Guide to the Best MBA Leadership Online Programs

Develop the knowledge and skills needed to become an effective leader in any business by earning your MBA in leadership online. Find a list of top-rated programs and more in this guide.

Students in online MBA leadership programs gain important knowledge in a range of business-related areas and leadership skills that they can use to inspire and motivate employees to do their best work. That combination of business acumen and leadership aptitude makes an MBA in leadership online graduate desirable in today’s highly competitive job market. Because highly rated leadership MBA programs are available fully online, you’re in a position to pursue this degree while balancing work and personal commitments.

This guide is designed to help you determine the best online MBA in leadership degree program for you. We’ve also included plenty of useful information on what you’ll learn in your online MBA in leadership program, how much you can expect to pay for your degree, what career opportunities await you once you’ve earned your MBA in organizational leadership online, and much more.

B-School Spotlights: Best Online MBA Leadership Programs in 2021

We’ve spotlighted three “best-in-class” online MBA in leadership programs to give you an idea of what to look for in the programs and schools you consider. We’ve based our selections on a number of important factors, including affordability, curriculum quality, study flexibility and convenience, and time required to complete the degree. Consider these spotlights as a preview of our full online MBA in leadership program rankings, which will be coming out later this year.

Liberty University

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The online Master of Business Administration in Leadership from Liberty University offers students a Christian-centered education that prepares them for leadership careers in a range of settings, from small business ownership to top-level executive positions with large corporations. The program offered is 100% online with no on-campus classes, residencies, or other in-person requirements. Classes are presented in an eight-week, asynchronous format that allows students to access and complete their coursework at any time. The entire 45-credit program can be completed in as little as two years.

Requirements for admission to Liberty’s online MBA in leadership program include an accredited bachelor’s degree with a GPA of 3.0 or better. Applicants with a GPA of 2.5 to 2.99 may be admitted on a provisional basis. Students who already have a master’s degree will be assessed on their master’s coursework. Prerequisite undergraduate coursework in business is also required. Current per-credit tuition rates are $565 for full-time students and $615 for part-time students. Discounted rates for military and first responders are available.

Southern Utah University

Southern Utah University’s Master of Business Administration—Leadership combines coursework in team leadership with courses in business-related subjects such as economics, finance, accounting, and organizational chain management. The curriculum culminates with a capstone project in which students apply the knowledge and skills gained in their studies to develop strategic solutions to management challenges. The fully online program is presented in an accelerated format that allows students to complete all degree requirements in as few as 12 months of full-time study.

The current tuition for this 33-credit program is $485 per credit hour. Students entering the program without an undergraduate degree in business must complete and additional three-credit business foundations course. Admission requirements include a bachelor’s degree with a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher. A GMAT or GRE test score is also required, but the requirement is waived for applicants with an undergraduate GPA of 3.3 or higher. Other admission requirements include a current resume, statement of intent (including goals and expectations for the MBA program), and three references detailing the applicant’s academic and/or professional experience.

Youngstown State University

Whether you’re an Ohio state resident or not, the MBA with a Specialization in Leadership from Youngstown State University (YSU) is one of the most affordable online leadership MBA programs available. The current in-state price for this 30-credit program is $450 per credit hour, putting the total program cost at $13,500. Non-Ohio residents pay only an additional $5 per credit hour, putting their total program cost at just $13,650. The leadership-focused curriculum prepares students to apply current best practices in organizational management to a broad range of business-related subjects, including corporate finance and planning, business policy, organizational administration, and cost-based decision-making.

Admission into YSU’s MBA in Leadership program is determined through an evaluation of both the applicant’s undergraduate GPA and professional work experience. The program features an accelerated study format designed with the working professional in mind that can be completed entirely in as few as 12 months. Six program start dates are available throughout the spring, summer, and fall.

Advantages of Earning an MBA in Leadership Online

The business world is all about competition, and that includes the job market. You’ve got to keep up with your professional peers or you’ll certainly be left behind. One of the best ways to stay ahead of your career competition is by earning an MBA in leadership online from a high quality, fully accredited program. Here are just a few of the valuable benefits your degree will provide:

  1. Gain valuable knowledge and skills focused on the most in-demand areas of business

    An MBA in leadership online provides graduates with cutting-edge knowledge and skills in a range of areas to give them the upper hand on their competition. These areas include business technology, strategic planning, cultural competency and global mindset, and many others.

  2. Become a leader in the business field, not just a manager

    Managers play an important role in business, of course, performing tasks such as making budgets, allocating resources, and supervising employees. Business leaders do all of these things, too. But MBA in leadership online graduates go beyond typical managerial duties to provide vision, direction, inspiration, and motivation to team members, resulting in greater business success.

