How to Get a Master’s Degree in Management and Leadership

Effective management and leadership are the crux of business administration. In a competitive economy, skilled managers are responsible for deriving the most value from all available resources. Through strategic planning, communication, and team-building, managers orchestrate people and processes to achieve corporate objectives.

Master’s programs in management and leadership help you develop the skills to function effectively as an organizational leader. Available as a Master of Business Administration or Master of Science, graduate management and leadership programs generally run sixteen months to two years. To accommodate working professionals, most schools offer a part-time or online graduate degree program.

WorldWideLearn’s guide to the master’s degree in management and leadership prepares you to take this important step in your professional development. Find out how you can earn a master’s degree online and tap into your leadership potential.

Guide to Master’s Degrees in Management & Leadership

Understanding the landscape of graduate management and leadership programs can help you decide which academic and career track best aligns with your goals. Master’s degrees increase your value to employers by cultivating key management skills. Programs focus on the fundamentals of effective leadership:

  • Strategic vision and planning
  • Clear communication and the ability to motivate a team
  • Sound data analysis and firm decision making
  • Organizational savvy, including alliance building and resource management

Instruction ranges from theoretical to applied management and incorporates case study exercises, independent research, group projects, and presentations.


Visit WorldWideLearn’s Guide to Majors to learn more about management and leadership as an academic discipline. Sections on management and leadership and organizational management can give you an idea of the scope and topics covered in each field.

Master’s Degree Options

Traditional and online graduate schools offer master’s programs tailored to the professional objectives of students. Choose among these master’s degrees:

Master of Business Administration

The MBA focuses on management and leadership as practical skills applied in the context of business administration. MBA degrees generally offer a broader foundation in key business functions, including finance, marketing, accounting, operations, and more.

Executive MBA

Similar to the traditional MBA, the executive MBA is specifically designed to meet the needs of experienced managers with a significant background–usually ten years or more–in organizational management and leadership. Executive MBA programs enable senior-level managers to earn a master’s degree online. The curriculum focuses on the unique challenges corporate leaders face.

Master of Science

The MS in Management and Leadership typically takes a step back from the everyday practice of business, approaching management as a social science. This academic perspective challenges students to develop an advanced conceptual foundation for management practice. The Master of Science program culminates in an independent research project on a specific issue or problem in management or leadership.

Despite the more theoretical orientation of the Master of Science, both degrees prepare students for professional careers. MBA students possess the broad administrative and financial analysis skills to navigate corporate management. MS graduates have a deep understanding and a specialist credential in management or leadership, which can be particularly useful in strategic consulting and effecting organizational change.

Resources offers comprehensive descriptions of traditional and online master’s degrees. Check out Online MBA Programs and The Master’s Degree Explained for information about your graduate management program options.

Specializations in Management & Leadership

Whether you decide to pursue a MBA or MS in management and leadership, you have the opportunity to focus your studies on a particular function or issue.

MBA degrees feature functional specializations, which emphasize a specific management role within an organization.

  • Organizational Management. Optimizing the organizational structure and facilitating organizational change.
  • Operations and Supply Chain Management. Strategic planning and logistics.
  • Human Resources Management. Developing policies and programs to boost employee productivity and meet administrative obligations.
  • IT Management. Managing the technological infrastructure of the organization.
  • Financial Management. Analyzing financial data and developing strategic recommendations.

Master’s degrees may also focus on management in a specific industry, such as:

  • Health Care Management
  • Nonprofit Management
  • Industrial Management

Finally, MS and MBA students may focus on an issue in management or leadership:

  • e-Business Management
  • Global Management
  • Change Leadership
  • Strategic Leadership
  • Organizational Behavior

Career Track in Management & Leadership

The majority of master’s degree graduates go on to professional careers in management. Common career paths include:

  • Management consultant
  • General and operations manager
  • Product manager

Graduates who choose to pursue an academic career can continue on to the PhD in management. The Master of Science offers the best stepping stone to a career in academic teaching and scholarship.

