Learning Outcomes: Bachelor’s vs. Master’s Degree in Organizational Leadership

Bachelor's vs. Master's Degree in Organizational Leadership

Bachelor's vs. Master's Degree in Organizational Leadership

Where are all the leaders? Employment and industry research studies from the past few years reveal there’s a need for more qualified leaders at companies of all kinds. Here are just a few of those statistics:

  • 56% of companies aren’t ready to meet their leadership needs (Deloitte, 2016).
  • 77% of companies are experiencing a leadership gap (Elucidat, 2016).
  • Only 18% of managers are effective at managing other people (Gallup, 2016).

There’s such a thing as a born leader, but leadership principles and practices can also be learned. Leaders can develop their styles and hone their skills. A master’s degree in organizational leadership is one way to boost your leadership quotient.

First Things First: What is a Leader?

At first glance, this seems like a simple question. You might say, “A leader is the person in charge,” or “A leader manages people.” Those two answers aren’t wrong, but there’s much more to being a leader than to have “manager” or “supervisor” on your name badge, door, or business card.

You’ll find many definitions for “leader,” and one of those is courtesy of the Society for Human Resource Managers which says: “The ideal leader is flexible, proactive, analytical, strategic, culturally competent, and adept at competitive positioning.”

It’s also important to point out that managers and leaders are not synonymous. Leaders can be found anywhere within an organization, whether or not they oversee other people. People with inherent leadership qualities inspire their peers and even those above them, whereas managers give directives to those beneath them.

What’s the Difference Between a Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree in Organizational Leadership?

If you’re looking to get into leadership, whether that means changing or advancing your career, you might be exploring degrees in organizational leadership. Depending on your goals, current educational background, and work experience, you have a few choices, including a bachelor’s degree in organizational leadership or a master’s degree in organizational leadership. We’ll take a look at a few of the differences between these two degrees.

The Goal

Your educational background or work history might inform your decision between the bachelor’s or master’s degree in organizational behavior.

The master’s degree might be right for you if you already have a bachelor’s degree in a business-related area. If you have a bachelor’s degree in a field other than business, but have significant work experience in a corporate environment or have served in a management capacity in any industry, a graduate degree might also be the right place for you to begin your organizational leadership studies.

If you’re interested in a leadership career but do not yet have a bachelor’s degree, a clear starting point for you would be a bachelor of science in organizational leadership. If you already have a bachelor’s degree, but your major and subsequent work experience is in a completely unrelated discipline, earning a second bachelor’s degree — this time in a business and leadership area — could be a good option. In either case, this bachelor’s degree could then be a step toward National’s Master of Science in Organizational Leadership.

The Outcomes

While the bachelor’s and master’s in organizational leadership are rooted in the same principles, by nature, the graduate degree goes into more detail. The master’s is essentially an extension of the bachelor’s degree program and can also open you up to higher-level positions. Let’s take a look at some of the learning outcomes the degrees share, and then what additional milestones are achieved at the graduate level.

At National, both the bachelor’s and master’s program aim to help students:

  • Develop a personal leadership approach.
  • Identify the challenges and advantages of diverse groups in organizations within a global environment.
  • Analyze negotiating styles of leaders and compare and contrast the concepts of leadership and power.
  • Evaluate the ethical implications of leadership decisions and strategies.

The bachelor of science is designed for students to develop effective leadership skills in team and individual environments. It’s also meant to “help students move from an authoritarian paradigm to one of collaboration and integration.”

The graduate degree is essentially an extension of the bachelor’s degree program and can also open you up to higher-level positions. So, the master’s degree in organizational leadership is more about integrating theory with practice. The program focuses on change-oriented leadership, creativity, empathy, and democracy. The master’s program also works in information technology and other digital aspects of leadership.

The Curriculum and Coursework

Another difference between the two levels of organizational leadership degrees is what you’ll learn. Many on-campus and online degree programs require a final capstone project, where you bring together everything you’ve learned into a final research project. At National, you do this at the bachelor’s and master’s level.

Aside from that and a few overlapping courses, your classes would differ depending on which level you’re at. A bachelor’s degree of any kind requires education classes; these could include math, literature, science, history, and the arts. If you’re earning a second bachelor’s degree, however, you might be able to transfer in a certain number of those classes. This can help you earn your BS in organizational leadership quicker and at a lower cost.

The bachelor’s degree in organizational leadership will also include introductory business and leadership courses and topics such as:

  • Legal aspects of business.
  • Principles of management and organizations.
  • Introduction to leadership.
  • Classic studies of leadership.
  • Leading diverse groups and teams.
  • Ethics and decision making.
  • Research for leaders.

Assuming you’ve learned the foundations in your bachelor’s program or in the workplace (or both), the master’s degree in organizational leadership dives deeper into leadership with topics and classes such as:

  • Ethics and classic theories.
  • Leadership in the 21st century.
  • Conflict and power dynamics.
  • Leading change and adaptation.
  • Worldview and adult development.
  • Analysis and decision-making.

A few other differences: The bachelor’s degree level focuses on written and oral business communication, while the master’s degree puts more emphasis on research. The electives available at each level may also differ.

If leading people, a team, or an entire organization appeals to you, explore National University’s organizational leadership and other business programs. Visit our human resources and leadership programs page to find out which of our online degree programs fits your background, interests, and goals the best.

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