  3. Enjoy the convenience, flexibility, and peer access that only an online leadership MBA program can provide

    Online MBA in leadership programs are designed to provide the maximum amount of study convenience and flexibility possible for working business professionals. And because online leadership MBA programs draw so many working professionals, you’ll enjoy valuable networking opportunities and the benefit of studying with other accomplished business peers.

What to Expect from an Online MBA in Leadership Program

The goal of an MBA in leadership online degree is to equip current and aspiring business professionals with the advanced knowledge and skills that will make them more effective as corporate leaders. Degree programs accomplish this goal with coursework in two major areas: hard skills and soft skills. Hard skills in an online leadership MBA program are those concerning specific business subjects, such as finance, accounting, marketing, business technology, and management. Soft skills cover the development of leadership competencies through courses in leadership theory, communication, conflict management, strategic planning and thinking, and teamwork. In addition, students in a few online programs have the option of completing a culminating capstone project.

Here are five courses currently offered by online MBA in leadership degree programs. These courses are similar to those you’ll tackle in your studies:

Common Online Leadership MBA Courses

  • Corporate Financial Management

    This course provides a general understanding of financial accounting and management in real-world business settings. Students gain the skills to analyze, interpret, and act on financial information and data resulting in sound decision-making for their organizations. Specific topics include capital budgeting methods, financial statement analysis, long-term and short-term financial management, and international finances.

  • Effective Leadership

    The focus of this course is on leadership theory, techniques, and methods, and their applications to effectively communicate the business’s vision, build trust with employees, and achieve shared goals. The course is presented in a workshop format in which students research and evaluate various strategies related to contemporary leadership challenges they will face as business professionals.

  • Legal and Ethical Issues in Management

    This comprehensive review covers common legal issues, including laws, regulations, trade policies, and liability, and ethical issues facing business leaders in the public and private sectors. Students are presented with a number of hypothetical scenarios and challenged to make difficult but necessary legal and ethical choices based on limited factual information and conflicting values.

  • Managing People

    This course focuses on important challenges involved in the effective management of employees as individuals, team members, and on the larger organizational level. Students learn to identify current and emerging human resource issues, recognize and implement best practices for training employees and evaluating their work performance, resolve conflicts between team members, and motivate team members to peak job performance.

  • Strategic Marketing

    Students explore the roles and responsibilities of marketing leaders in private, nonprofit, and public organizations through the use of readings, research, and case studies. Topics covered include the creation and development of effective marketing strategies through segmentation, targeting, and positioning; identifying and evaluating market trends and transitions; and capitalizing on brand equity to expand business and maximize profits.

What You Can Do with an MBA in Leadership

The MBA is one of the most popular degrees among all graduate programs. That’s because MBA degree holders are in high demand by businesses in all segments of the economy throughout the U.S. and around the world. And that means lots of high-paying jobs with plenty of room for career advancement are available. Below are descriptions of five careers readily available to online MBA in leadership program graduates. You’ll also find current estimated annual salary figures provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics and PayScale.org to give you an idea of what you might earn with your new MBA in organizational leadership online.

Chief Executive Officer

The chief executive officer, or CEO, is the highest-ranking executive in a company’s hierarchy and is responsible for carrying out the business’s purposes (as established by the board of directors) and supervising all of its activities. In other words, the CEO is the big boss. CEOs must possess advanced objective-oriented leadership skills in a range of areas, including communication, delegation, team building, strategic planning and thinking, and more.

10th Percentile Median Annual Pay 90th Percentile
$74,000 $155,000 $308,000

Source: PayScale, 2021

Financial Manager

A financial manager is the member of a business’s team who is principally responsible for its economic health. Depending on the specific business, the duties of the financial manager may include preparing financial statements and reports; analyzing economic data to provide senior management with business forecasts and strategies for maximizing profits; managing business investments, credit, and cash flow; and developing policies for limiting risk and protecting against financial losses.

10th Percentile Median Annual Pay 90th Percentile
$68,370 $129,890 $208,000+

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2019

Human Resources Manager

Human resources managers are in charge of the administrative activities of an organization. They’re responsible for overseeing all aspects of a business’s workforce, from recruiting and training employees and supervising their work to managing employee compensation and benefits. Human resources managers also consult with senior management to develop and implement strategies for maximizing employee efficiency.

10th Percentile Median Annual Pay 90th Percentile
$68,300 $116,720 $205,720

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2019

Marketing Manager

The creation and supervision of an organization’s advertising and merchandising campaigns are the primary responsibilities of the marketing manager. Marketing managers work closely with the sales, public relations, and manufacturing departments of their companies to develop marketing strategies that result in increased sales and profits. Additional duties include estimating product and service demand, monitoring consumer trends, identifying new markets, creating product packaging, and consulting in the development of the products themselves.

