10 Best Online Doctorate in Organizational Leadership Programs
Our rankings for the 10 best online doctoral programs in organizational leadership are based on a weighted formula.
- To start with, we prioritized any schools that appeared in our list of Best Ed.D. Programs and U.S. News & World Report rankings for Top Education Schools. All entries had to be regionally accredited and non-profit.
- However, we also factored in affordability. To calculate the minimum program cost, we combined tuition rates and mandatory per credit fees (e.g. online fee) and multiplied this number by the minimum Ed.D. credits.
- Finally, we gave extra points to schools that a) offered multiple organizational leadership concentrations (e.g. Wilmington); and/or b) are current members of the Carnegie Project on the Education Doctorate (CPED).
CPED membership is one of our favorite quality markers, since it means that the university is committed to meeting certain Ed.D. benchmarks in action-based research and applied learning.
1New York University
Location: New York, NY
Department: NYU Steinhardt
Credit Hours: 42
Minimum Program Cost: $89,522
Format: Online with 2 Week-Long Residencies
NYU’s Organizational Leadership Ed.D. Overview
NYU Steinhardt has instant name recognition in the field of education—it achieves consistently high rankings, it’s well-known internationally, and it runs all kinds of research centers & institutes. If you’re a mid-level organizational leader looking for a distance program that’s led by great faculty, you’re in the right place.
NYU’s cohort-based Online Ed.D. in Leadership and Innovation is short & intense. Designed for working professionals with 7-10 years of experience, this doctorate can be completed in 2 years.
- There are 17 required courses, including research credits. Topics include organizational theory, leveraging partnerships, management & data ethics, education policy, and more.
- You’ll also take part in 2 week-long immersive residencies and get stuck into a unique Problem of Practice. This capstone project will be applied to your current work challenges.
2University of Southern California
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Department: Rossier School of Education
Credit Hours: 43 Units
Minimum Program Cost: $87,505
Format: Online with Annual Immersion Weekends
USC’s Organizational Leadership Ed.D. Overview
The Rossier School of Education is a worthy contender to NYU Steinhardt—you’ll often see it ranked in the top 15 of Best Education Schools in the country. Faculty are involved in all kinds of intriguing research initiatives and students are refreshingly diverse. Thanks to its location in Los Angeles, urban education is a key focus.
The Online Ed.D. in Organizational Change and Leadership (OCL) is a good choice for early to mid-tier leaders—the versatile program can be applied to multiple career spheres. Anyone entering with a master’s or terminal degree will only need to take 43 units in order to complete the doctorate. In a little less than 3 years, you’ll participate in weekly live video classes, attend annual immersion weekends, and tackle a Dissertation in Practice (DiP).
If the price point for this online doctorate is intimidating, check out the section on tuition & financial aid for ideas on funding. Online Ed.D. students are eligible for modest Rossier scholarships—a separate application is not necessary.
Location: Nashville, TN
Department: Peabody College
Credit Hours: 54
Minimum Program Cost: $113,184 + Fees
Format: Online with 3 On-Campus Convenings
Vanderbilt’s Organizational Leadership Ed.D. Overview
The Peabody College of Education and Human Development is a powerhouse in the South. Like NYU Steinhardt and USC Rossier, it’s packed with quality markers, including outstanding national rankings, 18 research centers, experienced faculty, and a great track record of employment. Among professional students, 95%+ secure jobs within 4 months of graduation.
The Online Ed.D. in Leadership and Learning in Organizations is designed for mid-career professionals with 3+ years of leadership experience. This program covers three key competency areas needed for operational improvements in the workplace:
- Leadership & Organizational Development
- Data & Analytics
- Learning & Design
Over the course of 3-4 years, you’ll take part in weekly online classes and 3 on-campus residencies. The distance doctorate culminates in a capstone project centered on a specific organizational challenge. Vanderbilt is expensive, so you may need to discuss funding options with your current employer.
4University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Location: Champaign, IL
Department: College of Education
Credit Hours: 64
Minimum Program Cost: $31,360
Format: 100% Online; Weekly Synchronous Sessions
UIUC’s Organizational Leadership Ed.D. Overview
UIUC’s doctorate in education is our top pick for affordability—tuition rates for online programs at the College of Education are eminently affordable. It’s also 100% online, which means you won’t have to budget for any travel expenses.
