Organizational Leadership vs. MBA: Which Degree Should You Get?

A graduate degree can expand your career options and prepare you to pursue higher-level positions in your chosen field, but earning the right master’s degree is crucial to your overall success. Many business professionals find themselves deciding between a master’s in organizational leadership or an MBA program. Both advanced degrees focus on business topics and leadership skill development.

What is an Organizational Leadership Degree?

A Master of Science in Organizational Leadership is a graduate degree program concentrated on organizational strategy and development. Generally referred to as an MSOL, this degree is ideal for business professionals interested in honing their leadership skills and pursuing high-level management positions in their chosen industry. According to Coursera, the master’s in organizational leadership degree program is unique in that it develops not only soft skills but also practical skills, such as data collection and analysis.

What Is an MBA?

A Master of Business Administration (or MBA) is an advanced degree that prepares professionals for high-level business management positions. By focusing on the functional areas of business, exploring advanced business topics, and promoting leadership skill development, this degree program can provide a pathway toward a variety of career opportunities. According to Indeed, the MBA is one of the most popular graduate degrees for young professionals looking to advance their careers.

Differences Between Organizational Leadership and MBA Degrees

The master’s in organizational leadership and MBA are both valuable degree programs ideal for business professionals wanting to grow their careers, yet there are a few distinct differences between the two programs. Knowing what organizational leadership is and what sets it apart from the MBA can help you determine which graduate degree is the best option for your career.

Subject Focus

Within a master’s degree in organizational leadership program, coursework often focuses more heavily on leadership skill development and competencies required in managerial positions. Some subject areas the program emphasizes include organizational design and development, decision-making, collaboration in a corporate environment, and performance management practices.

However, in an MBA program, the subject focus is almost exclusively on the functional areas of business. Students enrolled in an MBA program take classes in accounting, marketing, human resources, finances, and other business topics. While these courses place an emphasis on skill development, the primary purpose of this type of degree program is to explore in-depth, advanced business topics.


Both Master of Science in Organizational Leadership and MBA programs offer a curriculum that prepares you for advanced positions within your career. However, understanding the differences between the two programs can help you narrow your focus and select a degree that best aligns with your career aspirations.

Within the MSOL program, the curriculum is anchored by courses that cover the skills required of managers and leaders. Some potential required courses as part of a master’s degree in organizational leadership program include:

  • Organizational Behavior
  • Project Management
  • Strategic Management of Innovative Technology

In an MBA program, courses focus more heavily on the functional areas of business. Examples of courses that may be required for an MBA include:

  • Global Operations and Supply Chain Management
  • Finance
  • Marketing

Program Length

Both the MBA and master’s in organizational leadership have a similar program length. At Excelsior University, the MSOL program requires students to complete 30 credit hours to graduate, while the MBA program requires 33 credits to graduate. Depending on the pace you choose for your online degree program, you could likely complete your master’s degree in organizational leadership or MBA in one or two years.

Skills Needed

Due to the different scopes of these degree programs, the skills needed to succeed vary. For the master’s in organizational leadership degree, data collection and analysis are integral parts of the curriculum. You would not only need refined communication and collaboration skills but also well-developed analytical skills.

In the MBA program, you may find a different skill set is required. Some ideal skills that may help you through your MBA program include technology, interpersonal, financial, and advanced business skills.

Both programs focus on advanced business topics as well as skill development, so you would have an opportunity to improve your business acumen and leadership skills throughout your master’s degree program.


Both the master’s in organizational leadership and MBA programs have concentrations that enable you to specialize in a particular area and personalize your degree to best complement your career goals.

At Excelsior University, our Master of Science in Organizational Leadership with an Emphasis in Technology and Data Analytics helps students become proficient in the best data collection techniques and analysis strategies. Recognizing the critical role big data plays in organizations of all sizes and across all industries, this degree program uniquely prepares students to meet the increasingly complex needs of modern businesses and corporations.

The MBA program offers several concentrations, so you can select the one that best aligns with your personal strengths and professional goals. The concentrations available as part of Excelsior University’s MBA program include:

  • Cannabis Control
  • Finance and Accounting
  • General Business
  • Health Care Management
  • Human Resource Management
  • Leadership
  • Marketing

As an MBA student, you can choose up to three concentrations—giving you the opportunity to enjoy a well-rounded, engaging education experience that prepares you for advanced positions in the world of business.

Career Opportunities

No matter the master’s degree program you select, you could pursue management positions in your chosen field. Some of the most common organizational leadership jobs include:

  • Project manager
  • Human resources manager
  • Management consultant

Examples of jobs available to MBA graduates include:

  • Business operations manager
  • Financial analyst
  • Business executive

MBA or MSOL? How to Choose the Right Program

Understanding the key differences between the MBA and MSOL degree programs can help you weigh your options and make a final decision. Identifying your career goals and remaining aware of your personal strengths and interests can help you quickly determine which degree is ideal for your career.

Pursue an Advanced Degree at Excelsior University

At Excelsior University, we offer both an online Master of Science in Organizational Leadership and an online MBA program, giving you an opportunity to pursue the degree that is best suited to your personal interests and career goals. Regardless of the graduate degree program you choose, you could enjoy a challenging and invigorating curriculum focused on leadership skill development.

Request more information about our graduate degree programs today.