Online Master of Organizational Development
Master of Organizational Development In Context

All modern organizations face constant change; some proactive and welcomed, others from external factors and enforced. Whether the change relates to a new technology, the increasing globalization of modern business, new compliance laws, or fresh opportunities within an evolving market, organizations need leaders, processes, systems, and staff that are ready to meet change and transform as needed to remain competitive and positioned for success.

These types of strategic shifts happen with increasing regularity as the pace of modern business grows faster. With a Master of Organizational Development, you can become a professional who does more than simply embrace change; you can become the agent behind these strategic shifts, paving the way toward a healthier, more productive and agile workforce.

A Master of Organizational Development degree combines organizational management theory with behavioral science to assess situational leadership strategies and help organizations work effectively through periods of change.

Graduates of the Master of Organizational Development introduce strategic change confidently, delivering a values-based, academically rigorous perspective that builds a healthy workplace where employees are loyal and engaged.

What is a Master of Organizational Development?

Gallup reports that only 30% of employees are engaged at work — which means two-thirds of organizations risk turnover due to employee dissatisfaction. [1]

A Master of Organizational Development helps you gain the skills and knowledge to improve productivity, worker engagement, and overall efficiency in a business. You can learn how to:

  • Address modern organizational challenges
  • Take the lead on internal change initiatives
  • Increase employee effectiveness and productivity
How long does it take to earn this degree?

The program duration will depend on the mode of study (part-time or full-time, on-campus or online), but a two-year full-time duration is common. Some accelerated programs offer the chance to graduate in as few as 18 months, and part-time programs allow students to progress at a pace that suits them.

What can I learn in this program?

Your curriculum will depend on the university, the program track, the core courses, and any electives you choose. Topics may include strategic staffing, enterprise sustainability, group dynamics within an organization, and human resource leadership. [21]

Who might pursue this degree?

The master’s in organizational development degree is intended for students who wish to assume a leadership role in an organization, such as in an HR-related, cross-disciplinary function. Not all graduates will move into HR, however, and some will pursue executive, project management, IT director, or training specialist roles.

For example, the organizational development degree can help you gain specialized HR management skills to improve your employability for more senior roles or position yourself for a career shift.

What’s the next step after earning this degree?

Typically, students considering the organizational development master’s have an undergraduate degree in a related discipline such as business studies or human resources.

Beyond the master’s, there are also various graduate-level certificates and programs that offer further specialization — for example, graduate certificates that combine organizational development with change consultancy skills or operational excellence.

Why earn a master’s in organizational development?


The role of an organizational development specialist enjoys greater creativity than many management functions, thanks to its reliance on softer skills, developing working relationships, and internal communication.

Salary benefits

Broad management degrees attract median annual salaries of $98,560. However, focused HR managers — including organizational development managers — earn higher average salaries of $106,910. [22] Forbes has found that human resources managers are the ninth highest-paid management career. [2]

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects the human resources field to grow 9% from 2014 to 2024, which is faster than average. HR specialists have a median salary of $59,180 as of 2016, with the top 10% earning more than $101,420. [3]

New opportunities

As the need for organizational development professionals continues to grow, certain roles are particularly in demand. Two of these are workforce development professionals and management consultants, with consulting services expected to see 18% growth. [4]


Achieving a degree offers a powerful sense of personal satisfaction. Alongside your professional development, you will be equipped to foster better employee programs and to positively influence organizational structures to help create better workforces. [5]


The organizational development master’s is available in both traditional and online programs. Both are viewed as high-quality alternatives to traditional MBA programs or business master’s degrees.

Return on investment

With the Master of Organizational Development, job security and employment growth are higher than average. For organizational development professionals, the earning potential is also above average, meaning a strong ROI. [6] For example, an organizational development specialist can expect to earn approximately $75,000, [9] while the average organizational development manager earns $108,705 per year. [23] Compare that to the national average salary of $37,040 for all occupations in 2016. [24]

How do I choose master’s in organizational development program?

While all students have their own needs, key areas to consider are:

  • Curriculum — Consider whether it aligns with your main interest areas and whether options exist to study these areas through specializations or electives.
  • Accreditation — Is the program accredited by recognized, quality organizations?
  • Faculty — Is the faculty recognized in the field for research excellence?
  • School or program reputation and rankings — Colleges are ranked on a range of factors such as research excellence, student satisfaction, and graduate job prospects.
  • Program delivery method — You may want the experience of on-campus learning or prefer the flexibility of an online program.
  • Program length and credit hours — You may want to tailor your learning according to your own needs. For example, a part-time program may be recommended if you need to work and handle personal responsibilities while you study.
  • Success of previous students — Consider employment rates of other graduates, find case studies, and ideally speak to graduates.
What skills can I gain with a master’s in organizational development?

