What Can You Do With an Organizational Leadership and Learning Degree?

February 19, 2024

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A major shift we are seeing in workplace culture is the acknowledgment that one can be a manager without being a leader. It’s reflected in the increasing number of employees changing jobs or careers due to toxic work cultures, bad management, lack of opportunities for development or advancement, or poor work-life balance — all four of which can be attributed to organizational leadership. One way to combat that and increase employee satisfaction is by investing in meaningful organizational change — and for some, that means investing in a degree in organizational leadership and learning.


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What does a graduate degree in organizational leadership and learning teach?

An organizational leadership and learning graduate degree helps practitioners to put the development of people first. The focus shifts from the management and resourcing of employees to cultivating and growing employees for positive outcomes. It involves recognizing that change is not a top-down process but, rather, is happening at every level. The sooner organizational leaders embrace these principles, the more effective they can be in leader effectiveness and performance.

This may mean addressing work-life balance, remote work capabilities, investing in employee and talent development, and more. Understanding not just how individuals work but also the environment and the organizational settings in which we work — and thrive in — are key to advancing organizational leadership and learning.


Why would I benefit from a degree in organizational leadership and learning?

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If you’ve found yourself bumping up against your capabilities — such as having been promoted into a higher level of management or given more responsibilities — a master’s degree in this field can provide you with the abilities to match your new role. You’ll gain knowledge, skills, and understanding in how organizations work, and how individuals work within organizations. As your competence grows, so does your ability to increase income, pursue advanced career opportunities, and make a meaningful contribution to your organization’s employees and culture — while finding greater value and meaning in your own career.

At the doctoral level, students are encouraged to consider a specific problem or passion of practice they’d like to explore and resolve as it pertains to their own professional experience. Coursework is built upon deepening one’s knowledge throughout the curriculum, positioning the student to be a change agent upon completing the degree. Dr. Julia Storberg-Walker, associate professor within the Human and Organizational Learning department at the George Washington University Graduate School of Education (GSEHD), shared that “A good question is a priceless catalyst that is much more important than a definitive answer in a certain moment.” It can catalyze conversation between collaborators, work groups, and teams — and it can be the linchpin to becoming an effective leader.


What should I consider before pursuing a career in organizational leadership and learning?

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Because the principles underlying this topic are so vast, it means your classmates are likely to come from a diversity of industries and experiences. The benefit of this in a structured academic setting is you’ll have the opportunity to consider new perspectives and angles to apply to your own work. To maximize this diversity of thought, it is crucial that one be prepared to step outside of what you think you know and allow employees, direct reports, or people you collaborate with to really co-create solutions needed by your respective organization. It also requires some reflection — are you more interested in people, learning, development, and making the world a better place? Or are you more interested in the economics of growing a business and advancing a career?

When asked about the distinction between the two, Dr. Russell Korte, department chair and associate professor of Human and Organizational Learning at GSEHD shared, ”We are very focused on developing people not just to be better managers but to be better people in the world. We’re not interested in just developing organizations to be more competitive and profitable but to be better organizations and help people improve their lives in the world.” Understanding where your interests lie can help you determine whether you should pursue an advanced business degree or an organizational leadership graduate degree.


What sort of career can I expect with a degree in organizational leadership and learning?

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The beauty of an organizational leadership and learning degree is that its applications range across a multitude of organizational and career interests. Graduates cover every industry within every sector from government agencies, healthcare, manufacturing, service, retail, nonprofits, consulting, and more. Responsibilities range from corporate training and development, leadership coaching and mentoring, organizational change management, to name a few. It’s also a growing industry, which means there are plenty of opportunities to apply an organizational learning master’s or an Ed.D. in organizational leadership to advance your knowledge and your career.

If becoming an effective manager and leader is of interest to you, consider applying to one of our programs at the George Washington University’s Graduate School of Education and Human Development. You’ll learn about leadership theories and practices, communication skills, psychology and motivation, and ways to maximize organizational performance — all in a way that helps develop both you and your fellow employees within an organization. To learn more about our programs, request information from a GSEHD admissions coach.