The Online Ed.D. in Education, Policy, Organization and Leadership: Human Resource Development (HRD) is a bit of a niche program—it’s aimed at professionals who are interested in improving workplace performance & individual learning in organizations. During your online studies, you will:
- Dig into the design, implementation, and evaluation of HRD programs. Graduates typically serve as senior practitioners in a variety of organizational settings.
- Participate in live online classes/discussions that meet once per week.
- Conduct field research, take preliminary & qualifying exams, and complete a dissertation that addresses a problem of professional practice.
Location: Waco, TX
Department: School of Education
Credit Hours: 54
Minimum Program Cost: $96,390 + Fees
Format: Online with 2 Campus Immersions
Baylor’s Organizational Leadership Ed.D. Overview
Baylor’s School of Education may not be as well-known as Rossier or Steinhardt, but this Christian-focused institution punches above its weight. It’s deeply engaged in the Texas educational community. It produces a diverse range of doctoral alumni. And it’s a CPED member, which means it has made a commitment to continual Ed.D. improvements.
The Online Ed.D. in Learning and Organizational Change is available in a 3-year format (e.g. 2 courses per term) or on a more flexible schedule.
- Ed.D. coursework covers topics such as organizational change, the psychology of learning, instructional design, community leadership and collaboration, and more.
- All students are required to take part in weekly online classes & group discussions, attend 2 in-person immersions, and complete a Problem of Practice (PoP) dissertation.
Check out the faculty profiles and course descriptions to get a feel for the program’s flavor. Keep in mind that Ed.D. candidates should share Baylor’s commitment to a tradition of faith-based service.
6University of Dayton
Location: Dayton, OH
Department: School of Education and Health Sciences
Credit Hours: 60
Minimum Program Cost: $71,145
Format: Online with 2 Campus Immersions
UD’s Organizational Leadership Ed.D. Overview
UD’s School of Education and Health Sciences earns our respect for a number of reasons. It has a consistent track record in distance learning rankings. It’s a CPED member. And it’s focused on creating Ed.D. alumni who can make a real difference. UD is a Catholic research university in the Marianist tradition, so there’s an emphasis on community service, equity, social justice, and critical reflection.
This 3-year Online Ed.D. in Leadership for Organizations is aimed at aspiring leaders in multiple spheres (e.g. non-profits, health organizations, government, public policy, K-12 education, etc.) and it can be started in September, January, or May.
- Over the course of the program, you’ll attend weekly, live-streaming classes and come to campus for 2 in-person immersions.
- Coursework really gets stuck into organizational leadership issues, including the nitty-gritty of topics like finance, law & public policy, ethics, and intercultural proficiency.
- The final project is a Dissertation in Practice (DiP). You’ll start working on this original action research study in your first term.
Location: New Castle, DE
Department: College of Education
Credit Hours: 54
Minimum Program Cost: $34,938
Format: 100% Online
Wilmington’s Organizational Leadership Ed.D. Overview
One of Wilmington’s key selling points? Affordability. Earning a doctorate from this College of Education won’t break the bank. The College is well-known in the Delaware region and not-so-well-known in the rest of the country, but it’s strong in K-12 arenas and CAEP-accredited.
Wilmington’s interdisciplinary & cohort-based Online Ed.D. in Organizational Leadership, Learning and Innovation is available in a 100% online format—you won’t have to attend any campus immersions. It’s composed of 18 courses that take 3 years to complete. We particularly like the fact that you can customize this practical doctorate by choosing a concentration in:
- Strategic Leadership (e.g. organizational improvement & innovation, employee engagement business acumen, etc.)
- Workplace Learning & Talent Development (e.g. universal design for learning, facilitating adult learning, workforce trends, etc.)
- Student Designed Learning Pathway (e.g. courses to suit your career objectives)
In addition to the Applied Dissertation, you’ll also complete a Field Experience Consulting Project, with hands-on internal & external consulting experiences. These are going to look awfully good on your résumé!
Location: Boston, MA
Department: College of Professional Studies
Credit Hours: 60
Minimum Program Cost: $55,900 + Fees
Format: Online with Annual 2-Day Residencies
Northeastern’s Organizational Leadership Ed.D. Overview
Northeastern’s College of Professional Studies (CPS) makes a point of tailoring its programs to working professionals who want a real-world degree. Scheduling is flexible. Faculty have experience in a wide range of fields. And career networks are strong—CPS has 257,000+ alumni across 180 countries.
