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A complete guide to leadership degrees

Get the lowdown on leadership degrees, including what you’ll study, how to apply, and what your future career prospects could look like.

Two women in a work office

The world relies on great leaders – whether we’re talking about business, politics, or society in general. Whether you’re a natural leader or passionate about rising to the challenge, a degree in leadership will give you the skills to lead teams and organisations with confidence.

So, if you’re interested in stepping up to the plate and taking on a leadership or managerial role, you’re in the right place. In our ultimate guide to leadership degrees, we’ll cover the different degree options, entry requirements, career prospects and the perks of studying for your degree online.

Keep reading to start your leadership journey and prepare for an impactful career in whichever industry or niche you choose.

What is a leadership degree?

First things first, what actually is a leadership degree? Rather than expanding your knowledge on a particular subject, as you might expect with a History degree, a leadership degree focuses directly on preparing you for management and leadership positions in the workplace. Right away, you’ll be learning practical and theoretical approaches to leadership, and putting them to the test.

How long does it take to get a leadership degree?

Depending on what stage of your education or career you’re at, you may have different amounts of time to commit to your studies. Luckily, there are options to suit everyone, and online degrees can be a great solution for those worried about current life commitments. 

If it works better for you, you can spread out your studies over a longer period of time, and enjoy the freedom of studying part-time from home. Alternatively, you might want to earn a qualification as quickly as possible. Below we’ve listed the average lengths of time it takes to get different types of leadership degrees.

  • Bachelor’s degree: 3-4 years
  • Master’s degree: 1-2 years 
  • MBA with a leadership focus: 2-5 years
Online Degree

Master of Leadership

  • 1-2.5 years
  • postgraduate
  • Flexible Learning
Apply now

Entry requirements for a leadership degree

Wondering whether you meet the requirements for a leadership degree? This will largely depend on the institution you study at, with more prestigious universities often asking for better qualifications. There aren’t usually specific subjects you need to have studied to get onto an undergraduate leadership degree, but you may be at an advantage if you’ve studied subjects such as business, management or economics.

It doesn’t usually matter whether you studied A-levels, a diploma or an apprenticeship – but it will be useful if you’ve taken on leadership roles before, whether that’s as part of a student council, sports team or other club. When it comes to Master’s degrees and MBAs, you’ll need to have already studied at undergraduate level – but not necessarily in business or leadership.

Below, we dive into some must-haves and good-to-haves when it comes to applying for a leadership degree.

Must-haves 

  • Academic qualifications
  • Strong communication 
  • Teamwork and collaboration
  • Business acumen
  • Financial literacy.

Good-to-haves 

  • Leadership or management internships
  • Work experience in a business
  • Networking skills
  • Presentation skills.

How much does a leadership degree cost?

Worried you can’t afford university? Fortunately, UK students receive a student loan that covers their tuition fees and helps with living costs, and you only have to start paying it back once you reach a certain income.

In the UK, undergraduate degrees cost £9,250 per year on average. However, this is halved in Northern Ireland, and most Scottish students study for free. International students tend to pay significantly more, though there are several European countries where university is very cheap, or even free! Master’s degrees cost anywhere between £12,000 and £25,000, but will depend on whether you study full-time or part-time. 

Funding options for leadership degrees

University can certainly be expensive, but there are things you can do to lessen the burden on your wallet. Besides student loans, there are scholarships, grants and sponsorships out there for postgraduate courses, and some institutions even offer financial aid packages or payment plans. So, make sure to always do your research!

Where to look

How to get into a degree in leadership

To apply for a leadership degree in the UK, you’ll need to submit an application through UCAS for undergraduate programs, or apply directly to your chosen university for postgraduate degrees. 

One of the most important parts of your degree application will be writing a personal statement, giving you the chance to explain why you’re the perfect candidate for a leadership degree. You’ll need to include details about your qualifications, motivations, experience and aspirations, and we have even more tips for you below.

Personal statement tips

  • Demonstrate your motivation for studying leadership. Explain why you’re interested in leadership and management, and what your potential career ambitions are.
  • Highlight your relevant experience. Give details about any work experience, school projects or business operations you’ve worked on, or leadership positions you’ve held.
  • Be honest. Show off your accomplishments and qualifications but don’t over-embellish, and remember to be yourself.
  • Offer personal insights and learnings. Demonstrate that you’re up-to-date with current business news and trends, and show that you’ve gained new skills or knowledge from your past experiences as a leader or manager.

What does a leadership degree cover?