Skills you can learn with an organizational development master’s include:

  • Outlining training strategies for employees
  • Aligning training goals with overarching organizational goals
  • Creating educational materials for training purposes
  • Monitoring the effectiveness of training, as well as managing training staff

Upon completion of the program, you can gain the tools, theory, and cross-disciplinary knowledge to improve organizational resilience and effectiveness.

Program structure

Synchronous or asynchronous

Organizational development master’s programs can be either synchronous or asynchronous. Students with work and family commitments may prefer the flexibility of asynchronous methods. Those who like to feel part of a learning group and enjoy live interaction may prefer synchronous learning options.

Cohort or non-cohort

Campus-based and online programs both often operate via a cohort basis, which runs according to the academic year. In this system you complete the program with the same group of students throughout. Some programs may offer multiple start dates, meaning you will not necessarily be studying with the same peers throughout the program.

Master of Organizational Development Career Advancement

A master’s in organizational development can position you for management positions across a range of fields, including:

  • Human resources
  • Consulting
  • Training and development
  • Health care management

Management consulting is one growth area. These consultants, or analysts, evaluate an organization’s management strategy and propose improvements for effectiveness and efficiency. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics expects more than 103,000 management consultant jobs will be created from 2014 to 2024, with the sector growing by 14% — much faster than average. [13]

Below are some careers and average salaries:

  • Management analyst: $79,000
  • Medical and health services manager: $89,000
  • Training and development manager: $95,000
  • Human resources manager: $100,000 [14]

The BLS projects training and development manager employment to grow 7% between 2014 and 2024. The role will be required across all industries, with employees increasingly required to take skills development courses and ongoing training throughout their careers. This will create demand for the professionals who create those courses, analyze organizational need for them, and deliver them. The industry will also evolve rapidly, as training methodologies become more tech-driven, with greater use of social media to train remote workers. Job prospects are likely to be particularly strong in industries which are highly regulated, such as insurance, finance, and health care. [15]

In addition to continuous skill development and advancements in methodologies, there are several other key trends that are impacting the job outlook for organizational development managers, including: [7]

  • An increase in remote working
  • Globalization
  • Innovations in training methods and technology
  • Policy changes (particularly in finance, health care, and insurance)
Where do organizational development professionals work?

Typical employers include companies and enterprises in finance and insurance; professional, scientific and technical services; educational services; health care and social assistance. Nonprofit and public organizations will also hire organizational development professionals and consultants. [16]

Business change initiatives require the support of organizational development specialists. For example, the Wasp annual small business report found that: 21% of small businesses expect to invest in training tools to improve employee productivity, 30% expect to expand into new markets, 36% expect to launch new services, and 42% expect to increase IT spending. All this change requires organizational development management to succeed. [17]

What careers can I pursue with a master’s in organizational development?

The organizational development master’s positions graduates for a broad range of jobs. The roles below are typical, but some graduates will move into more diverse areas of organizational management, including operations, project management, change management, process management, and more.

Management analysts or consultants

These professionals help organizations improve their performance, efficiency, and profits. Some focus entirely on organizational behavior or development. The career path needs a mix of analytical, theoretical, problem-solving, and creativity skills, as well as interpersonal, communication, and time-management skills. Employment is expected to grow by 14% from 2014 to 2024. [8]

HR professionals

This role focuses on recruiting, developing, and coordinating staff. HR professionals with organizational development backgrounds also work on human resources planning, change management, and bridging between management teams and employees. Roles can include corporate labor relations specialists, employee benefits and services director, payroll manager, staffing manager, performance evaluation executive, recruiting manager, and employee engagement director. [7]

Training and development managers

These professionals assess, plan, and implement training programs to increase the knowledge and skill base of an organization’s workforce. Many employers want a master’s degree in this field coupled with industry experience. Vital skills include adult learning theory application and critical thinking. Other aligned jobs include training and development specialist, chief learning officer, and director of training. [7] [2]


Organizational executives need to be able to inspire and motivate their workforce and think strategically about the organization’s growth and management. This means the master’s in organizational development is a vital asset in providing critical thinking skills, theoretical knowledge, and a robust academic framework for applying case material to real world situations. Ultimately, it can help executives to best deploy their human capital to achieve corporate aims. [7]

Master of Organizational Development Curriculum
In the master’s in organizational development program, you can learn how to work with people, understand emotional intelligence, determine individual readiness for change within an organization, and help others to reach their full potential in an organization. [10] [25]
What core courses can I expect to take?

