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Improve your Organizational Leadership Skills: College Course and Degree Options

Organizational leadership is essential for anyone who is seeking a career in management, looking to start their own business, or launching their own company. Colleges and schools around the world offer coursework and a multitude of degree options to help you achieve these ends. For those that would prefer a non-traditional option, there are online classes that can point you in the same direction. Here, we’ve gathered all of the information you will need to consider before embarking on the pursuit of an organizational leadership degree. We hope that you’ll enjoy the information we’ve compiled to create the comparison guide below.

What is Organizational Leadership?

Organizational leadership is defined as the study of leadership in different types of organizational settings, including for-profit and non-profit organizations. In essence, a degree program in this field can help you prepare for a career in administration, management, or human resources, just to name a few. These degree programs can be the key to a successful career in these or many other fields. If you’re planning on entering a career where you will be supervising employees, a degree in organizational leadership is something that should be included in your degree plan.

Leadership Degrees and Programs for College Students

Organizational leadership degrees are offered as minor and primary degrees. They are also offered both online and at traditional campus facilities. For the sake of clarity, we will address each individual category first. Once that has been completed, then we will be able to compare each of these degree plans and help you to determine which one might be best for your situation.

Minor Organizational Leadership Degrees

Obtaining a minor degree in organizational leadership will usually require taking an additional 12-18 credits worth of classes. The amount will vary depending on the school you are attending. This will consist of 4-6 courses on top of your regular degree plan. For example, Indiana University’s OLS minor program includes the following classes:

  • Human Relations in Organizations
  • Elements of Law
  • Applied Leadership
  • Training Methods
  • Human Resources Issues

These must be taken in addition to one other OLS course to be determined later by your degree plan advisor. Most students simply spread this additional workload over the course of their primary degree plans, preventing it from becoming difficult to fit into their regular class schedule.

The only downside to supplementing your major with this secondary degree plan is that, while you will have a basic understanding of organizational leadership, you will be lacking the skills and experience that a primary degree in this field can bring.

Primary Organizational Leadership Degree Programs

Obtaining a bachelor’s degree in organizational leadership can be a fantastic tool to help facilitate your career, no matter what field you end up choosing. The skills you learn here can be applied to nearly any job or career in the future, even if you end up in an entry-level position.

Although this is a primary degree, not all of your classes will be related to organizational leadership. You can still expect to be responsible for rounding out your coursework with a general education class. To facilitate an informed discussion, let’s take a look at the organizational leadership program offered at Penn State.

You will be required to participate in a certain number of courses that do not directly relate to your degree plan. In the case of Penn State’s program, you will be expected to take an additional 59 credit hours worth of classes. 41 of those hours are made up of general education courses, and the remaining 18 will typically be elective courses.

The bulk of your degree plan will be made up of required and supported courses. Required courses will take up 25 credit hours and will include classes like Communication and Information Technology, Micro and Macroeconomics, and Introduction to Article Writing, just to name a few. In the case of the Penn State program, Elementary Statistics is one of your required courses. This is actually beneficial because it can actually double as a 4-credit course for your general education requirement.

The supporting courses will vary from person to person. Referring back to the Penn State degree plan, the supporting courses are separated into three categories:

  • Employers and Employees
  • Law, Policy, and Organization
  • Workplace Dynamics

Each category contains between 8-11 classes each and students perusing this degree plan will be required to take at least 12 credits (4 classes) from each category.

Because this is a bachelor’s degree program, it will usually take 3.5-4 years to complete.

Online Degree Programs

Online degree programs have become increasingly popular over the last decade. People are increasingly busy with their own jobs and lives, so it can be difficult if not impossible to make time to participate in a traditional degree course on a college campus. Read on for a discussion of the essential pros and cons to consider as you decide between the various options of obtaining a degree online.

Pro: Convenience. You can take online classes at any time, work at your own pace, and spend as much time as you like learning the skills. You can also take your classes with you and continue to work anywhere you are. All you’ll need to partake in this option is a computer and an Internet connection.

Con: Cost. College is expensive, to begin with, but you may find yourself paying a lot more for an online course. Even though we’re talking about online college courses, you can still expect to pay out-of-state tuition fees if you’ve selected a college based outside of your current state of residence. Depending on the state at hand, those out-of-state tuition fees can be double the cost of those you’d pay as a local resident. Some notable exceptions exist, but they are few and far between. If you’re interested in such an option though, you may want to examine the courses offered in Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, South Dakota, or Wyoming. This particular crop of states is interesting because they’ve chosen to incentivize their out of state programs by offering lower fees to out of state students than residents.

Pro: Variety. These schools offer an enormous variety of degrees, from theoretical skills like organizational leadership to more hands-on programs like medical transcription. This is of great benefit to working students. The variety allows them to alter their major should it become clear that their chosen course of study is the wrong one.

Con: Degrees. A lot of companies view online degrees with suspicion and disdain. That distrust of online degrees continues to grow, thanks in part to for-profit colleges and degree mills. They continue to churn out unskilled graduates in a quantity-over-quality quest to increase their bottom line.

