MBA vs. organizational leadership: Determining the degree to meet your career goals

MBA vs. Organizational Leadership

When you think about taking the next step in your career, it’s almost always going to require some form of additional training or education. Heading back to the classroom — even the virtual classroom — is often one of the best ways to the gain the additional expertise you’ll need to advance your career.

But even if you’re sold on the idea of moving your professional life forward by going ahead with school, determining the precise degree path you want to pursue can be a bit more difficult. This is particularly true in the business world. Two graduate-level options you commonly see in this realm are a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree and a Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership (MAOL).

So, how can you make a decision when weighing MBA versus organizational leadership for your degree? Join us as we explore each of these paths in greater depth.

Why get a master’s degree?

There are many different ways to advance in the business world — some more effective than others. As you map out the next phase of your professional journey, you may be wondering whether earning a master’s degree will actually be worth the investment.

The truth is, competition is only increasing for jobs in today’s market. The number of people age 25 and older who have earned their graduate degree is also growing. In fact, the U.S. Census Bureau reports the share of professionals with advanced degrees has more than doubled since 2000.

It’s also true that job openings and salary prospects seem to increase along with educational attainment. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), occupations that typically require a master’s degree are projected to grow at significantly faster rates than occupations with different educational requirements. One report even shows that master’s degree-holders make an average of $17,000 more per year than those with just a bachelor’s degree.

MBA vs. MAOL: What’s the difference?

When it comes to master’s degree options for ambitious professionals, know that different programs align with varying professional goals. We spoke with Dr. Monica Shukla-Belmontes, associate professor of business administration at University of Massachusetts Global, to learn more about the ways MBA and MAOL programs can benefit students like you. She says these degrees are equally appropriate for students who are interested in many industries.

“Both contain rigor and require a depth of understanding of key business theories and how they can be applied to real-world scenarios,” Dr. Shukla-Belmontes explains. “Both challenge students to use critical thinking and innovation skills when considering real business and organizational case studies.”

While there is certainly some overlap in the topics covered in an MBA program and an MAOL program, she notes that the differences emerge when you compare the lens through which the subject matter is approached. An MBA, for example, will focus on the functional skills business leaders need to excel. Meanwhile, an MAOL focuses more on the science of leadership.

“In both programs, you may learn about operations management,” Dr. Shukla-Belmontes elaborates. “But the MBA will study these concepts with respect to cost-benefit analyses, whereas the MAOL may focus on strategic organizational dynamics and management.”

What to expect from an MBA program

Many professionals have found success thanks to their MBA programs. This graduate track provides the tools you’ll need to manage and lead organizations that can be successful in today’s dynamic, global business environment.

“An MBA would be most appropriate for those seeking a career that would require broad functional area skill sets,” Dr. Shukla-Belmontes says.

After completing a quality MBA program, students should walk away with the knowledge to:

  • Analyze and evaluate business functions and processes
  • Evaluate and formulate effective domestic and global business strategies
  • Integrate ethics, corporate social responsibility and sustainability in decision-making
  • Identify, evaluate, communicate and implement effective leadership of a diverse workforce
  • Research, design and apply the innovation process from creativity to solution design and implementation

At University of Massachusetts Global, you can actually customize your MBA program to align with your career goals by adding an emphasis in one of many different functional areas — accounting, finance, health administration and international business marketing are all options.

What to expect from an MAOL program

Organizational leadership plays a pivotal role in just about every industry. Students in MAOL programs develop the cross-disciplinary leadership skills that are often required to empower others to reach their goals.

“An MAOL program is applicable to a range of managerial career options, such as training and development, human resources, strategic operations or diversity and equity initiatives,” Dr. Shukla-Belmontes explains. “While there is a more quantitative and analytical aspect to an MBA program, there is more of a reflective and situational analysis nature to the leadership courses in an MAOL program.”

Students who earn an advanced degree in organizational leadership should gain the skills needed to:

  • Assess an organizational issue from multiple leadership perspectives to recommend solutions
  • Analyze institutional challenges by applying individual, group and organizational theories
  • Evaluate leadership strategies that promote organizational diversity and multicultural inclusion on a global scale
  • Create a personal ethical decision-making model
  • Apply change management strategies to practical situations

Organizational leadership programs focus on developing the people and conceptual skills that are essential to a company’s success — operating on the understanding that individual growth contributes to the organization’s bottom line.

Choose the right advanced business degree for your goals

Making the commitment to hit the books and earn a graduate degree can feel like a huge decision. But it’s clear that a master’s degree can have a sizable impact on your future career prospects. As for making a choice when weighing MBA versus organizational leadership, you now have the information you need to determine which track is the best fit for you.

If you’re focused on sharpening your business acumen and learning about the functional, skills-based side of leadership, explore your options with University of Massachusetts Global’s Master of Business Administration degree.

If you’re more interested in learning about the science of leadership, focusing on strategy, organizational change and human behavior, take the next step with a Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership.

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