Typical core courses focus on areas such as organizational change, human behavior in organizations, foundations of organizational development, foundations of organizational theory and group dynamics, applied behavioral science, communication, ethics and social responsibility, and conflict management.

What skills can I learn?

This will vary by program but will include skill areas such as:

  • Assessing organizational issues
  • Diagnosing and solving problems
  • Implementing organizational development initiatives
  • Post-implementation evaluation
What should I look for in the curriculum?

Look for a program that offers the electives and specializations that have most relevance to your career choice. For example, if you want to work in change management in the health care industry, you might look for a master’s in organizational development that includes courses in consulting skills, with the option to undertake an internship with a capstone project in a health care business. Faculty experience in this sector or institution relationships with health care employers would also be a bonus.

Thesis or capstone projects

Typically a master’s in organizational development requires a capstone project, undertaken at an organization to demonstrate application of learning involving a real-world business issue. A capstone project can often be combined with a work placement or internship, depending on the structure of the institution’s program.


For online programs, an on-campus residency may be offered as an optional unit, or as a mandatory requirement. It may take the form of a residential weekend with a program of lectures, group work, assessment, or other activities that enrich the learning experience and allow you to network with peers, faculty and, potentially, employers.

Additional graduate certificates

Some schools may offer options to take additional online graduate certificates in organizational development fields. These could include subjects such as consulting, leadership and communication, and operational excellence.


It is important to remember that specialization choices should map to your career goals. The right specialization can increase your starting salary and employment prospects.

When choosing a specialization — also known as a concentration — consider your work experience.

Specializations by function and career path

If you are a HR specialist already satisfied in your work but looking for the next step, the Master of Organizational Development will allow you to expand your theoretical knowledge and skills, making you a better candidate for senior and more specialist roles such as:

  • Change manager
  • Workforce development manager
  • Training assessment manager
  • Talent manager
  • Organizational development consultant or
  • HR specialist
Specializations by industry

You might also want to choose a specialization that aligns to an industry. For example, in the health care industry talent management is becoming an increasing priority for leaders. Health care managers who gain a Master of Organizational Development degree can position themselves for roles in health care leadership teams as a result. [11]

If you want to develop skills in a certain field, you might want to consider specialization options such as:

  • Organizational leadership coaching
  • Project management
  • Nonprofit management
  • HR management

Most master’s in organizational development programs require an internship, and there is great value in this element of the program. GMAC found that more than 80% of employers offer internships to students and that this is one of the best routes to obtaining a job offer. [12]

Most institutions have an in-house team to help students obtain an internship.

How can these opportunities help your career?

Internships offer real-world context to complement the theory you learn during your program. This means an internship demonstrates that you are work ready. It can also help you to grow your professional network, demonstrate your suitability to future employers, and potentially even result in a job offer.

How will the school track my progress in an internship?

Every institution will have its own process for tracking students in their internships, but each will be structured, rigorous, and designed to ensure that progress is being tracked and measured. There may be regular visits from an institution representative to both student and line manager to assess achievement.

Can I do an internship at my current workplace?

Probably not. You can gain great value from an internship at a different organization. Not only will this expand your contextual and industry experience, and broaden your resume, but it will also allow you to grow your professional network.

Master of Organizational Development Program Length

The length of an online master’s degree program can depend on a number of variables, perhaps the most prominent of which is the pace at which you choose to study. You can finish a typical master’s degree program in about two to three years if you choose to study full-time, although some accelerated programs may be able to help you finish more quickly.

Online master’s degree programs tend to offer flexibility suitable for students who choose to study part-time. This option will likely extend your time to completion, but it can allow you to study while fulfilling your familial, social, and professional obligations.

You can find more information on this topic at our program length overview page.

How does the format of an online program work?

On online course would have a similar structure to an on-campus for coursework, but might offer residencies or scheduled face-to-face sessions.

Each week there would be assignments and projects. Weekly interactive and online sessions with instructors are typical, supported by moderated discussion forums, recorded video lectures, webinars, and online resources.

Master of Organizational Development Admissions Requirements

While each program will set its admission requirements based on its own criteria, many requirements are universal across all programs. No matter where you apply, you can expect to provide items like transcripts from previous degrees or coursework; standardized test scores; a personal statement or essay; letters of recommendation; and an overview of relevant work experience.

In certain cases, some of these requirements may be waived.

For more information about admissions, please visit our admissions requirements page.

Work experience

Each institution will have varying requirements, but many master’s in organizational development programs require work experience — sometimes up to six years. This is because real-world experience can help students to better contextualize theoretical learning.