This Online Ed.D. is available in a full-time or part-time format with 2 weekend residencies in multiple cities. It usually takes 3-4 years to complete. Unlike some other online doctorates in our rankings, the curriculum is remarkably customizable. You’re allowed to choose your own concentration—Workplace Learning is the most relevant for organizational leaders—and select 5 electives (e.g. data-driven decision making, organizational consulting, etc.).
Northeastern is an Experienced CPED member, so you can also expect to tackle a Dissertation in Practice (DiP) that includes a detailed action plan and the presentation of your action research findings. You’ll be able to start working on this project from the outset.
9Fielding Graduate University
Location: Santa Barbara, CA
Department: School of Leadership Studies
Credit Hours: 84
Minimum Program Cost: $79,830
Format: Online with On-Campus Orientation (4 Days)
Fielding’s Organizational Leadership Ed.D. Overview
Fielding is a hidden gem in our rankings. This regionally accredited private university in Santa Barbara was created for mid-career professionals who were not being served by traditional universities (e.g. women and diverse students). That means it strives to offer thoughtful distance education programs. It’s also an Experienced CPED member.
- The only residency requirement is a 4-day orientation at the start of the doctorate—all other coursework is online (asynchronous & synchronous).
- 4 electives are included. You’ll have the option to group these into a doctoral concentration (e.g. organizational development).
- During your Leadership for Change Praxis coursework, you can choose to participate in internships or work in your communities of practice.
- The program ends with a dissertation.
Location: Omaha, NE
Department: Graduate School
Credit Hours: 60
Minimum Program Cost: $65,220 + Fees
Format: Online with 2 Campus Residencies
Creighton’s Organizational Leadership Ed.D. Overview
Creighton is a private Jesuit university with a solid Graduate School and respectable rankings in online education programs. It’s not a big research powerhouse or an international player, but it’s put together a distance learning doctorate that really digs into practical leadership concerns.
In just under 4 years, you can complete an Online Ed.D. in Interdisciplinary Leadership that’s structured for working professionals.
- Courses are 8 weeks in length and cover a wide range of topics, including administrative & policy leadership issues, strategic planning & management, leadership & applied ethics, and more. You can select 12 credits of electives.
- There are 2 short campus residencies—one in the first term and one halfway through the program for the start of your dissertation work.
If money is a concern, be sure to apply for the Ed.D. in Interdisciplinary Leadership Community Development Scholarship. This is granted to at least 5 doctoral students with financial need.
Honorable Mentions – Hybrid Ed.D. in Organizational Leadership Programs
University of Georgia
The University of Georgia doesn’t offer online Ed.D. degrees, but it does offer hybrid options! To that end, organizational leaders who live in or around Georgia might want to check out the blended Ed.D. in Workforce Education and the Ed.D. in Learning, Leadership, and Organization Development. These doctorates in education take 3-4 years and combine online coursework with face-to-face elements. They are also cohort-based, which means you’ll build a network of supportive classmates.
Live in the Pacific Northwest? Check out Seattle U’s hybrid Ed.D. in Education and Organizational Learning and Leadership. It’s a 3-year, cohort-based program with a lot of cool elements. You’ll attend 3 summer institutes and classes on Friday evenings and Saturdays once a month. During the third year, you’ll be grouped in a team and work on a thematic doctoral dissertation under the guidance of a faculty committee. Better yet, Seattle U is an Experienced CPED member.
What is an Ed.D. in Organizational Leadership?
Organizational Leadership applies fundamental principles of social & behavioral psychology to the gray-flannel world of organizational management. In an Ed.D. program, the first part of the definition is widened to include principles of education & adult learning.
Training in organizational leadership provides a way for leaders to understand the strengths & weaknesses of their workforce. An education doctorate in organizational leadership may be a good choice if you wish to:
- Create organizations that foster social justice, diversity, and sustainability
- Transform your organization through research-based learning approaches
- Implement innovative solutions to business & organizational challenges
- Help your workforce adapt quickly & effectively to cultural, economic, and technological changes
- Develop & deepen your leadership practices
Professionals in this kind of Ed.D. program come from all kinds of fields, including K-20 administration, non-profits, human resources, corporate training & development, education consulting, government, and the military.
