Leadership is about adapting to change, earning trust and gaining support, creating vision, and making ethical decisions. As today’s professional settings become increasingly complex and globalized, leaders are now faced with the challenge of being more sensitive, flexible, and adaptable to the demands and expectations of stakeholders. 

The Master of Science in Organizational Leadership (OL), which began in 1998, equips you with an understanding of leadership principles and opportunities to help you adapt to this changing paradigm and further develop your leadership and problem-solving skills. 

This 30-credit graduate program is designed to meet the needs and schedules of working professionals who currently hold leadership positions or are aspiring to achieve leadership roles in organizations. This program complements almost every background, offering instruction in the complexities of leadership that can be applied in any field.

Program Overview

  • Options: Master’s, Graduate Certificate, 4+1 (MU Undergrads Only)
  • Location(s): Online
  • Credits: 30 
  • Duration: Minimum 12 months
  • Cost: $452 per credit; $13,560 total
  • Deadline: Rolling admissions
  • Start term(s): Fall, Spring, or Summer semesters
  • Career Options: Manager, director, administration, entrepreneur

Bringing Leadership Development Into Reach

Since its inception, Mercyhurst’s Organizational Leadership program has made its name developing leaders, and improving career prospects and earning potential for recent college graduates and established professionals in the process. Part of OL’s continued success can be found in its ability to adapt to changing paradigms in the professional world. Celebrated for its broad applicability across different professional disciplines, OL provides a theoretical and practical framework for professionals who currently hold leadership positions or are aspiring to leadership roles in organizations. Students in the program learn to synthesize contemporary scholarship with insight from Mercyhurst’s service-oriented heritage to articulate their own leadership philosophy and put leadership theories into practice in professional settings.

A Modern Approach to Leadership

The OL program is an excellent alternative for those considering MBA programs, though it differs in several key ways. Whereas MBA programs primarily focus on organizational rules, administrative functions, and procedures in a business structure, the OL program emphasizes entrepreneurship, vision and strategy, team building, motivation and empowering others to meet needs.

Mercyhurst’s Organizational Leadership program emphasizes: 

  • Aligning people by communicating, seeking commitment, and building teams 
  • Motivating and inspiring by energizing, empowering others, and satisfying unmet needs
  • Establishing direction by creating a vision and developing strategies to solve problems

Learning Outcomes

Mercyhurst graduate programs are designed to give our students a competitive edge in the marketplace. Our curriculum will prepare you as a leader who is able to:

  • Distinguish contemporary leadership theories and models, articulate a personal leadership philosophy, and apply appropriate models to an organizational setting.
  • Consistently demonstrate exemplary written, oral, interpersonal, and presentation skills for effective organizational communication.
  • Assess the characteristics of self, others, groups, and organizations as an integral part of the process of leadership, including applying ethical and professional standards to the organizational setting.
  • Engage in independent research by applying critical thinking and inquiry skills in data gathering, synthesis, problem-solving, and decision-making.

The M.S. in Organizational Leadership is a 30-credit program offered exclusively online. With full-time enrollment, students can complete the program in as little as 12 months. 

Coursework focuses on collaboration, interactive exercises, case studies, and the study of theory to develop leaders who know how to drive performance and motivate others to achieve results.

In this 30-credit program, students are required to complete the following core requirements:

  • OL 500: Leadership Theory and Practice
  • OL 502: Leadership and Organizational Behavior
  • OL 504: Research Methods
  • OL 530: Organizational Communication for Leaders
  • OL 677: Leadership Capstone

Students also complete five elective courses in areas of interest. Elective course offerings could include:

  • OL 507: Human Resource Management
  • OL 528: Human Resource Development
  • OL 532: Law for Leaders
  • OL 603: Strategic Marketing
  • OL 605: Innovation and Entrepreneurship
  • OL 607: Strategic Management and Planning
  • OL 635: Change Management
  • OL 638: Corporate Social Responsibility and Sustainability
  • OL 651: Financial Operations and Analysis
  • OL 645: Special Topics
  • OL 675: Internship

Prospective students looking to earn a quick credential or ease into graduate school may opt for the three-course, nine-credit Graduate Certificate in Organizational Leadership. Available 100 percent online, the graduate certificate can be completed in as little as nine months. Those credits can then be applied to the master’s degree, should you choose to continue your education. Learn More.

Course Requirements

  • OL 500 Leadership Theory and Practice
  • OL 502 Leadership and Organization Behavior
  • OL 530 Organizational Communication

Available to qualified Mercyhurst undergraduate students, the M.S. in OL allows students to begin earning graduate credits during their junior years at no additional cost.* Students starting the 4+1 in the fall of their junior years may earn up to 12 credits, shortening their time to master’s completion and saving more than $10,000. Learn More.