10th Percentile Median Annual Pay 90th Percentile
$71,010 $136,850 $208,000+

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2019

Sales Manager

Sales managers are in charge of the sales of a business’s goods and services. Sales managers direct the distribution of products and services throughout their company’s sales territories and collaborate closely with senior management and department heads to assure that products are delivered on time to customers. Other responsibilities include setting sales strategies and goals, hiring and training sales staff, and assigning territories to regional sales reps.

10th Percentile Median Annual Pay 90th Percentile
$59,810 $126,640 $208,000+

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2019

Costs and Financial Aid for Online MBAs in Leadership

All college degrees come with a hefty price tag. Online MBA leadership degrees are no exception. Fortunately, there are a number of lucrative financial aid resources you may be able to tap into to help fund your degree. These include scholarships and grants (from both private sources and from schools themselves), assistantships and fellowships, work–study programs, employer tuition assistance programs, and—most commonly—student loans. Student loans are available from a number of sources, but by far the most popular source is the federal government. To learn more about funding your MBA in leadership online degree, contact your school’s financial aid department. And be sure to check out our financial aid webpage.

How Much Your Online MBA in Leadership Might Cost

The chart below provides current tuition prices for three online MBA in leadership degrees. Cost vary substantially, so be sure to consider different programs carefully when choosing the one for you. Further, keep in mind that these figures represent tuition prices only. Your total program costs will be higher with program fees and the cost of internet access, books, supplies, etc.

School Name No. of Credits Cost/Credit Est. Total Tuition Cost

James Madison University

42

$1,000

$42,000

New England College

40

$599

$23,960

Oral Roberts University

35.5

$460

$16,330

FAQs About Online Leadership MBA Programs

What are the admissions requirements for an online MBA in leadership?

The specific requirements for admission into an online MBA in leadership program vary—sometimes significantly—from program to program. So, it’s worth your time to review requirements for all programs you’re considering right from the start so you don’t waste your time on programs you don’t qualify for. Nevertheless, most program requirements are similar to the following:

  • Bachelor’s degree: Almost all online leadership MBA programs accept bachelor’s degrees in any major, although some (Youngstown State’s, for example) require applicants with a nonbusiness bachelor’s to take prerequisite coursework.
  • Minimum GPA: These minimums typically run from around 2.5 to 3.0. In some cases, applicants with an undergrad GPA below the minimum may be admitted by meeting other criteria.
  • Graduate admissions test scores: A few online MBA in leadership programs require applicants to submit GMAT or GRE test scores. Most do not. Some programs waive GMAT/GRE score requirements if the applicant meets other criteria (like a minimum GPA on undergraduate coursework or documented work experience in the business field).
  • Additional requirements: Other common application requirements include professional or academic references or letters of recommendation, a current CV or resume, and a personal essay or statement of intent outlining the applicant’s academic and professional goals.

Are there quality online leadership MBA programs that don’t require the GMAT?

Definitely. Some schools, such as Bethel University, only require the GMAT in some cases, while other schools, such as Youngstown State University, don’t require a GMAT if you meet certain benchmarks. So before you sign up for a GMAT and start studying, take a close look at admissions requirements to see if that GMAT is actually necessary.

How long will it take to finish my MBA in leadership online?

Business schools are keenly aware of the busy professional lives of their MBA students and build their online degree programs with that in mind. As a result, most online MBA in leadership programs can be completed in two years or less. In fact, full-time students in several accelerated programs can finish their studies in as few as 12 months. Some students will require more time to complete their degrees, which is why most online MBA in leadership programs allow two years or more for degree completion.

Can I earn an MBA in leadership 100% online or do I need to go to campus?

Graduate-level business academic study lends itself particularly well to the distance learning environment. As a result, the vast majority of online MBA in leadership programs feature coursework that is accessed and completed 100% online. In most cases, in fact, students are able to complete their entire degree program without ever visiting their school’s physical campus. If you prefer some face-to-face classes, programs such as Regent University’s MBA – Leadership offer the option of combining online and on-campus classes.

What’s the difference between an MBA in leadership and a master’s in leadership?

The difference between the two degrees comes down to whether you want to work in business or in another area, such as education or a nonprofit. An online MBA in leadership provides you with a mix of business skills and leadership courses. A master’s in leadership provides you with leadership courses that are applicable to various industries.

Does a master’s in leadership sound like the better choice for you? Check out our guide to online master’s degrees in organizational leadership.