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The 10 Best Online PhD’s in Leadership Degree Programs

A professional research doctorate in Leadership will help you become an expert in organizational leadership and change management, exercise effective leadership in professional and community settings, and deal with the critical issues faced by leaders in every organization in the twenty-first century. Designed to develop senior level leaders, an advanced or terminal degree in Organizational Leadership includes application of leadership principles to real life scenarios and challenges, resulting in performance and effectiveness of any organization. A quality program will balance scholarship with practical application and equip participants with advanced research competencies and strategic change management skills in order to maximize an organization’s productivity and strengthen its competitive advantage. In addition, skill-based applications are an essential part of the curriculum to ensure educational relevance and applicability in today’s challenging business and institutional environments.

With a Ph.D. in Organizational Leadership program you will advance your current career, promoting creativity and adaptability while implementing leadership models that fulfill general organizational needs and objectives. In addition to the overall objectives, organizations of all kinds depend on collaborative, team-oriented, and integrated marketing communication. Armed with an advanced degree in Organizational Leadership, you will acquire the team-building principles to direct, develop, and lead individuals and teams in meeting organizational goals. Prepare to assume high-level positions in today’s global and ever changing multicultural business environment with a doctorate in the field. Potential Career Options include Lead Management, Non-Profit Organization Director, Collegiate teaching, Regulatory Affairs Manager, Consulting, Upper-level Public or Corporate Policy-Making, to name a few. For your convenience, we have compiled a list of the 10 best online Ph.D. programs based on affordability, flexibility, and support services.


  • Affordability (1/3):
    • Average indebtedness of program graduates in the last calendar year.
    • Percentage of graduates who needed to take on student loan debt.
  • Support Services (1/3):
    • Online-specific flexibility, accessibility and support measures for online and non-traditional students
  • Quality Classes (1/3):
    • The average class size
    • The percentage of faculty with terminal degrees in their field

1.) Johnson University

Johnson University, started in 1893, is a private, Christian, co-educational university, the second-oldest bible college in the country, and has been a leader in distance learning for over a century. The establishment sits on a rural, historic, 175-acre campus that hosts a gymnasium, pool, and natural pond on-site and is a short drive away from Knoxville, TN–a great metropolitan hub. Accredited by the Southern Association Of Colleges And Schools Commission On Colleges (SACSCOC) and the Association For Biblical Higher Education (ABHE). Johnson offers faith-based higher education through multiple campuses across the country as well as their online programs.

Johnson University’s Ph.D. in Leadership Studies is offered entirely online, delivered with a Christian worldview, and is designed for working adults with a talent for writing, capacity for advanced studies, and who are driven by research. Doctoral students will focus on the foundations for leadership from a values-oriented educational perspective based on a biblical foundation. The interdisciplinary curriculum covers all aspects of leadership systems: individual and personal, organizational, global, and research. Non-traditional students enrolled in doctoral programs complete 1 or 2 7-week courses each session year-round; the 6 credits per term constitutes full-time status. Students can focus their studies and choose among 3 concentrations: Educational Leadership, Philosophy & Theology of Leadership, and Missional Leadership. The program guarantees support services thanks to the Center for Global Studies, which offers a highly supportive environment, and a faculty that is committed to teaching and advising. Moreover, the program provides affordability thanks to a $575 credit-hour cost. Finally, the program guarantees flexibility thanks to a number of concentrations.

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  • Estimated Tuition Per Credit Hour: $575
  • Flexibility-Enhancing Components: Number of concentrations

2.) Indiana Wesleyan University

Indiana Wesleyan University–Marion (IWU–M), established in 1920, is a private, evangelical Christian institution that blends academics and spiritual life. The establishment occupies an urban, 345-acre campus in Marion, IN–1.5 hours north of Indianapolis. Also accredited by The Higher Learning Commission, IWU–M currently ranks #27 Best Regional University Midwest by U.S. News & World Report. Indiana Wesleyan University–Marion registers approximately 2,933 undergraduate students, guarantees a student-faculty ratio of 14:1, and 66.3% of classes cater to less than than 20 students.

