We are all familiar with the changing landscape of today’s working world: fast-paced, globalized and complex. Leaders are now faced with the challenge of being more sensitive, flexible and adaptable to the demands and expectations of stakeholders. Because of these changes, many organizations have abandoned the traditional top- down hierarchical management structures for more “organic” and fluid forms. 

What if you could better communicate your vision, empower and motivate your colleagues and have cutting edge knowledge of your field?

Leadership development through the Organizational Leadership (OL) program helps students adapt to this new paradigm better than most M.B.A. programs. The M.B.A. degree will prepare you for management; a master’s degree in Organizational Leadership prepares you to lead in practically any setting. The OL program empowers its students with leadership skills that prepare them to create vision, direction and alignment within an organization in order to achieve shared objectives.

Our 33-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. We believe exemplary leadership in organizations is evident when organizational participants at all levels are growing, and people in communities outside the organization are benefited as a result of the organization’s activities. We aim to inspire and equip our students to become exemplary leaders in service to others.

The OL program focuses on strengthening our students' skills and competencies in:

  • Leadership
  • Communication
  • Problem-solving
  • Critical thinking
  • Research and analysis
  • Aligning human resources toward organizational objectives
  • Strategic planning
  • Team building
  • Ethical decision-making

Download the OL graduate program brochure to learn more!

So what's the difference between an MBA and M.S. in Organizational Leadership?

The MBA degree emphasizes the management and administrative functions in organizations; management and administration functions produce order and consistency. The Master of Science in Organizational Leadership degree emphasizes leading in organizations; leadership produces change and movement.

MBA Degree 

  • Planning and budgeting by setting time tables and allocating resources
  • Establishing direction by creating a vision and setting strategies 
  • Organizing and staffing by providing structure, establishing rules and procedures

Master of Science in OL 

  • Aligning people by communicating, seeking commitment and building teams 
  • Controlling and problem solving 
  • Motivating and inspiring by energizing, empowering others and satisfying unmet needs

Our M.S. in Organizational Leadership will provide you with the latest leadership theory as well as the opportunity to specialize in your personal area of interest. Each specialization below is available as both a four course graduate certificate and four course concentration in the master's degree. Select a concentration/certificate below to learn more about the specialization including the required coursework. Current undergraduate students at Mercyhurst University may be able to begin working on their master's degree early. Learn more about OL's 4+1 Program, which allows MU undergrads earn two degrees in five years, saving both time and money!



The master's degree in organizational leadership with a concentration in accounting will provide students with professional knowledge in the field, preparation to take the Certified Public Accountants (CPAs) exam, as well as leadership skills and knowledge. Learn the “language of business” at Mercyhurst University and rise to a leadership role in the accounting department at your organization.

Specific topics of study, include:

• Auditing and attestation
• Financial accounting and reporting
• Business environment and concepts
• Accounting and business regulations

Download More Information — Accounting

Higher Education Administration

The concentration in higher education administration will prepare students for a position or advancement in a higher education setting. The courses in the concentration focus on the practical and day-to-day running of a higher education institution, with students completing an invaluable internship in a higher education setting. The concentration will prepare students to work in any facet of higher education administration, including: student financial services, enrollment, student life, academics and advancement. The U.S. Department of Labor projects that job opportunities in the field of higher education administration should be “excellent” through 2018.

Specific topics of study, include:

• Governance and functions of higher education
• History and trends of American higher education
• Higher education law

Download More Information — Higher Education Administration

Human Resources

The concentration in human resources (HR) is specifically designed to prepare students to take on a managerial role in the HR field. This concentration provides a professional level of field knowledge and opportunities to discuss/apply practical applications. Combined with the organizational leadership core, successful graduates will enter a dynamic field with expert knowledge as accomplished HR managers at companies regardless of their size or industry.

Specific topics of study, include:

• HR management
• Labor management relations
• HR development
• Law for leaders

Download More Information — Human Resources​​​​​​​

Organizational Leadership

Students may choose to focus specifically on organizational leadership, which is designed to provide a theoretical and practical framework for professionals who currently hold leadership positions or are aspiring to leadership roles in organizations. The program views leadership as a process; for that reason, it emphasizes practical application while addressing leadership needs in both profit and nonprofit organizations, especially social service, business, government, education and manufacturing.

Specific topics of study, include:

• Leadership theory and practice
• Leadership and organizational behavior
• Organizational ethics

Download More Information — Organizational Leadership

Sports Leadership

The concentration in Sports Leadership provides a professional level of knowledge in the field, which prepares students for entry into or advancement in the field of sports leadership. Students are prepared for leadership roles in coaching and athletics, specifically in collegiate, scholastic or professional settings. The concentration focuses on applying theoretical knowledge to the practical day-to-day leadership needs of athletic teams and players.

