It takes a lot to be a great leader. While having the right personality traits to motivate and bring out the best in others is crucial, so is learning the skills you need to strategize, delegate tasks and measure performance. A college education is necessary to reach your full potential as a leader. There are different types of degrees that are dedicated to training students to become the best leaders they can be, including business management degrees and organizational leadership degrees. You can earn a management degree in as little as two years if you choose the associate’s degree route, but most business leaders pursue a higher level of education. Many managers have a bachelor’s degree, and the Master of Business Administration (MBA) is a popular degree path year after year.

Two-Year Degrees in Management and Leadership

The fastest path to bringing out your inner leader is the associate’s degree. These degrees typically require two years of full-time study at a junior college or community college. An associate’s degree in business management might include coursework in introductory business principles, management principles, human resources management, financial management, organizational behavior, business law and business and technical writing. You might also take courses in different business disciplines, like accounting, marketing and economics, as well as your required general education courses.  A leadership development associate’s degree program might offer some different coursework, like personal skills and legal issues for supervisors, project management, business finance and budgeting, corporate entrepreneurship, workplace innovation, quality management and teambuilding.

Can a two-year degree really qualify you for business leadership roles? For most students, an associate’s degree in leadership or management is just one of several steps on the road to a managerial career. Most of the jobs you can get with an associate’s degree in management are entry-level and require significant work experience or further education for advancement.

Generally, business management degree programs are considered broader in scope and more focused on management theory than business administration programs, which emphasize developing technical skills and include a field of specialization. 

How Long Does It Take to Get a Degree in Leadership and Management?

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Bachelor’s Degrees in Leadership and Management

The education needed for most management roles is a bachelor’s degree, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Four-year colleges and universities grant bachelor’s degrees in business management, organizational leadership and similar programs of study. Bachelor’s degrees are intended to take twice as long to complete as the average associate’s degree and may include more demanding general education requirements, a more robust group of core business courses and more extensive major coursework than their two-year counterparts.

In an undergraduate business management degree, you should expect to take classes in management principles, project management, change management, business management tasks, operations and supply chain management, business law and ethics, organizational behavior, business strategy, human resources management and similar subjects. Bachelor’s degrees in organizational leadership often include some of the same coursework as business management programs, including studies in economics and organizational communication. However, these programs tend to be more multidisciplinary in nature, including classes such as industrial psychology, critical thinking and motivation in the workplace. Major-specific courses for organizational leadership majors might include Introduction to Leadership, Leadership Development, Communication Skills for Leaders and Collective Decision Making.

A major difference between the curricula of business management and organizational leadership programs is that business management programs tend to include more studies in other aspects of business, such as accounting, finance and marketing.

Graduate School for Business Leaders

For many years, the Master of Business Administration (MBA) has been the standard graduate degree for business managers. MBAs offer a broad curriculum but allow students to focus their education by choosing a specialization, which may include management. However, other options besides the MBA are also becoming popular. Some students pursue a Master of Science in Management degree instead of the conventional MBA. These programs focus less on developing technical and analytical skills and more on developing the skills to work with the people who make up any organization, rather than business entities only. Similarly, programs like the Master of Science in Organizational Leadership help students cultivate the soft skills they need to lead people in settings within and outside the business world.

Often, the admissions requirements for a Master of Science in Management or Master of Science in Organizational Leadership degree program are different from those of MBA programs. Students in these programs typically have less work experience.  

Additional Resources

What Is the Difference Between a Business Administration Degree and a Business Management Degree?

What Is the Difference Between an MBA and a Master’s in Organizational Leadership Degree?

How Long Does It Take to Get a Degree in Business?