Career Prospects

The MBA has developed a reputation as a golden ticket to career advancement. The Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) conducts annual surveys to substantiate the value of the degree. Graduates routinely report a thirty to forty percent increase in salary upon completing the degree. 2008 graduates, for example, claimed a 39 percent salary boost. Meanwhile, over half of MBA alumni–54 percent–receive at least one promotion within five years of graduating.

Plan for a Master’s Degree in Management & Leadership

Once your professional goals and academic interests come into focus, you’re in a position to begin the practical steps of applying to an MBA or MS in management and leadership.

Step One: Find the Right Graduate Management Program

There are hundreds of business administration and management schools in the U.S. alone, each with their own campus and online programs, specialties, reputations, and industry connections. Choosing the right one for you takes careful research. WorldWideLearn helps you investigate your options by providing detailed information on individual programs and schools.

1. Choose a Program Format

Begin your search by taking stock of your program preferences. Graduate business programs offer more diversity in format type than nearly any other discipline. In order to accommodate both pre-professional and mid-career students, schools offer:

  • Campus and online master’s degree options
  • Full-time and part-time, self-paced study
  • Day, evening, and weekend schedules

Depending on your circumstances, program format could emerge as a major deciding factor in your school search. An estimated 75 percent of all MBA students and 61 percent of full-time MBA students work more than 35 hours a week while completing the master’s degree. Online management programs facilitate this work-study schedule. Working professionals can earn a master’s degree online without putting their careers on hold.


Explore the benefits of an online master’s in management and leadership at WorldWideLearn. You can find descriptions of online degrees, online MBA programs and on-campus master’s degree programs.

2. Find Accredited Online MBA or Master’s Degree Programs

Develop a list of schools that meet your program format criteria. Whether you choose a traditional or online master’s in management and leadership, it’s important to look for schools accredited by a recognized accrediting agency. These independent authorities review programs regularly to ensure academic quality. In addition to establishing the value of your master’s degree, accreditation is an important factor in securing financial aid.

Find out more about accreditation standards at The U.S. Department of Education maintains a list of approved international and regional accreditation agencies.


AACSB Internationalthe Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business–is the preeminent accreditation authority for master’s degree and MBA programs. Search the AACSB’s database of 600 accredited graduate management programs by degree level, field of study, location, and campus or online format. features a searchable database of accredited online master’s degree programs in management. Search online business degrees in management & leadership, online MBA programs, as well as campus-based master’s degrees in management & leadership. You can also search degrees by location for campus graduate degree programs near you.

3. Explore Academic Programs

Narrow down your list by exploring academic programs in detail. Factors to consider include:

  • Curriculum: What is the required coursework? Does the degree include an independent capstone project?
  • Faculty: Industry professionals or academics? What are their areas of expertise?
  • Course Format: Do courses emphasize lecture, group projects, or independent research?
  • Internship and Industry Relationships: Are internships, clinics, and corporate competitions a feature of the program?
  • Student Life: Networking is a critical part of graduate school, particularly MBA programs. Will you have the opportunity to socialize and work with your peers?
  • Career Support Services: Which companies recruit at the school? What career support resources are available?

Resources helps you vet graduate programs by matching you with schools that fit your academic program criteria. You can arrange for school representatives to contact you by phone or email to discuss the program. This system saves you time and enables you to cover more ground in your research.

School Web sites feature detailed information about how to earn a master’s degree online, course requirements, faculty expertise, and career resources.

4. Evaluate Program Quality

Finally, zero in on your top six to ten graduate schools by evaluating the quality and reputation of each program. Reputation plays an especially important role in choosing among MBA programs, since name recognition drives the degree’s clout in the job market.