Types of Ed.D. in Organizational Leadership Programs
Ed.D. in Organizational Leadership: Primary Major
Our program database contains more than 80 Ed.D. programs in Organizational Leadership. Within these listings, you’ll find all kinds of unique doctoral programs, including degrees that encompass areas like innovation, learning, development, and strategic change.
Since every organizational leadership program is different, it pays to do a little research into the School or College of Education. What business leaders will be teaching the courses? Is the curriculum relevant to your career goals? Is there an internship? Can you customize electives? You’re looking for practical learning.
Ed.D. in Leadership: Organizational Leadership Concentration
A number of education doctorates in the listings offer organizational leadership as a concentration within a broader leadership or educational leadership program. In this structure, you’ll take a core set of credits in leadership (e.g. ethical leadership, strategic thinking, etc.) and concentration courses in more specific areas (e.g. organizational design & culture, managing complexity, global leadership, etc.).
Examples of this phenomenon include City University of Seattle’s Online Ed.D. in Leadership – Organizational Leadership and Fielding University’s Ed.D. in Leadership for Change – Organization Development.
Ed.D. in Organizational Leadership & Educational Leadership: Hybrid Major
In some cases, organizational leadership and educational leadership have been blended into a hybrid major. Examples include the University of Illinois’s Ed.D. in Education Policy, Organization, and Leadership and the University of Louisville’s Ed.D. in Educational Leadership and Organizational Development. These programs may be best-suited to leaders in K-20 education and related fields.
Ed.D. in Organizational Leadership Specializations
In addition, more & more universities are offering interdisciplinary concentrations in organizational leadership. For instance:
- Barry University’s Ed.D. in Organizational Leadership includes concentrations in Higher Education Administration, Educational Leadership, and Human Resource Development.
- Abilene Christian University’s Online Ed.D. in Organizational Leadership offers tracks in Learning with Emerging Technologies, Positive Leadership, Higher Education, and Conflict Management.
Ed.D. vs. Ph.D. in Organizational Leadership
There are several key differences between the Ed.D. in Organizational Leadership and Ph.D. in Organizational Leadership.
- Degree Focus: The Ph.D. in Organizational Leadership is tailored to academics and researchers who are interested in studying the intersection of psychology and management. The Ed.D. is much more concerned with applied research & practical leadership concerns. Ed.D. students are almost always exploring ways to implement their coursework into their workplace.
- Academic Requirements: Both the Ph.D. and Ed.D. are research-focused doctoral programs. Having said that, the Ph.D. deals with original insights—students are expected to conduct research that advances the understanding and practice of leadership. An Ed.D. in Organizational Leadership may have more real-world courses, an internship or practicums, and a practice-based dissertation or capstone project.
- Career Aims: Ph.D. graduates often go on to jobs in academia or research institutions, although there are some who choose to become C-level executives and administrators. Ed.D. graduates typically seek high-level leadership & management positions within their field.
Want to learn more? We discuss the differences between Ed.D. and Ph.D. programs in detail here.
Earning an Ed.D. in Organizational Leadership
Organizational Leadership Prerequisites
- Master’s Degree: Generally speaking, universities are looking for Ed.D. in Organizational Leadership candidates who hold a master’s degree from a regionally accredited college or university. The major isn’t usually specified—your master’s degree can be in a wide range of fields.
- Work Experience: Some schools don’t specify a work experience minimum; others may ask for a certain number of years in a leadership position (e.g. 2+ years). Anything you can do to show your interest in management & leadership is obviously going to improve your application.
- Minimum GPA: This will vary from university to university. The standard minimum is 3.0, but a highly regarded school may raise the stakes to 3.25-3.5.
- Additional Materials: Schools may also ask to see 2-3 professional letters of recommendation, a current résumé, a personal statement, and/or a writing sample. GRE scores are often not required or optional.