The contents of your leadership degree will depend on whether you’re studying a more generalist degree (such as BA Business Management with Leadership) or a more specific, higher level degree (like MA Sustainable Leadership). 

However, there are certain topics that you’re likely to cover, no matter which degree you decide to go for. Below, we’ve got some example modules you can expect to study, and also the hard and soft skills you’ll gain during your degree.

Example modules:

  • Leadership Theory and Practice
  • Organisational Behaviour
  • Project Management
  • Corporate Social Responsibility
  • Strategic Management
  • Management Accounting.

Hard skills:

  • Accounting
  • Data analysis
  • Budgeting
  • Presentations
  • Business law and ethics
  • Project management tools.

Soft skills:

  • Communication 
  • Team-building
  • Problem-solving
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Adaptability
  • Diversity and inclusion awareness.

How will you be assessed on a leadership degree?

In the real world, you won’t usually be proving your leadership skills by passing an exam or writing an essay, so leadership degrees aim to prepare you for this. Instead, assessment methods are broad and varied, taking the form of presentations and group projects as well as more typical exams and assignments. So, whatever your strengths and weaknesses are, you’ll be able to demonstrate your leadership talents one way or another.

How difficult is a degree in leadership?

How difficult your leadership degree is will depend on the kind of person you are. Do you thrive under pressure? Do you enjoy leading projects and managing people? Are you highly organised and motivated? 

If the answer is yes to all of these, you’re likely to do well on a leadership degree. Of course, it will vary slightly depending on where you study and your particular program, but generally, your success is more about working hard and having the right mindset than achieving academic excellence.

Job satisfaction and prospects for leadership roles

As you might imagine, it’s difficult to measure job satisfaction for those working in leadership positions, as it will vary drastically depending on their particular role and the business where they work. However, it’s clear that leadership roles offer immense opportunities for personal and professional growth, and the huge impact that leaders can have on organisations can lead to immense personal satisfaction. 

As a leadership graduate, you may want to seek out roles in nonprofit management, healthcare administration, or government, if you want to have the most far-reaching impact. Alternatively, you may have more niche interests. In that case, your job prospects will be particularly good in high-growth, money-making industries such as tech, finance and consulting. The choice is up to you.

Career paths: What jobs can you get with a leadership degree?

A leadership degree will open doors to a wide range of career paths, allowing you to pursue many high level roles across different industries. Exactly which direction you’ll go in will depend on your interests and specific goals, but below we’ve listed some of the job titles you’re most likely to seek as a leadership degree holder.

Keep in mind, as a leadership graduate, you’ll likely have to start off your career journey with a lower level job and work your way up after proving yourself. However, with excellent leadership skills and experience under your belt, you should progress in no time.

  • CEO (and other executive level roles)
  • Managing Director
  • Team Leader
  • Department Head
  • Project Manager
  • Business Consultant
  • Executive Coach
  • Human Resources Manager.
Online Degree

MA Educational Leadership

  • 2 years
  • postgraduate
  • Flexible Learning
Apply now

Salary prospects: How much do leadership graduates earn?

Unsurprisingly, one of the big draws of a leadership degree is the earning potential. While it does depend on your organisation and the industry you work in, management and leadership positions are some of the best paid roles you can possibly get.

It doesn’t always start out that way – on Glassdoor, the average salary for leadership graduates is £29,234. However, this won’t last for long if you climb the career ladder. The average annual salary for a Managing Director in the UK is £71,644, and a Head of Human Resources can expect to earn £80,038. 

So things are looking bright – and it gets even better for those who manage to secure an executive level position. According to recent figures from the National Office of Statistics, the average annual salary of a CEO is £97,083.

Why choose a degree in leadership?

Tempted yet? Let’s go over all of the benefits and perks that come with a dynamic career in leadership or management, so you can be sure of yourself before taking the leap and applying for a degree.

  • Very high salaries
  • Excellent career advancement opportunities
  • Continuous personal development and growth
  • Stimulating workload
  • Highly transferable skills and experience
  • Collaboration with stakeholders including government and media contacts
  • Positive impact on organisations and communities
  • The chance to work with huge brands.

Get an online leadership degree with FutureLearn

Unable to drop everything and study at a traditional university campus? Don’t let that stop you from reaching your goals – our online leadership degrees offer a more flexible and affordable option that allows you to balance your other life commitments. 

Whether it’s too difficult to attend university in-person, or you’d just rather study from your own home in the evenings, online degrees offer all the same outcomes as traditional degree programs. Take a look at your options below.

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