Master of Organizational Development Alternative degrees

Undertaking your master’s degree is a big commitment, both academically and financially. It’s important to do your research to make sure your educational plan is a good match for your desired outcome.

The following master’s degrees touch on the same topics and learning outcomes as the Master of Organizational Development, but they offer a different focus or specialization. As you do your research, consider learning more about these degrees to see whether they might be a better fit for your goals and interests.

Master of Organizational Development Relevant Industry Associations and Organizations

For organizational development, relevant industry bodies include:

  • International Society for Organizational Development and Change
  • International Organization Development Association
  • Association for Talent Development
  • Journal of Leadership Studies
  • American Management Association

These bodies offer a range of services and opportunities to graduates. They offer access to current news and information in the field, access to opportunities and roles, details of further and specialized training, information about trends, events, networking opportunities, continuous professional development, and more.

Master of Organizational Development Accreditation

Regional accreditation is the most prestigious type of accreditation that an online or traditional college or university can receive. It is granted only after careful consideration by private, not-for-profit organizations tasked with evaluating educational quality.

Regional accreditation is particularly important if you anticipate that you might want to transfer credits from one online degree program to another or use those credits to pursue another degree. Most regionally accredited schools will only accept credits from other regionally accredited institutions of higher learning.

You can learn more on this topic at our regional accreditation page.

State authorization

SARA — the National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements — establishes national standards for distance learning programs, ensuring that minimum quality standards are met and integrity is maintained. To find out if your institution of interest is authorized to offer a degree in your state, visit SARA’s website. [18]


The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) is the major accrediting body for all business programs meeting the highest standards. It is only held by 5% of business schools across the world.

Accreditation demonstrates that the program/institution or department has met quality standards as defined by the accrediting body. It can be viewed as a prerequisite for any program to make your shortlist.

Accredited schools will have faculty that are appropriately qualified and credible. This means that 75% of the teaching team will have relevant qualifications at a postgraduate level, and the majority of the institution faculty should hold a doctorate. Research should be of good quality and demonstrate an international dimension. [19]

History of the Degree

The concept of organizational development has been around for a long time. In fact, there is evidence of organizational development consultants as early as ancient Egypt. In ancients history, experts — who would probably be considered organizational development professionals in today’s terms — would visit construction projects and leaders for consultations and seek to improve larger social systems. [20]

Many disciplines contributed to shaping the organizational development field as we know it today, especially psychology. [29] But organizational development as a distinct field came into existence much later. In the mid-1940s, Kurt Lewin, a pioneer of social and organizational psychology, was one of the first to popularize the study of group dynamics and organizational development. [28]

Since then, other experts have helped move the field forward, including Frederick Taylor, who developed and introduced the first systematic and scientific approach to resolving workplace issues through four fundamental Principles of ‘Scientific Management’ in 1911. [30]

Modern organizational development is a result of various disciplines and experts dedication to the subject. Despite field advancements, the most accepted definition of organizational development stems from Richard Beckhard’s 1969 Organizational Development: Strategies and Models. In his writing, Beckhard describes organizational development as the development of organizations through alignment of strategy, structure, management processes, and people. [31]

Master of Organizational Development Tuition and Fees

There are a number of factors that can greatly affect how much your education will cost. These include whether you attend a public or private institution; whether you attend as an in-state or out-of-state student; and whether you qualify for financial aid like grants or scholarships.

For a more detailed breakdown of tuition, fees, and other financial issues, please visit our tuition and fees page.

Financial aid

There are a variety of ways to finance your education, and each institution will have different options. These could include scholarships and grants, and opportunities for loan forgiveness. Options include:

  • Scholarships: Most institutions offer scholarships, each with its own eligibility criteria. There are also statewide, national, public, and private scholarships. An online search is a good starting point, and the institution admissions office may be able to offer further advice.
  • Employer reimbursement:Many employers will partially or fully reimburse the cost of an employee’s professional development if the program is relevant to the workplace.
  • Loan forgiveness: Some states participate in loan forgiveness programs, like the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Program for graduates who go on to be employed in government or not-for-profit organizations. [26] It works by writing off your remaining debt after ten years of qualifying payments.
  • Veterans programs: If you are a veteran or a veteran’s dependent, you may be eligible to receive financial support. There are several financial aid options for veterans and their dependents, including the Survivors’ and Dependents’ Educational Assistance Program, federal benefits, and the ThanksUSA Scholarship programs. [27]
  • Bank loans: Loans can help you fund your education, though you should exhaust other financial aid options before pursuing them. There are three major categories for loans: student loans, parent loans, or private loans. Your school’s program can provide details of student bank loan providers within their geography.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Organizational development is the practice of implementing positive systemic change within an organization. [32] A Master of Organizational Development is a master’s program dedicated to this practice. These programs help students build communication and critical thinking skills to help improve processes, procedures and cultures on a large, organizational scale. [33]

