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Master’s in Organizational Leadership vs. an MBA
February 18, 2020

This student post was written by M.A. Organizational Leadership alumnus,

Sami Hoda,

about why he chose a Master's in Organizational Leadership vs. an MBA.

Please see author bio at the end of post.

Why did I choose a Master's in Organizational Leadership vs. an MBA? Not all graduate degrees are created equal. The illustrious MBA, once the king of graduate degrees, no longer holds the sway it once did. I spent the last decade planning and reviewing graduate programs, and as a hiring manager, I was cognizant of the changing landscape for advanced degrees.

Why the MBA Is Not What It Once Was

According to the, the number of MBAs has increased seven times since 1970 and with the proliferation of MBA programs, having an MBA is no longer a differentiator. To make matters worse, recent surveys by the Graduate Management Admission Council showed that nearly a quarter of graduates stated "that their course did not improve their earning power."

Having an MBA from an elite school was still attractive to many employers but its reputation took a big hit with the Great Recession, when a lot of soul searching went on in the business community about how the current state of business education may have contributed to the financial crisis.

What's Missing From a Traditional MBA?

I watched closely how programs adapted to the changing climate, and a traditional MBA started to stick out like a sore thumb, especially since ethics was missing from so many curriculums. At the same time, Fortune 500 companies, such as Google, started to turn away many MBA graduates because they lacked "intellectual humility."

How I Found the Right Program For Me

As I filtered through the list of programs, I looked for three things:

  1. a good reputation,
  2. a focus on understanding both the direct and indirect impacts of decision making, especially with a focus on ethics and mindfulness, and
  3. a program that was financially viable and flexible for me as a working professional with four kids.

Every time I remade my list, Claremont Lincoln University (CLU) would rank in my top five. Eventually, in mid-2016, I reached out to my top five choices, and attended online seminars to get familiar with their philosophical approaches and faculty. I clearly remember attending an online seminar for a famous well-regarded university and watching as my hopes were dashed when the online seminar was sloppy and my email was one of many that got canned replies.

CLU stood out because of their professional seminar and personalized responses. What really differentiated CLU was the Capstone project which ensured that the learning was not going to be theoretical in nature, but rather the student would have to lead a change project that implemented a lot of what they were learning. It wasn't much longer before I started working with the admissions department to get my application in.

As someone who had led online courses for several years, I knew that online learning was not going to be a walk in the park. I was facing several challenges as I enrolled in the Master's in Organizational Leadership program. My wife was due to give birth to our fourth child, and I was also wrapping up several advanced diplomas in religious studies on the side.

As I proceeded through the Organizational Leadership master's degree program, the faculty and staff assisted me with any flexibility I needed while still holding me accountable for my work, and it was greatly appreciated. I even received a personalized gift from the support staff after the birth of our fourth child. With these experiences, I knew I had made the right choice.

Common Questions About Online Education

As a graduate of the program, I speak to a lot of people who share many of my concerns:

  1. Is it worth it?
  2. How can I afford it?
  3. How can I manage my time?

Let's take those questions one at a time.

First, 'Is it worth it?"

In a word - Yes! I applied my classes and capstone project to my own work environment.

In the process, I uncovered several areas for improvement, and I worked with multiple stakeholders to improve the way our business communicated and created alignment.

Next, "How can I afford it?"

Regarding finances, CLU offers a tuition that stands in sharp contrast to the rising tuition costs we hear in the news, especially for graduate degrees, and they offer numerous scholarships and a payment plan that is very flexible.

And finally, let's talk about time management.

The classes, while time consuming, are evenly paced and assignments are staggered so that no one course overwhelms you in any given week.

So What Did I Get Out of It?

All in all, I am better equipped to be an agent of positive change. I have found ways to use my education in my current work environment and in the volunteer work I do in education and with non-profits.

The approach to research and focus on hands-on implementation has made the learning actionable, and I feel I have new tools to make a deeper impact in every sphere of my life.

Sami Hoda completed his Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership in 2017.

He is currently employed by eCivis, a software company in Southern California, and balances between people and technology while overseeing eCivis' Product Management, Research, Software Engineering and Information Technology departments. He works with thousands of local, state, and tribal governments along with scores of non-profits to help facilitate the research, acquisition and management of grant funding. More information can be found on LinkedIn (

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