Vs Organizational Leadership Degree

Learn about the differences between a master's in business management and a master's in organizational leadership. Find out what careers each degree can lead to, common courses in each program, and more by reading below. Schools offering Organizational Design & Development degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Separates a Business Management Program from an Organizational Leadership Program?

While the names of the two programs may sound quite similar, a master's degree in management has some very important differences from a master's degree in organizational leadership. Both are typically offered as a Master of Science (MS) degrees, and both are indeed focused on business and leadership. A master's degree program in management is primarily intended for individuals who did not receive an undergraduate degree in business and is designed for recent graduates who want to continue their studies and give their careers a boost. Applicants to management programs typically have little to no work experience as a result, and the degree does not take long to complete, with most lasting just over a year in duration. The focus of a management program's academic coursework is centered on working with people, leading teams, and decision making.

A master's degree in organizational leadership also has a focus on leadership and decision making but typically takes a much more forward-thinking approach that focuses on strategies for ensuring an organization's future success. Organizational leadership is a newer field, and programs tend to be interdisciplinary, with some coursework in social sciences and data analysis. While applicants to these programs are often business majors or individuals with some work experience, they aren't generally required to be. The duration of programs in organizational leadership tend to be between one and two years, as is typical for graduate degrees.

Master's in Management Master's in Organizational Leadership
Program Duration 10-12 months 18-24 months
Degree Prerequisites Bachelor's, non-business field Bachelor's, any field
Program Commonality Fairly common Common
Typical Courses Managing people and teams, finance, marketing Data analytics, organizational behavior, strategic planning and communication
Career Options Management consultant, operations manager Human resources manager, training and development manger

Management Programs

A graduate-level program in management aims to teach individuals who hold degrees in areas other than business the basics of business that managers need to know. Courses featured early in these programs to provide that foundation include:

  • Finance, to guide the use of funds
  • Accounting, to keep track of expenditures and budgets
  • Marketing, to reach consumers and maintain an image

Later courses shift focus to the particulars of managing and leading employees, such as:

  • Ethics of leadership, ensuring managers maintain appropriate boundaries
  • Management skills, like motivating employees and promoting team cohesiveness
  • Strategic decision making, applying the knowledge learned to make well-reasoned decisions

Courses tend to be short and move quickly, so students of management programs must be diligent to avoid falling behind. Master's degrees in management can be earned online as well as on campus, and some schools have hybrid programs that involve a brief stay on campus before shifting to online classes for the remainder of the program. While less common than Master of Business Administration programs, management programs at the graduate level aren't difficult to find. Graduates of management programs can combine their newly acquired skills in leadership and management with the technical skills obtained during their undergraduate studies to find careers in virtually any field.

Organizational Leadership Programs

A program in organizational leadership is designed to equip students with a thorough understanding of how organizations work in all sectors, be they for-profit or nonprofit. The interdisciplinary approach these programs take allows for study in an array of fields that may be of importance to leaders of organizations, such as:

  • Data analysis and its applications for decision making
  • Change and innovation for organizations
  • Sociological and psychological theories relating to leadership
  • Communication and its facilitation among team members and lower-level employees

Organizational leadership programs are typically intended for those with more experience in the working world and focus less on the basic aspects of business as a result. They may be offered online or on campus and are more comparable to other varieties of master's degrees, taking on average a year and a half to two years to complete. Although a newer field of study, organizational leadership programs are a common offering. With a solid understanding of every aspect of how organizations function, graduates from organizational leadership programs can find careers at high levels in many companies and are particularly well suited to positions in human resources, such as human resources manager or training manager. Careers outside of the world of business are also possible, such as school principal.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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