2021 Guide to Online Leadership Certificates and Courses

Every business needs talented leaders, but there’s not always a clear path to become a leader. If you find yourself in a supervisory position or have goals of landing an upper-level management position, developing your leadership skills can help prepare you. You don’t necessarily have to earn a full degree, though. Online leadership certificates and courses can help you develop these valuable skills quickly.

Can You Study Leadership Online?

Many leadership courses are available entirely online, meaning you can learn new leadership and management skills without having to travel or take time off of work. You also don’t have to put your career on hold to go back to school when you take an online leadership certificate or course. 

Who Can Benefit from Studying Leadership? 

You don’t have to aspire to become a CEO to benefit from studying leadership. An article from Harvard Business School Online suggests that leadership training can help all sorts of professionals improve their skills and expand their career prospects:

  • Early- and mid-career professionals: Can use leadership training to prepare themselves for upper-level management opportunities.
  • New leaders: Can benefit from leadership training as they get oriented in their new positions.
  • Aspiring entrepreneurs: May need leadership skills as they hire and train their first employees.
  • Businesses and organizations: Can use online leadership training to prepare employees for internal promotions and boost employee retention.

Whether you’re just starting your career or are preparing for an upcoming opportunity, leadership training can help. 

Topics in Leadership and Management Online Courses

Leadership and management courses consist of many elements to give you a well-rounded foundation in the challenges and questions you may encounter in your career. Most leadership courses will focus on some or all of these topics: 

  • Team-building
  • Interpersonal communication 
  • Strategic decision-making
  • Negotiation skills
  • Women in leadership
  • Coaching skills
  • Creating effective presentations
  • Employee engagement

Online Leadership and Management Certificates and Courses

Some online management certificates programs are general in nature, while other certificates and courses focus on more specific areas. These certificates can be ideal if you’re interested in a specialized topic or have a particular leadership career goal that aligns with the program. 

Online Leadership Development Certificates and Courses

Online leadership development certificates are a great option if you’re looking to gain foundational leadership skills. These programs focus on equipping leaders, supervisors, managers and more with the skills to lead teams, navigate change and become more effective in current and future roles. An online leadership course may focus on leadership skills, leadership principles or leading change.

Online Decision-Making Certificates and Courses

Strategic decision-making certificates and courses can help you navigate difficult decisions. This type of education focuses on making good decisions under pressure. Coursework may focus on topics like human biases, modeling and analytics, negotiation and risk analysis. If you’d like to develop your decision-making process, this type of online management certificate could help. 

Executive Leadership Certificates and Courses

If you seek an upper-level management or executive position, an executive leadership certificate or course might be the right choice for you. These education opportunities focus specifically on the skills executives need. Expect to learn about growth strategies, managing a business culture, supply chain management, marketing analytics and strategies for managing change.

Is a Leadership Course or Certificate Worth It?

Online leadership courses and certificates offer many benefits, but whether they’re worth the time and financial investment will depend on your career situation and goals. 

Earning a certificate may help prepare you for upper-level business management opportunities. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that top executives had a median salary of $104,690 per year (or $50.33 per hour) in 2019. A bachelor’s degree and five or more years of experience in a related occupation are typical base requirements for these positions, the BLS reports. Still, if you’re an experienced professional looking to move to this higher level, leadership knowledge and education could give you an advantage in earning one of these positions and increasing your salary.

Even if leadership education doesn’t help you acquire an upper-level management position, there are other reasons you may consider pursuing an online leadership course or certificate. This additional education could help you improve your skills at your current job. Or, it might help you down the road when you’re ready to look for new opportunities. Having an online leadership course or certificate on your resume could demonstrate initiative, helping you stand out from applicants. 

Leadership Certificate vs. Master’s in Management

A master’s in management degree (MIM) can typically be completed in one year. It’s similar to an online management certificate or online leadership courses in that it requires little to no work experience. However, certificate programs can be completed more quickly—usually in a matter of months. A certificate program is generally a cheaper alternative to a master’s degree. While leadership certificate and MIM programs cover leadership topics, a MIM provides a broader business education. 

Leadership Certificate vs. MBA

Master of Business Administration (MBA) program offers a comprehensive education to prepare you for an executive or managerial position. Some MBA programs require previous work experience. They typically cover a broad range of business topics such as accounting, finance, marketing and statistics. Most MBA programs can be completed in about two years for full-time students. 

While an MBA can be a valuable way to prepare for a management career, an online leadership certificate may be a more affordable and practical solution, depending on your situation. If you already have comprehensive business skills and experience, a certificate can allow you to focus solely on your leadership skills, rather than the broad and varied topics you’d study in an MBA program. Leadership certificates also tend to take less time and cost less money to complete. 

3 Benefits of an Online Leadership Certificate or Short Course Program

Online leadership courses offer many benefits, including flexible scheduling and the ability to access your coursework from anywhere. Many programs are also self-paced, so you can work on your courses when you have time. This can be especially helpful if you work full-time while pursuing your leadership education. 

Below are three potential benefits of online leadership certificates and short course programs.

1. Learn about your leadership style.

Through exercises, analytical tools and even discussions, online management certificates and courses can help you learn about your leadership skills and style. You’ll explore what you’re doing well and areas where you can improve. You’re also likely to develop ideas how to make those improvements. 

2. Improve your performance and your team’s productivity.

As you learn to be a more effective leader, you may start to see results within yourself and your team. A team that has good leadership may be more productive and engaged, boosting business performance. As you learn to communicate and lead better through an online leadership short course or certificate, you may develop ideas to improve your relationship with your team members.

3. Expand your career prospects.

With improved leadership skills, you may qualify for additional career opportunities. Showing that you’ve taken the initiative to further your education and talents could help you stand out from other applicants if a supervisory position becomes available. 

Last Updated August 2020