There are several types of educational degrees that organizations seek when recruiting tomorrow’s business leaders. Determining which type is best for your career goals requires an understanding of their similarities and differences. Below are some definitions and descriptions of two key degrees - the classic MBA (Master of Business Administration) and the newer MAOL (Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership) - and their associated career paths. While a MBA is still the most sought-after graduate business degree, the MAOL degree is twice as popular now as it was a decade ago.1

Master of Business Administration

The MBA is considered as providing the penultimate business administration education for future executives, offering the theoretical foundation and rich analytical skills needed for critical thinking and executive decision-making. The curriculum typically is designed to achieve a keen understanding of the social, economic and political factors affecting the business environment, while strengthening a student’s analytical skills in accounting, finance, marketing, management, information systems, and other business functions. An MBA provides the knowledge to obtain management and leadership positions in a business-related field, as well as the skills to launch a startup business. According to U.S. News & World Report’s annual education rankings, the top six employment positions seeking MBA graduates, in order of priority, are information security analyst, HR specialist, financial analyst, management analyst, IT manager, and operations research analyst.2

The vast majority of MBA graduates (83 percent) consider the degree to have been essential to their finding subsequent employment, according to the Graduate Management Admission Council. Nevertheless, an MBA may not be useful to individuals planning to work outside a business-related field, such as in a not-for-profit organization or in higher education.

Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership

The MAOL is a fast-growing graduate degree helping students unlock their leadership abilities in professional, business and applied fields. The curriculum is focused primarily on the human side of leadership, drawing upon such fields as sociology, psychology, philosophy and management to address how people function individually and in teams to improve organizational management and behavior.

This multidisciplinary approach offers exceptional preparation toward new approaches to leadership that are not generally provided by other graduate degree programs. Consequently, MAOL degree holders acquire the practical leadership skills necessary to effect organizational change and progressive management, both near-constant demands in today’s fast-altering global business and technological environments.

Other acquired skills include conflict management, team building, leadership coaching and participative management, in addition to the critical-thinking and decision-making skills needed by all leaders.

An MAOL degree is a good fit for someone seeking an executive position as a business analyst, corporate recruiter, training manager or HR generalist. The degree is also ideal for students seeking positions in higher education, training and development, non-for-profit management or leadership coaching. Some educational institutions, such as Lewis University, help students to customize their MAOL education to meet their particular career aspirations.

Lewis University offers an MBA degree in addition to the MAOL degree. The latter program provides core courses in ethics, integrity and social responsibility, as well as traditional leadership theories, conflict management, employee motivation and leading change.3