A Master of Organizational Development can help you pursue advanced roles within human resource departments, or other organizational development-related roles. Consulting roles alone are expected to grow 18% from 2014 to 2024. [34] A Master of Organizational Development can also increase your earning potential; organizational development professionals have an earning potential that is better than the national average. [35]

When researching master’s programs, you should be aware of factors such as accreditation, the program’s reputation, and admissions requirements. For a Master of Organizational Development program, you should be sure to explore the curriculum offerings in detail to make sure that your program delivers the skills you need and builds upon your interests. It is also important to consider the delivery method and program length, especially if you plan to work during your program. Online programs tend to give the most flexibility for people with busier schedules.

A Master of Organizational Development is designed to help students develop leadership strategies and key communication skills to lead positive change within any organization. There are alternative degrees that cover organizational development and change to some extent, but a Master of Organizational Development is the most focused. Alternative degrees include:

  • Master of Business Administration
  • Master’s in Conflict Management
  • Master of Human Resources Management
  • Master of Health Care Administration

Many Master of Organizational Development programs will require a minimum GPA, but the specific requirements vary from institution to institution. This requirement helps ensure that each student admitted into the program is academically prepared to succeed and can learn from other students of the same caliber.

Whether you will need to complete the GRE prior to applying for a program will largely depend on what school you have chosen. There are many programs that do not require a GRE. Check the admissions requirements for your school before applying.

Based on a survey of several online programs, most organizational development programs are open to professionals in any field. While it is a requirement to have a bachelor’s degree, the type of undergraduate degree is flexible. Some programs do ask for work experience, though not necessarily in the organizational development field.

Based on an analysis of several online Master of Organizational Development courses, typical core courses that you may encounter include:

  • Organizational change
  • Human behavior in organizations
  • Foundations of organizational development
  • Foundations of organizational theory and group dynamics
  • Applied behavioral science
  • Communication
  • Ethics and social responsibility
  • Conflict management

Your priorities should depend on your career goals and flexibility. As you conduct your research, be sure to check that the electives and specializations offered are aligned to your goals. Be sure to check if the courses is delivered online or on-campus, synchronous or asynchronous, or if there are any residency or internship components.

Many master’s programs can be completed in about two to three years, full-time. Part-time study will increase your program time. Program length can vary between programs.

Most master’s in organizational development programs include an internship component, which can sometimes be a highly sought-after credential by employers. [36]

Yes. Many institutions offer Master of Organizational Development degrees online.

Online and on-campus degrees typically look identical. Most institutions do not indicate on the degree that it was earned online.

Yes, typically schools follow the same curriculum for their online programs as they do for their campus-based programs.

Common specializations include organizational leadership coaching, project management, nonprofit management, or HR management. Each can help prepare you for specialized roles within the organizational development field.

No, you do not need a certification to enter organizational development. However, earning a certification can help you stand out from your competition. The Institute of Organizational Development offers an Organizational Development Certified Consultant (ODCC) certification that designates you as an OD consultant and can enhance your organizational development authority. [41]

A Master of Organizational Development can help you pursue roles in a variety of fields, including human resources, consulting, training and development, or health care management.

Roles associated with this field are projected to grow. In fact, two of the most common fields for Master of Organizational Development professionals — management consulting and health care management — are projected to grow much faster than the average occupation in the U.S. between 2014 and 2024.

  • Human resource manager: Median salary of $106,910, and growth of 9% [37]
  • Health services manager: Median salary of $96,540, and growth of 17% [38]
  • Management consultant: Median salary of $81,330, and growth of 14% [39]
  • Training and development manager: Median salary of $105,830, and growth of 7% [40]

Master of Organizational Development holders can work in almost any sector. However, common industries in which they find employment include management companies, manufacturing enterprises, health care organizations, or government agencies.

Some master’s-level organizational development programs are accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, a designation given to less than 5% of business schools. While AACSB-accreditation is ideal, it is not a requirement. Even if your program is not AACSB-accredited, you should try to ensure that your university is regionally accredited.

Accreditations are strong indications of quality, but are also required for students who plan to apply for federal financial aid. Accreditation ensures that your degree is recognized by employers, professional associations, and other accredited institutions of higher education.

Regional and programmatic accreditation ensures that the education you you receive if of a high caliber and can be applied beyond graduation. Regional accreditation is also helpful if you decide to transfer credits, as many programs will only accept transfer credit earned from a regionally accredited program.


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