As one of the highest-paying master’s degrees, there’s no question that a master’s in organizational leadership can lead to a great career. The question many prospective students have isn’t whether they should move forward to a career in organizational leadership but rather how to go about it. For many professionals interested in working in organizational leadership, there are three main steps to getting into this area of business: earning a bachelor’s degree, gaining work experience and going to graduate school for organizational leadership.
Earn a Bachelor’s Degree
Your first step to attaining a role in organizational leadership is earning a bachelor’s degree. Leaders don’t start out at the top. Instead, they have to work their way up from entry-level roles. Earning a bachelor’s degree prepares you to get your first entry-level professional role and excel in it, which in turn puts you on the path to leadership.
If you don’t have a four-year degree, you’re likely to find that your opportunities for advancement are limited. For all but a few of the management occupations – agricultural manager, food service manager, lodging manager and property manager – the minimum education required for most roles is a bachelor’s degree, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
While master’s degrees in organizational leadership typically do require a bachelor’s degree, most don’t require a specific major. You could earn a specialized bachelor’s degree in organizational management, a more general business administration degree or a degree in a technical subject.
Join the Workforce
Master’s degree programs in organizational leadership are generally meant for students with considerable work experience, not recent graduates fresh out of school. Having work experience in an organization provides you with a foundation of real-world knowledge that is crucial to being a successful organizational leader. When a graduate school program in organizational leadership requires applicants to have full-time work experience, its curriculum can build upon that foundation.
Some master’s programs in organizational leadership have specific minimum work experience requirements applicants must meet. Other programs are more flexible in the amount of work experience they will consider. While it’s ideal for your graduate school application if your career progression shows some upward mobility, you don’t need to have years of experience in a leadership role just to get into a master’s degree program. After all, one of the reasons graduate students go back to school is to advance their careers and move into new roles that weren’t accessible to them before.
Some students in a master’s degree program in organizational leadership are established leaders, while others are just beginning their path to leadership.
Get Your Master’s Degree
A graduate degree isn’t an absolute requirement to work in organizational leadership. In fact, only around 26 percent of chief executives have a master’s degree, and a master’s degree isn’t even in the top three reported levels of education for general and operations managers, according to O*NET. However, having your master’s in organizational leadership can help you get ahead in your career.
For one thing, just adding the master’s degree to your resumé may bump up your credibility and your appeal in the eyes of some employers. Then there’s the fact that putting in the work to earn your master’s degree in organizational leadership demonstrates your commitment to the skills and practices of strategic organizational leadership. The degree emphasizes that your interest in career advancement isn’t just about being “the boss” but instead about the challenge of helping organizations reach their full potential through outstanding leadership.
Of course, the real value of a master’s degree is what you learn in the course of your studies. The curriculum of a master’s degree program in organizational leadership can expand your knowledge of leadership theories and practical strategies. This formal education can be particularly useful for filling in knowledge gaps if your background is in a technical subject rather than business administration or management. When your leadership skills are primarily self-taught or otherwise informally acquired, you may be missing out on essential concepts that can take you from being a good leader to a great leader.
There is no one path to leadership. For some organizational leaders, the career path may include seeking professional certifications or state licenses. Other leaders’ stories include drastic career changes or endeavors in entrepreneurship.