Indiana Wesleyan’s PhD in Organizational Leadership is a faith-centered, innovative, and ambitious doctoral program designed for working adults seeking jobs in research and teaching, and for those seeking leadership positions in corporations, entrepreneurial businesses, health care, faith-based institutions, government, and nonprofit organizations. Individuals who possess strong intellectual abilities, who are comfortable with self-directed learning, and want to work in the field of organizational leadership can complete the program in as little as 40 months. The curriculum requires 3 mandatory intensive sessions, and, although the program is conducted entirely online, physical residencies in July at the Marion, IN campus are required for all students. The program provides affordability because of a $839 credit-hour cost. Finally, the program guarantees flexibility with an intensive option.

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  • Estimated Tuition Per Credit Hour: $839
  • Flexibility-Enhancing Components: Intensives available online

3.) University of the Cumberlands

The University of the Cumberlands (UC), established in 1888, is a private, faith-based leadership and service institution that prepares all students to lead ethically and perform service via volunteering programs. The school sits on a rural 150-acre campus in Williamsburg, KY–190 miles south of Cincinnati, OH and 70 miles north of Knoxville, TN. Affiliated with the Kentucky Baptist Convention, UC is currently ranked #267 High School Counselor Choice by U.S.News & World Report. University of the Cumberlands matriculates roughly 2,900 undergraduate and 2,000 graduate students, provides a student-faculty ratio of 16:1, and 67.1% of classes cater to less than 20 students.

The University of the Cumberland’s online Ph.D. in Leadership prepares you for a wide range of settings and roles but specializes in educational leadership, thus emphasizing leadership within academic institutions. The online curriculum is a comprehensive study of leadership, teaching, and administrative methods, but it will also delve into the politics behind institutional decision making, program implementation, and assessment strategies. The program is designed for individuals seeking high-level positions with community organizations, higher education institutions, and K-12 schools. The curriculum course work focuses on Leadership in Education, the collegiate levels of Business, Criminal Justice, English, Health Sciences, History, Information Security Systems, Math, Psychology, Religion, and Student Personnel. Notably, UC’s innovative curriculum emphasizes critical thinking, communication, problem solving and analytical skills. Finally, the program promises affordability thanks to a $375 credit-hour cost.

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  • Estimated Tuition Per Credit Hour: $375
  • Flexibility-Enhancing Components: N/A

4.) Walden University

Walden University (WU), established in 1970, is a proprietary, coed, public benefit corporation. Walden offers 140 degree programs with more than 300 specializations and concentrations, and cutting-edge technology is used to promote the support that students need to succeed. Student services include a fully-digital library, a career center with practical online tools, and student support available 24 hours/day. The school headquarters are in Minneapolis, MN but Walden has access to a global network of over 100 universities distributed around the world. Also accredited by The Higher Learning Commission, Walden ranked #19 Best Colleges for Adult Learners by Washington Monthly in 2016. Walden University matriculates about 50,000 undergraduate students.

Walden University’s program is an interdisciplinary and customized program that focuses on developing relevant and analytical skills, so students gain real-world experience via in-person academic residencies and virtual field experiences. The program has an estimated completion time of average of 2 years, and the 86 quarter-credit-hour (QCH) curriculum requires 20 core courses that develop alternative solutions to managerial, ethical, and innovative leadership skills. On top of the core courses, students take 15 QCHs of foundational research sequences, 5 QCHs of advanced research sequences, 20 QCHs of specialization courses, and 26 QCHs of proposal, dissertation, and oral presentation. The program provides prestige due to an ACBSP accreditation. Furthermore, the program promises affordability due to a $725 credit-hour cost. The program also offers flexibility due to a number of concentrations and an up to 43 QCH transfer policy. Finally, the program offers support services with a great mentorship network of Personal Advisors, Support for Fundamental Skills, and Career Services.

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  • Estimated Tuition Per Credit Hour: $725
  • Flexibility-Enhancing Components: Number of concentraitons

5.) Liberty University

Liberty University (LU), established in 1971, is a private, non-profit, Southern Baptist affiliated institution and the largest evangelical Christian university in the world that is classified as a doctoral research university by the Carnegie Classification. The establishment occupies an urban 7000-acre campus in beautiful campus in Lynchburg, VA–its central location within the state puts it near Charlotte, NC and Washington, D.C. Also accredited by the Southern Association Of Colleges And Schools Commission On Colleges, LU currently ranks #Tier 2 National Universities by U.S. News & World Report. Liberty University enrolls about 49,800 undergraduate students, and 32.1% of classes cater to fewer than 20 students.

