Organizational Development Graduate Programs Overview

Organizational development programs typically lead to graduate certificates, master's degrees or doctoral degrees. Learn about prerequisites, course information, and the different levels of education, along with other related information.

Essential Information

Organizational development graduate programs teach students how to work within an organization, set operational goals, enhance employee effectiveness, and improve management systems. These programs are available both on campus and online, though online programs may require several on campus meetings. Graduate certificates can take less than one year to complete, while two years is the typical timeframe for a master's degree. Doctoral programs usually take four years or more, depending on how long a student's dissertation takes to complete.

Applicants for certificate programs and master's programs will need to have a bachelor's degree, along with Graduate Record Examination (GRE) test scores and recommendations. Work experience may be required as well. At the doctoral level, a master's degree may be required, along with undergraduate transcripts, GRE scores and a personal interview.

Graduate Certificate in Organizational Development

Graduate certificate programs in organizational development often entail only 1-2 semesters of coursework to complete, but require an undergraduate background in business or a related specialty. This program focuses predominantly on concepts in team development and change management.

The classes in an organizational development graduate certificate program vary based on the length and focus of the program in question. Some programs focus solely on organizational development strategies, while others incorporate valuable management lessons into their curriculum. Here's a list of common course topics in these programs:

  • Organizational assessment
  • Communication
  • Human resources
  • Staff development
  • Continuous improvement
  • Training and development

Master of Science in Organizational Development

In contrast to the graduate certificate programs for organizational development, the master's degree program includes an overview of graduate-level research, data collection and management strategies. These programs are generally designed for students who haven't yet entered the workforce to gain employment in human resource management or organizational development roles. The master's program often integrates a capstone project, which applies the fundamentals of organizational development to real world scenarios.

The master's program covers many of the same courses as the graduate certificate, but often includes approximately 15-20 credits of non-organizational development instruction. Common course topics include:

  • System dynamics
  • Organizational communications
  • Organizational research and statistics
  • Organizational assessment strategies
  • Conflict resolution
  • Organizational development

Doctor of Philosophy in Organizational Development

A Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree program in organizational development primarily teaches students how to use evidence-based methods to research the dynamics of organizational leadership and development. Some undergraduate majors that might prepare students for the program include those in human resource development, organizational leadership and instructional systems design.

Courses offered in a doctoral program can focus on research methods and the practical application of theory. They are designed for working professionals who want an advanced understanding of how to employ change at high-performance organizations. Some examples of courses can include:

  • Organizational change
  • Training and development
  • Assessment and measurement
  • Diversity in the workplace
  • Advanced leadership studies
  • Organizational theory

Popular Career Options

Many people use organizational development programs to further their role within a company and develop an understanding for how to manage organizational problems. A few careers that are enabled and enhanced by an organizational development graduate certificate include:

  • Human resources manager
  • Organizational development consultant
  • Regional manager
  • Organizational development manager
  • Educational supervisor

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

Graduates of a master's degree program in organizational development can go on to become human resources managers, personnel directors or training and development managers. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), human resource managers can expect to see employment growth of 9% between the years of 2014 and 2024. The median annual salary in 2015 for these professionals was $104,440.

The most common graduate education in organizational development come in the forms of graduate certificates, master's degrees, and doctorates. These programs can help you develop the skills necessary for high level teamwork and management within management systems, like conflict resolution, HR management, organizational theory, and more.

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