Leadership and Management Online Degrees: What's the Difference?

Management is just one component of the broader field of leadership. Online management degree programs are offered primarily at the bachelor's and master's levels, while online leadership degree programs can be found mainly at the master's and doctoral levels.

There are different online degree options available in leadership and management. Areas of focus also vary between these two subjects.

Differences Between Leadership and Management Online Degrees

Leadership can be broken into key areas that include organizational culture, strategic thinking, ethics and management. Thus, management is just one component of the more extensive discipline of leadership. In addition, online management degree programs generally focus on management principles within a business environment. Online leadership degree programs concentrate on applying leadership principles to a variety of areas.

Leadership vs. Management Online Options

Many colleges and universities offer online bachelor's- and master's-level management degrees. In contrast, the majority of online leadership degrees are offered at the master's and Ph.D. levels. Many of these programs may provide optional or required residency periods that allow students to interact with their peers and instructors on campus.

Online leadership degree programs typically offer a different set of concentrations than management degree programs. One may enroll in a leadership program that focuses on organizational, strategic, community or workforce leadership. Institutions also offer many online leadership degrees in various areas of education.

On the other hand, many online management degree programs are offered as part of Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) or Master of Business Administration (MBA) programs. Possible focus areas include business management, project management, human resources management, operations management and information systems management.

Leadership vs. Management Curriculum

An online management degree curriculum consists of management and business courses. Typical courses include the following:

  • Marketing
  • Business law
  • Financial management
  • Economics
  • Accounting
  • Statistics
  • Organizational behavior
  • Management principles

An online leadership degree curriculum concentrates on subjects directly applicable to the field of leadership. They may include courses that cover these subjects:

  • Collective bargaining
  • Conflict and negotiation
  • Policy making
  • Labor relations
  • Employment relations
  • Psychology of leadership
  • Information technology
  • Communications

Career Options

Graduates of online leadership and management programs have a variety of future career options from which to choose. Students taking an online graduate leadership program are trained to lead entire organizations and businesses. An online graduate leadership degree program can be viewed as a professional degree leading to CEO and administrative positions. Students taking an online management degree (at either the undergraduate or graduate level) may instead go on to job positions managing a department in a business or organization rather than the entire organization itself.

While online leadership and management programs both help prepare students for high level jobs in various industries, management programs typically focus on business topics, while leadership programs usually provide a heavier emphasis on communication and human relations.

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