Specific topics of study, include:

• Introduction to the sports industry
• Coaching leadership and psychology
• Higher education law and law for leaders
• Leadership and life management 

Download More Information — Sports Leadership

Strategy and Innovation

Strategically innovative organizations are characterized by unique qualities exemplified in their people, culture, structure, systems, and processes.  This concentration focuses on the actions that leaders take to enable organizations to execute innovations for increased value and growth.  The program explores how leaders create and evaluate opportunities, develop analytical capabilities, and implement strategies to achieve success. Success depends on balancing the challenges of leading innovation to produce concrete results and applying decision making and planning tools to guide development of new products and services from idea to marketplace.

Specific topics of study, include:

  • Strategic Marketing
  • Corporate Social Responsibility and Sustainability
  • Strategic Management and Planning
  • Innovation and Entrepreneurship

Admissions Requirements

Prospective applicants for the Master of Science Degree in Organizational Leadership must fulfill the following admission 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 admission requirements provided they agree to the conditions of the acceptance prescribed by the director.

  • A completed application for admission
    • Complete your online application for FREE at
    • Should you experience technical difficulties, please contact the graduate admissions office at (814) 824-3351 or for other application options
    • The Organizational Leadership graduate program has a preferred admission deadline of August 1st for its fall semester. After August 1st, applications will be considered until the class is full. There is a preferred deadline of December 1st for the spring semester. After December 1st, applications will be considered until the class is full. International students should submit their applications by July 1st
  • A bachelor’s degree in any discipline from an accredited college or university with a min. overall GPA of 3.0
  • Official transcripts from all post-secondary institutions you’ve attended
    • Send directly to: Mercyhurst University c/o Graduate Admissions, 501 E. 38th St., Erie, PA 16546
  • Three letters of recommendation from persons with whom you have a professional or academic relationship (ex. employer, professor, or volunteer coordinator)
    • Send directly to: Mercyhurst University c/o Graduate Admissions, 501 E. 38th St., Erie, PA 16546
    • OR Email directly to
  • A current résumé or curriculum vitae
    • Send directly to: Mercyhurst University c/o Graduate Admissions, 501 E. 38th St., Erie, PA 16546
    • OR Email directly to
  • A 500-750 word personal statement discussing:
    • Your reason for choosing this program
    • Your short- and long-term professional goals
    • The strengths you bring as an applicant to this program
    • The skills you hope to develop while in this program
    • Send directly to: Mercyhurst University c/o Graduate Admissions, 501 E. 38th St., Erie, PA 16546
    • OR Email directly to
  • PLEASE NOTE, a professional or academic writing sample may be requested after initial review of your application and required supplemental materials.
  • An Interview
    • A personal interview (either on-campus or via Skype) is not required, but may be requested after initial review of your application and required supplemental materials.
  • International applicants whose primary language is not English must attain a TOEFL Score of 550 on the paper-based exam, 213 on the computer–based exam, or 79-80 on the Internet-based exam or a score of at least 6.5 on the IELTS
  • International applicants must provide their transcripts through World Education Services (WES) for authentication and a WES evaluation report. International applicants can do this by ordering the WES ICAP service.

The Organizational Leadership major prepares students to become exemplary leaders and scholars who exercise leadership in service to others. Our goals are to challenge students to synthesize foundational and contemporary scholarship with insights from our service-oriented, ethically based heritage. We emphasize the 'scientific-practitioner' model in which leadership strategies are learned through applied practice.

The Organizational Leadership faculty has developed seven broad-based learning outcomes that serve as the framework for the program’s curriculum.  Upon completion of the Organizational Leadership program, graduates will be able to:

  1. Consistently demonstrate exemplary written and oral communication, interpersonal, and presentation skills.
  2. Distinguish contemporary leadership theories and models; articulate a personal leadership philosophy; and apply appropriate models to an organizational setting.
  3. Assess the characteristics of self, others, groups, and organizations as an integral part of the process of leadership.
  4. Demonstrate personal ethical and professional standards; apply standards to the organizational setting.
  5. Reflect on and assess communication-based skills required for effective participation in organizational life.
  6. Apply basic financial and budgeting techniques in an organizational setting.
  7. Demonstrate ability to engage in independent research by applying critical thinking and inquiry skills in data gathering, synthesis, problem solving and decision-making.

Contact Us

Anne Zaphiris, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Organizational Leadership
Office: Preston 322
Phone: 814-824-3382

Kseniya Kampova
Graduate Admissions Coordinator
Phone: 814-824-3384