Course Spotlight

OL 500: Leadership Theory and Practice 

This foundation course focuses on theories and models of leadership in a variety of organizational settings to illuminate the behavior dynamics of effective leaders. Students examine present and future leadership issues while developing leadership strategies for making a positive difference in their organization and their community.

OL 607: Strategic Management and Planning

This course challenges students to integrate the concept of strategy with the concepts of management and leadership. Students will explore how leaders develop a timely and responsive strategic plan, evaluate action alternatives, and make tactical decisions, while building skills including understanding organizational systems, applying effective business practices, and recognizing the competitive challenges.

Convenient Online Delivery

The OL Program offers flexible course offerings and scheduling for both recent graduates and working professionals. Year-round course offerings and full- and part-time options were designed with working professionals in mind, allowing you to earn your master’s without disrupting your career. Courses are carefully planned to build sequentially on previous concepts, ensuring you make progress and stay on track to master the program material. Your online experience includes opportunities to interact with classmates and professors in real time through applied projects, review sessions and presentations. You’ll be a full Mercyhurst student, with the same access to the university’s amenities, library system, writing center, career services, health center, etc., as an on-campus student. You'll get to know professors and peers through collaborative work and research in our close-knit community.


OL students learn that true leadership is not simply about leading, but rather, inspiring people to follow and work towards achieving positive outcomes.

Alumni Employers

OL graduates go on to do great things. Our graduates have been employed with organizations including:

  • Airborn
  • Align Technology
  • Allegheny Health Network
  • Blue Origin
  • Chicago Blackhawks
  • Emory University 
  • Erie City School District
  • Erie Insurance
  • Internal Revenue Service
  • Nokia
  • PNC Financial Services
  • Spinal Cord Injury Ontario
  • The Plastek Group
  • University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC)
  • Wegman's
  • World Wildlife Federation 

Alumni Job Titles

If you're wondering what type of position you can obtain with an OL degree, some job titles that our alumni have held are:

  • Athletic Director 
  • Chief Human Resource Officer
  • Consultant/Business Analyst 
  • Director of Community Engagement 
  • Director of Strategic Communication
  • Director of Youth Ministry
  • Major Gifts Officer
  • Product Manager  
  • Project Development Officer
  • Recruiting Coordinator
  • Senior Strategy Analyst 
  • Social Media and Marketing Manager
  • Sustainability Manager 
  • Training Specialist
  • Vice President, Community and Client Relations 
  • Vice President, Government Relations 

Admissions Requirements

Prospective applicants for the Master of Science in Organizational Leadership must fulfill the following admissions requirements. At the discretion of the director of the organizational leadership graduate program, acceptance may be granted to applicants who have not fulfilled all the admissions requirements provided they agree to the conditions of the acceptance prescribed by the director.

Admissions decisions are made by the program director on a rolling basis after a holistic review. Applicants can choose to start in either the Fall, Spring, or Summer semesters.

  • Completed (free) online application
  • A bachelor’s degree in any discipline from an accredited school with a preferred overall minimum GPA of 3.0
  • Official transcripts from all post-secondary institutions you’ve attended 
  • A 300- to 500-word personal statement outlining your reasons for enrolling and personal and professional goals
  • One letter of recommendation from a professional or academic source (such as an employer or professor)
  • International applicants whose records are written in a language other than English must have their documents translated into English and a notarized statement attesting to the accuracy of the translations
  • International applicants whose primary language is not English must attain a TOEFL score of at least 79 on the internet-based exam OR an IELTS score of at least 6.5 OR a Duolingo English Test score of no less than 100.

Explore Financial Aid

Earn an affordable master’s degree in organizational leadership with competitive per-credit costs. Visit our Graduate Cost and Financial Aid webpage or contact us at or 814-824-3351.

Contact Us

Anne Zaphiris, Ph.D.
Program Director, Organizational Leadership
Office: Preston 212
Phone: 814-824-3382

Colleen Hordych
Assistant Director, Graduate Admissions
Phone: 814-824-2297

Meet the Faculty

Organizational Leadership
Peter Zohos, MBA, DES
Dean, The School of Business and Applied Business
Anne Zaphiris, Ph.D.
Program Director, Organizational Leadership, Associate Professor
Cheryl Moore, Ph.D.
Program Director, Accounting, Assistant Professor
Jessica Spanogle, MBA
Chair, Department of Business, Assistant Professor
Kimberly Zacherl, MBA, SPHR, SHRM-SCP
Program Director, Human Resources Management, Assistant Professor