Just like armies need skilled generals for success in battle, businesses need well-trained and confident leaders to ensure that they make their revenue targets while still working to build and maintain confidence in employees, partners, investors, and everyone else interested in the forward progress of the company. The unique set of skills exercised in executive positions may come naturally to some, but leadership degree programs are out there to help the rest of us gain the strength, wisdom, and perspective necessary to make big decisions.
Business leaders are among the highest paid professionals on the job market, but salary advancement isn't the only reason to learn the finer points of leadership. Nonprofit groups, educational institutions, and many other organizations motivated by aims other than revenue also need people with good leadership skills to help direct their efforts and make their goals a reality.
If pursuing a leadership degree doesn't seem to fit on your calendar at the present time, options still exist to help you continue your education. Taking some online leadership classes while continuing to work a normal schedule can help you get acquainted with formal study in the field before pulling the trigger on a full-time leadership degree plan.
What to Know About Online Degrees in Leadership
The theories and techniques of leadership may overlap somewhat with those learned in administration or management programs, but dedicated leadership degrees tend to focus more specifically on leadership principles and spend less time on operational fundamentals such as marketing, accounting, finance, and data analysis. Here are a few of the subjects often covered in leadership degree programs:
- Fundamentals of human communication
- Persuasion and argumentation
- Organizational behavior
- Ethical decision making
- Interpersonal leadership
- Global leadership
- Critical thinking
- Industrial psychology
- Conflict resolution
While it's possible to earn a leadership degree at the bachelor's level online or on campus, graduate degrees in leadership tend to be more widely distributed than their undergraduate counterparts. Successful business leaders often earn a bachelor's in business administration, management, finance, or another fundamental discipline of the business field and shift their attention to leadership skills after several years' experience in the workforce.
Job Outlook for Leadership Graduates
Leadership degree graduates tend to find themselves in management positions, and data released by the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicates that managerial employment is expected to increase approximately six percent between 2014 and 2024. What's more, the mean annual salary for management occupations was calculated at $115,020 in 2015, and certain occupations within that category showed an even higher average pay.
Here's some more detailed BLS data on a few of the top careers for leadership degree graduates:
|Occupation Title||National Mean Annual Salary |
|Projected Job Growth |
|Total U.S. Employment |
|Chief executive||$185,850||-1 percent||343,400||Bachelor's degree|
|Sales manager||$130,400||5 percent||376,300||Bachelor's degree|
|General or operations manager||$119,460||7 percent||2,124,100||Bachelor's degree|
|Marketing manager||$113,610||9 percent||225,200||Bachelor's degree|
The averages listed above may seem a bit modest, but job growth expectations can vary wildly from region to region. Here are some state-specific growth projections for the careers listed above, calculated for the period between 2012 and 2022, and reported to Career InfoNet by each state's Department of Labor or equivalent organization:
- Chief executives
- Colorado: 20.8 percent
- Utah: 18.2 percent
- Washington: 17.1 percent
- Texas: 16.2 percent
General and operations managers
- Utah: 25.0 percent
- Arizona: 24.4 percent
- Colorado: 24.1 percent
- Texas: 22.3 percent
- Utah: 22.4 percent
- Colorado: 21.7 percent
- Arizona: 21.6 percent
- Texas: 20.4 percent
- Utah: 32.4 percent
- Colorado: 26.6 percent
- Washington: 26.0 percent
- Texas: 25.3 percent
Although many of the top growth figures come from the southwestern American mainland, sales managers are also expected to see significant employment growth in some further-flung locales. North Dakota tied Texas at 20.4 percent growth in the sales manager category, and the U.S. territory of Guam actually reported the highest percentage of expected sales management growth out of all regions surveyed -- a 42.1 percent increase between 2012 and 2022.
Choosing the Right School
Once you're sure that a campus-based or online degree in leadership is the right move for you, it's important to do some research on the schools you're thinking about. One of the most important qualities to look for is accreditation, or the recognition that a school's degree programs are equipped to give you the education you need to succeed after graduation.
Degrees earned from accredited schools tend to have much wider acceptance than unaccredited ones, by employers as well as higher education administrators, and the education you can expect to receive is more likely to cover the full range of concepts used in the professional world. If a school doesn't make its accreditation status obvious in the information it provides online, check with a registrar or admissions representative before enrolling.
Beyond that, though, the criteria you use to determine the right school for you have more to do with your own needs and experience than anything. To learn more about earning a leadership degree online, or get details on a particular program, request information from any of the schools listed below.
- Occupational Outlook Handbook, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, accessed April 21, 2016: Top Executives, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/Management/Top-executives.htm; Sales Managers, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/sales-managers.htm; Advertising, Promotions, and Marketing Managers, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/advertising-promotions-and-marketing-managers.htm
- Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, accessed April 21, 2015: May 2014 National Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_nat.htm
- Employment Trends by Occupation Across States, Career InfoNet, accessed April 21, 2016: Chief Executives, http://www.careerinfonet.org/carout3.asp?optstatus=001000000&id=1&nodeid=2&soccode=111011&stfips=01&jobfam=11&menuMode=&order=Percent; General and Operations Managers, http://www.careerinfonet.org/carout3.asp?optstatus=001000000&id=1&nodeid=2&soccode=111021&stfips=01&jobfam=11&menuMode=&order=Percent; Sales Managers, http://www.careerinfonet.org/carout3.asp?optstatus=001000000&id=1&nodeid=2&soccode=112022&stfips=01&jobfam=11&menuMode=&order=Percent; Marketing Managers, http://www.careerinfonet.org/carout3.asp?optstatus=001000000&id=1&nodeid=2&soccode=112021&stfips=01&jobfam=11&menuMode=&order=Percent
- Council for Higher Education Accreditation, accessed April 21, 2016, http://www.chea.org/