Organizational Leadership Curriculum
An Ed.D. in Organizational Leadership has a few key differences to an Ed.D. in Educational Leadership. Doctorates in organizational leadership do not usually deal with K-20 concerns. Instead, core coursework will focus on areas such as:
- Organizational Learning Theory, Culture & Practice
- Research Trends in Organization and Leadership
- Strategic Thinking
- Change Management
As you dig down into the curriculum, you’ll often be able to focus on particular aspects of the field, including:
- Diversity Initiatives
- Global Leadership
- Collaborative Coaching
- Organizational Design & Culture
- Communication and Effective Leadership
- Leadership Ethics
All doctoral programs in Organizational Leadership will also contain a substantial number of credits in advanced research methods & topics. Most programs take 3-5 years to complete.
Organizational Leadership Internship
Some—but not all—Ed.D. programs in Organizational Leadership contain an internship or practicum requirement. As long as the internships are well-run, we tend to favor these kinds of doctorates. Professional internships will give you a chance to apply your learning amid a constant stream of feedback and guidance.
Examples of organizational leadership programs with this kind of element include the Field Consulting Experience in Wilmington University’s Ed.D. in Organizational Leadership, Learning & Innovation and the 3-course internship process in Oakland City University’s Ed.D. – Option III Organization Management.
Organizational Leadership Dissertation
The Ed.D. in Organizational Leadership will always contain a large research-based project. This can take the form of a traditional 5-chapter dissertation (like the Ph.D.), a Dissertation in Practice (DiP), or a capstone project. We talk more about the differences between these options in our guide to No Dissertation Ed.D. Programs.
A number of highly regarded schools lean toward the DiP or the capstone for the Ed.D. For example, Nova Southeastern University’s Ed.D. in Organizational Leadership contains a Strategic Research Project (SRP) that allows students to solve problems in a real-world setting. And Vanderbilt’s Online Ed.D. in Leadership and Learning Organizations includes a standard capstone project.
Online Doctorate in Organizational Leadership Programs
Are Ed.D. in Organizational Leadership Programs Offered Online?
Several dozen regionally accredited Ed.D. programs in Organizational Leadership in our program database can be completed mostly or entirely online. Among them are the prestigious Vanderbilt University program listed above, as well as education doctorates at respected brick-and-mortar institutions like the University of Illinois, the University of Minnesota, and Baylor University.
Do Online Ed.D. in Organizational Leadership Programs Contain Residencies?
Most Online Ed.D. in Organizational Leadership programs will contain short, on-campus residencies (e.g. 2-3 days); these are often called intensives. For example, universities may wish to see you for an initial orientation, your dissertation proposal, and your dissertation defense. Other schools may want you to collaborate with your peers on leadership projects.
Having said that, there are 100% online doctoral programs in organizational leadership. For example, Abilene Christian University’s Online Ed.D. in Organizational Leadership has no on-campus requirements. Some universities also make residencies “optional,” with online participation available for distance learners who can’t afford the trips to campus.
Organizational Leadership Careers
Graduates of an Ed.D. in Organizational Leadership pursue a wide range of careers. Examples of job titles include:
- C-Level Executive
- Non-Profit Executive Director
- Policy Director
- Program Director
- Vice President of Organizational Development
- Healthcare Executive
- HR Vice President
- Career Coach
- Business Consultant
Is an Ed.D. in Organizational Leadership Worth It?
The answer will depend on your long-term career goals. Because an Ed.D. in Organizational Leadership can be applied to a wide range of job settings, especially outside of K-20 education, it’s important to have a direction before you commit to 3-5 years of a doctorate.
Examine current job listings that appeal to you. Talk to your mentors. Contact recent Ed.D. & Ph.D. graduates on your shortlist of programs. You need to know whether the investment will pay dividends in the future. A major in organizational leadership has become a relatively common specialty for business degrees, so you should find plenty of opinions.
Ed.D. in Organizational Leadership Resources
- Center for Organizational Leadership: Hosted by Rutgers University, the Center provides useful resources for those who are studying organizational leadership principles or want to more effectively integrate it into their work.
- Change Management Institute (CMI): CMI is a global, not-for-profit association of change management professionals. It runs a global accreditation program, offers change management courses, and provides access to best practice events, professional development workshops, and networking sessions for its members.
- International Journal of Organizational Leadership: This peer-reviewed, open-access journal provides years of articles reflecting recent research in the field.
- International Organization Development Association: IODA attempts to make organizational development and organizational change principles more globally accessible.
- Organization Development Network: The Organizational Development Network connects organizational leadership professionals from a variety of disciplines.