Liberty University’s Doctor of Business Administration (D.B.A) offers 100% online advanced training in professional management, human resources, marketing, and business in general to help students gain the leadership, management, and specialized skills required in any business-related field. The 60-credit-hour program requires 12 core courses after which students choose from several specializations, one of which is Non-Profit Leadership and Management. In the Non-Profit Leadership and Management cognate, courses are offered in Workforce Planning and Employment, Strategic Communication Campaigns for the Digital Age, Non-profit Management, and Grant Acquisition and Management. An applied doctoral research project is also required in lieu of traditional dissertation. The program offers prestige because in 2015, Forbes ranked Liberty University 639 out of 650 as America’s Top Colleges. Additionally, the program guarantees flexibility due to a leadership concentration and an up to 15 credit-hour transfer policy. Furthermore, the program guarantees affordability with a $595 credit-hour cost. Finally, the program offers support services due to Intensive courses that allow students to engage with expert faculty.

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  • Estimated Tuition Per Credit Hour: $595
  • Flexibility-Enhancing Components: N/A

6.) University of Charleston

The University of Charleston (UC), founded in 1888, is a private institution. The school can be found on an urban campus in Charleston, WV–the oldest and largest city in South Carolina with a small town feel but the amenities found in big cities. In fact, Charleston was ranked the “World’s Best City” by Travel+Leisure in 2016. Accredited by the the Higher Learning Commission and a member of the North Central Association, UC currently ranks #72 Regional Universities South by U.S. News & World Report. The University of Charleston matriculates roughly 1,727 undergraduate students, offers a student-faculty ratio of 15:1, and 65.3% of classes cater to fewer than 20 students.

University of Charleston offers an innovative, performance-based curriculum focused on specific outcomes. Designed for working adults, UC’s Organizational Leadership program is a completion program intended for those who have already completed at least 40 credit-hours of undergraduate coursework. On top of the 40 hours of qualifying transfer credit, two years of work experience are also required for most applicants. The 48 semester-hour program can be completed in as little as 18 months, where students will take 2 courses per 8-week sessions. The curriculum requires 10 courses, a practicum on team development, and culminates in an academic paper, digital portfolio, and capstone courses. The program guarantees prestige because in 2017 the University of Charleston School of Business and Leadership Program had its programs ranked highly by two college search sites: affordablecollegesonline.org and accreditedschoolsonline.org. Finally, the program promises affordability due to a $700 credit-hour cost.

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  • Estimated Tuition Per Credit Hour: $700
  • Flexibility-Enhancing Components: N/A

7.) Colorado State University

Colorado State University (CSU), founded in 1870, is a public research institution and the flagship campus of the Colorado State University system. The school sits on an urban-but-verdant 586-acre campus in Fort Collins, CO at the base of the Rocky Mountains foothills–roughly an hour away from Denver and only two hours from major ski resorts, Fort Collins has been ranked by Money as the “best place to live” in the US. Also accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, CSU currently ranks #129 Best National Universities by U.S. News & World Report. Colorado State University matriculates approximately 24,500 undergraduate students, promises a student-faculty ratio of 18:1, and 37.6% of classes cater to fewer than 20 students.

Colorado State University’s Ph.D. in Organizational Development is designed for working executives, researchers, and academics looking for a rigorous and relevant program that balances scholarship with practical application. Strongly grounded in organizational, strategic, and change management theory, the specialization in Education and Human Resource prepares students in: Organizational Learning, Performance, and Change Specialization. The program focuses on a combination of sociological, psychological, systems, and economic approaches to improve performance and effectiveness in businesses and organizations. Notably, participants meet bi-weekly in Denver, and the program has an average completion time of 4 years. The 60-credit-hour curriculum covers Evaluation and Assessment; Scenario Planning & Social, Cultural and Political Foundations of the Workplace; Systems Leadership; Political, Social, & Relational Aspects Of The Workplace; and, finally, Research Skills. The program provides support services due to the opportunity to build a strong professional network. Finally, the program offers affordability because of a $905 credit-hour cost.