Factors to consider include:

  • Reputation and Ranking
  • Selectivity
  • Job Placement Results
  • Student Demographics and Background
  • Military-Friendly Programs


Informational Interviews with admissions counselors and faculty give you the best sense of whether the program is right for you. These meetings also offer you the opportunity to solicit data on job placement, selectivity, and student demographics.

Rankings offer a sense of the school’s reputation among national and international employers. The following rankings carry the most influence:

  • U.S. News & World Report. The Business Schools Specialty Rankings in Management offers a guide to top MBA programs.
  • Financial Times. The newspaper features an international ranking of Masters in Management programs.
  • The Wall Street Journal. This ranking focuses on Executive MBA programs in management.
  • BusinessWeek. The magazine breaks down rankings by program format, with separate listings for full-time, part-time, and online MBA degrees.
  • The Economist. The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) includes a ranking of full-time international MBA programs.

Step Two: Apply to MBA or Master’s Programs in Management

Once you have a shortlist of graduate schools, you’re ready to prepare and submit applications. WorldWideLearn’s Education Resources Guide offers useful resources for applying to graduate school, with information about test preparation, prerequisite courses, and financial aid.

Though each school features different requirements, expect to encounter the following steps:

1. Complete Prerequisites

The following requirements ensure your eligibility for graduate-level management education.

  • Basic Business Courses. If your undergraduate degree is in an unrelated field, you may need to supplement your academic background with prerequisite economics or business courses.
  • Standardized Tests. Plan to take the GMAT (Graduate Management Admissions Test) for MBA programs or the GRE (Graduate Record Examination), typically required for master’s degree programs. International students also need to take the TOEFL to prove their command of English.
  • Work Experience. Some master’s degree programs such as the Executive MBA are geared toward professionals with some work experience under their belt.

2. Prepare Application Materials

In addition to the application form, you may need to submit the following supporting materials:

  • Academic transcripts
  • Test scores
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Entrance essay
  • Resume

3. Financing the Master’s Degree

You may encounter your first financial planning lesson before you begin your business management program. Planning your school finances involves researching and applying for school, private, and government funding.

Funding sources include:

  • Grants and scholarships. Schools, private foundations, and industry education may offer funds to promising managers.
  • Employer educational reimbursement. According to GMAC, 7 percent of full-time and 63 percent of part-time students funded their MBA at least in part through employer reimbursement.
  • Student loans. The federal government offers low-interest loans. Make up the difference with a private bank loan.
  • Other: Work-Study programs and tax credits for U.S. citizens can help offset the cost of your education.

WorldWideLearn offers more information detailing your funding options for your master’s program.

Step Three: Network, Network, Network

Whether you earn a master’s degree online or in person, the value of your degree has as much to do with the people you meet as the concepts you learn. Start building relationships with industry leaders, experts, and peers by tapping into academic and professional networks. Universities, business schools, and professional associations sponsor various resources to foster connections among business leaders. Meet people and exchange ideas at conferences, networking events, and on internet discussion boards.


A master’s degree in management and leadership challenges you to discover and cultivate your inner leader. Make the most of this formative experience by focusing your goals and preparing for graduate study. You’ll emerge from the program with the skills and credentials to take on more responsibility and realize your career potential.


  • “2009 Full-Time MBA Ranking,” Economist Intelligence Unit. The Economist.
  • AACSB Accredited Business Schools Database, AACSB International–The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business.
  • Best Business Schools Specialty Rankings: Management, U.S. News & World Report (2009).
  • “Business School Rankings and Profiles,” BusinessWeek.
  • Center for Leadership Development & Research, Stanford Graduate School of Business.
  • College of Management, University of Massachusetts.
  • Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs, U.S. Department of Education.
  • Exploring Graduate Business Degrees, Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC).
  • Master of Science in Management and Leadership, Graziado School of Business and Management, Pepperdine University.
  • Master’s in Management 2009, Business School Rankings. Financial Times.
  • “MBA Rankings and Executive Education Programs,” The Wall Street Journal.
  • “What Graduating MBAs Say,” Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC).
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