Pro: Accelerated Degree Programs. Since you are able to work at your own pace, you have the ability to move through the coursework at an increased clip. If you’re so inclined then, it’s easy to complete your leadership degree program in a shorter period of time than you could at a traditional school.

Con: Non-Transferable Credits. If you later decide that an online course of study isn’t for you, you may find difficulty transferring your credits to a traditional college. For this reason, you may want to lean towards choosing an online college that also has a traditional brick and mortar institution. Not heeding this advice could place you in a tough spot, as many traditional colleges will not accept a credit transfer from an online school.

Don’t let the cons scare you away from utilizing an online leadership degree program though. There are plenty of completely legitimate online course programs, many of which are actually affiliated with traditional colleges.

Traditional College Degree Programs

When most people think about the word college, they picture a classic brick and mortar school building. Traditional college campuses are still the primary place for continuing education. Read on for the pros and cons of starting a leadership degree program on a traditional college campus.

Pro: Degree Acceptance. Companies with minimum degree requirements are more likely to hire you if you have a degree from a traditional school. They are less likely to hire you if your certification is from an online school. The additional credibility is worth taking note of when weighing your options.

Con: Cost. The total cost of a traditional degree can be quite a bit more than it’s online counterpart. Some of the extra costs are unique to brick and mortar schooling due to the locality of the option. For example, you’ll need to account for relocation, housing, travel, and food costs in addition to the more usual costs of education (books, labs, textbooks, etc). Even a community college would cost anywhere around $7000 to $25000 in the United States.

Pro: Communication. Talking to your fellow students or your instructor is much easier to do face to face. In an online setting, you’re often competing with 30+ other students in a chat room to try and get your question heard. In a more traditional setting, all you have to do is set up an appointment with your professor.

Con: Schedule. There is no flexibility in your schedule. Classes are held at a precise time and there is no room for error. If you don’t show up to class, you risk missing vital information. There is also no way, usually, to take your classes around your work schedule.

Pro: Hands on Degrees. You can’t study to become a nurse, a doctor, a lab assistant, or a dentist in an online course. If the degree you’re looking at requires hands-on experience or lab work, then a traditional school is the best and in many cases the only option for you.

Con: Travel. You have to be able to travel to and from your classes. The school will not make any special arrangements just because your car broke down or you missed the city bus. This also ties into the cost of your education, since you will be responsible for fuel and any needed car repairs.

Traditional campus learning can be beneficial in a lot of ways if you’re looking into a leadership degree program. Not only do these classes offer the best options for degree programs, but they also offer the added bonus of being able to network with people who are already in the field of organizational leadership as well as those who will be entering the field after they graduate. Online schooling doesn’t give you this networking option.

Which Option is Better to Pursue your Degree?

Now that you have a good idea what your options are, here are two similar degree plans. Since the minor degree plans are very similar on both mediums, we’re just going to address the primary organizational leadership degree plans.





















Penn State

Southern New Hampshire University

Degree Name

Bachelor’s Degree in Organizational Leadership

BS Business Studies: Organizational Leadership Degree Online.

Information Link

Credit Hours




$691 per credit hour

$320 per credit hour

Course Requirements

  • 49 General Education Credits
  • 25 Required Course Credits
  • 39 Related Course Credits
  • 18 Elective Course Credits
  • 45 General Education Credits
  • 30 Business Core Credits
  • 18 Organizational Leadership Concentration Credits
  • 27 Elective Credits

This chart easily represents a number of the pros and cons that were listed above. The cost of a traditional degree is more than twice that of its online counterpart.

The Penn State degree is designed to add additional flexibility. While an organizational leadership degree is a fantastic tool, it is fairly limited without other schools to apply it to. The traditional degree program is set up in such a way that you can pursue other career goals while studying for your leadership degree program. Take courses in criminal justice, English, psychology, or any number of other majors to prepare you for your emergence from college and into the working world.

Penn State also provides an enormous variety of electives that offer professional certificates upon completion. This is a great way to improve your resume while still pursuing your degree.

The online degree program provided by SNHU is more specialized. You will still take courses in the varying applications of your leadership degree, but there is very little room for modification. The online degree does offer nearly twice the elective credits of the traditional college course, so you could easily pick up a minor degree in business administration or something similar without jeopardizing your degree plan.

We did specifically pick an online degree program that is attached to an actual college because these programs tend to be a bit safer than the entirely online colleges. The for-profit colleges care little for how well you retain the information you are being taught. Instead, they are more concerned with the number of students that enter and subsequently leave their services.

So which is better?

Which option is better for obtaining your leadership degree? The answer to that is simple: It depends on your situation and your needs. If you don’t have the time for a traditional college career, then an online school might be the best option for you. We don’t want to scare you away from online classes because they do offer fantastic tools and alternatives.

If you have the option though, the best choice is always going to be a traditional college leadership degree. A degree from Penn State looks a lot better on your resume than a degree from the University of Phoenix.

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