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  • Estimated Tuition Per Credit Hour: $905
  • Flexibility-Enhancing Components: N/A

8.) Concordia University Chicago

Concordia University–Chicago, established in 1972, is a private institution rooted deeply in a Christian belief system. The school’s mission abides by seven educational principles: Systematic Inquiry, Clear Communication, Health & Well-Being, Sociocultural Responsiveness, Aesthetic Responsiveness, Christian Literacy & Life, and Servant Leadership. The establishment occupies an urban 40-acre campus in Chicago, IL. Concordia–Chicago currently ranks #41 Regional Universities West and #23 Best Colleges for Veterans by U.S. News & World Report. Concordia University–Chicago registers about 5,200 undergraduate students, offers a student-faculty ratio of 15:1, and 79% of classes cater to less than than 20 students.

Concordia University–Chicago’s EDD/PHD in Leadership offers an organizational leadership specialization that focuses on organizational growth and development from theoretical and systemic perspectives. The program prepares students for innovation, strategic planning & forecasting, innovative change initiatives, organizational diagnostic strategies, and purposeful reform interventions. The 61-67 credit-hour program curriculum is designed to equip students with knowledge to improve perform in any organization by understanding social and political contexts of organizational culture, research-based decision making, strategic research, organizational change assessment. The program guarantees prestige because all Concordia University–Chicago degree programs are approved by the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE). Finally, the program provides affordability thanks to a $595 credit-hour cost.

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  • Estimated Tuition Per Credit Hour: $597
  • Flexibility-Enhancing Components: N/A

9.) Colorado Technical University

Colorado Technical University (CTU) was founded in 1965 in Colorado Springs in a building originally used as a roller rink. CTU is a private for-profit institution with campuses in Colorado Springs and Denver. Since its beginning in 1965, Colorado Technical University has been serving career focused adults by promoting industry-relevant higher education and fostering the development of their professional goals. CTU received a WCET Outstanding Work (WOW) award for its intellipath adaptive learning technology and is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. CTU’s Virtual Campus was recognized as the “Best of the Best” in the Education and Academia category of the Computerworld Honors Program in June 2009. Students can save up to 30% on tuition and time by using a free assessment module called Fast Track. Furthermore, with what they call Experiential Learning Portfolio, CTU recognizes that relevant learning experiences may also be used toward credit. With a total enrollment of 26,330 students, the school provides real world, industry-current programs in a variety of subjects. In 2016, U.S. News & World Report, recently named six Colorado Technical University online degree programs to its prestigious list of Best Online Programs.

Colorado Technical University’s Doctor of Management with a specialization in Executive Leadership is designed for management professionals, and the program prepares students to become management experts. In order to develop strategic thinking, the program emphasizes three sets of competencies: Research & Writing; Leadership & Change Management; and the specific Concentration discipline (Executive Leadership). The 96-credit-hour program requires 76 core and 20 elective credit-hours where the curriculum incorporates ten core instructional courses, five concentration instructional courses, and 9 doctoral research courses. Core coursework includes: Management, Ethics, Leadership Theory & Development, Organization Innovation & Scenario Thinking, Research Methods & Design, and Dissertation Research Process. Concentration courses include: Personal Development As A Leader, Leading Change, Leadership, Technology & Social Media, and Career Strategies For The Scholar-Practitioner. Each class is conducted online but a residential symposium is also required. The program provides affordability due to a $598 credit-hour cost.

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  • Estimated Tuition Per Credit Hour: $598
  • Flexibility-Enhancing Components: N/A

10.) Regent University

Regent University, established in 1978, is a private, co-ed, non-denominational institution known to produce great Christian leaders. The school occupies a suburban 70-acre campus with Georgian-style architecture in Virginia Beach, VA. Regent is currently ranked #Tier 2 National Universities and #196 High School Counselor Rankings by U.S. News & World Report. Regent University enrolls about 2,995 undergraduate students, provides a student-faculty ratio of 19:1, and 61.2% of classes cater to fewer than 20 students.

Regent University’s 100% online program requires minimal on-campus residency. The program ensures a research-based terminal degree with a biblical foundation and will prepare participants to teach organizational leadership at the university level or conduct research in association with the government, corporations, and research institutes. Furthermore, Regent will give you the skills to ensure effective organizational performance and gain a competitive edge around the world as a scholar, teacher, or business leader. The 60-credit-hour program offers 5 different concentrations: Ecclesial Leadership, Entrepreneurial Leadership, Human Resource Development, Individualized Studies, and Organizational Leadership. The program offers affordability because of a $995 credit-hour cost. Finally, the program promises flexibility due to a number of concentrations.

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  • Estimated Tuition Per Credit Hour: $995
  • Flexibility-Enhancing Components: Number of concentrations