Top 10 Highest Paying Organizational Leadership Careers

Organizational leadership is an approach to management in which the leader sets strategic goals and works to motivate the employees of their organization to achieve those goals. It’s essentially an improvement on certain outdated management approaches, which tend to use “do a good job or you’re fired” as the primary motivation for employees. That approach tends to only succeed in motivating employees to do the bare minimum required to retain their position. The organizational leadership approach focuses on looking for other methods to get employees to buy into the organization’s missions and goals, often by providing ways for the employees to benefit when the organization succeeds.

The leadership strategies and techniques you learn in your organizational leadership degree, be it a bachelor’s or master’s (each degree has its place), are flexible and can be applied in all kinds of organizations (private sector business, non-profit, and government). This flexibility also means that you can work in a great number of fields. A bachelor’s in organizational leadership will open the most doors in the world of business, but pairing it with a related master’s, in a field like marketing or finance, can lead to even more career opportunities. Alternatively, an organizational leadership master’s degree pairs well with almost any bachelor’s-level professional degree, like engineering, information technology, computer science, education, or any number of others. This article features 10 of the highest-paying career opportunities and explains the ways in which an organizational leadership degree (sometimes paired with another degree) is a good fit for that career. The jobs are ordered from highest to lowest median salary.

Computer and Information Systems Managers

Every year, the internet becomes more and more central to our lives and businesses. While most small businesses don’t need a large IT department, medium and large businesses certainly do, and every IT department needs a manager. IT is a field you can get into and rise up through the ranks with simply a bachelor’s degree and the right experience. However, with IT departments growing and the needs of even medium-sized organizations becoming more complex, the need for IT professionals with an understanding of organizational leadership is becoming much more important. If you’re planning to go into IT, or are already in the field and looking to advance into the highest-paid positions available, a master’s degree in organizational leadership can give you a serious edge. Not only will it look great on the resume, but the skills and strategies you will learn are sure to help you do a better job leading your department. It’s a great way to make yourself one of your organization’s most indispensable leaders.

  • Median Salary: $151,150
  • Top 10% Earn More Than: $208,000
  • Lowest 10% Earn Less Than: $90,430

Architectural and Engineering Managers

Architecture and engineering degrees are already some of the highest-paying degrees at the bachelor’s level. Earning a master’s in this field is one way to advance, making you qualified to work on higher-level projects. But if you find yourself eyeballing the management positions instead, a master’s in organizational leadership might be the better choice. You already have the technical understanding required to manage other architects or engineers. An organizational leadership master’s degree is a powerful tool you can use to help you and your colleagues get the most out of your efforts. A mind already accustomed to rigorous rational thought, combined with the leadership strategies learned through one of these organizational leadership programs, would be an immensely powerful and useful tool.

  • Median Salary: $149,530
  • Top 10% Earn More Than: $208,000
  • Lowest 10% Earn Less Than: $95,310

Sales Managers

It’s fairly common for people to get into sales without even having a bachelor’s degree. This means that with just a bachelor’s degree in organizational leadership, you can probably find a job in sales right out of the gate. Generally speaking, sales management positions take less experience than many management positions, usually requiring less than five years of experience. An organizational leadership degree is not a guaranteed ticket into a sales management position, as sales is an extremely performance-oriented field. This means that while the degree can give you an edge when you go for the management positions, your amount of sales will also be an important factor. Sales management positions are also rather ruthless. You live and die by the numbers your sales team generates. Sales is a high-risk, high-reward career. It has one of the highest earning ceilings, but also one of the lowest earning floors of all the organizational leadership careers featured here.

  • Median Salary: $132,290
  • Top 10% Earn More Than: $208,000
  • Lowest 10% Earn Less Than: $63,170

Compensation and Benefits Managers

For this career, you should consider either a bachelor’s in human resources and a master’s in organizational leadership, or the reverse, a bachelor’s in organizational leadership and a master’s in HR. Compensation and benefits management is a specialized area of HR that deals primarily with designing incentives structures, and with managing and monitoring those structures and the effects they have on the organization. At the highest levels of this career, you’ll be dealing with retirement plans, payroll systems, healthcare packages, bonus structures, salary tiers, starting pay and system structure to manage raises, vacation setting, sick leave, paid family leave, and more. Needless to say, a quality compensation and benefits manager can make or break a company, so the compensation is very good, which is why it’s the fourth-highest-paying organizational leadership career.

  • Median Salary: $125,130
  • Top 10% Earn More Than: $208,000
  • Lowest 10% Earn Less Than: $70,920

Human Resources Managers

Human resources managers have one of the hardest jobs in any organization. They’re constantly walking the line between protecting the company and ensuring that workers have a safe work environment, are adequately compensated, and are protected from workplace harassment. HR managers also engage in conflict resolution when conflict occurs in the workplace, and they handle disciplinary matters up to and including terminating a person’s employment. In many organizations, HR also plays a role in hiring employees, though departmental and general managers are usually the final say on whether or not to hire a person. Different companies will have different expectations of their human resources managers. This makes it important to confirm with the specific company that the company’s expectations and values align with yours. A conflict of expectations and values between you and the company can lead to added stress in a job that is already stressful by nature. A bachelor’s degree in organizational leadership with a human resources minor is a good choice for entry-level HR positions. Following up that degree with a master’s in human resources, organizational leadership, or industrial/organizational psychology can open up the highest-level positions in the field, once you have the requisite experience.

  • Median Salary: $121,220
  • Top 10% Earn More Than: $208,000
  • Lowest 10% Earn Less Than: $71,180

Training and Development Managers

One of the keys to employee success is efficient and thorough training. It’s unfair to expect a high level of performance from employees if you’re leaving them to figure out everything on their own. Training and development managers work with professionals to design training programs, plan training sessions, and coordinate and direct skill- and knowledge-enhancement programs for an organization’s staff. It’s not always necessary for the training and development manager to be an expert in the knowledge and skills for which the training is being designed. Most of the time, the training and development manager will be working with a highly skilled professional to design training programs for them to implement. A good combination of degrees for this sort of position would be a bachelor’s in organizational leadership, and later, a master’s in industrial-organizational psychology. Another good combination could be a bachelor’s in psychology or human development, combined at some point with a master’s in organizational leadership.

  • Median Salary: $115,640
  • Top 10% Earn More Than: $200,020
  • Lowest 10% Earn Less Than: $66,270

Top Executives

Sometimes called C-suite executives, these positions tend to be among the highest-level positions in an organization. This group includes chief executive officer, chief financial officer, chief information officer, and chief operations officer. The most likely positions among these for someone with a degree in organizational leadership are CEO and COO. However, with more specialized training in finance or information technology in addition to the organizational leadership degree, the CFO and CIO positions would also be possible to achieve. Of course, obtaining a C-level executive position involves a lot more than just acquiring the right combination of degrees. You must also stand out in your field, show ability in your work that will translate well to high-level decision-making positions, and find and obtain the jobs that will allow you to develop the professional skills to compete for the highest level of executive positions on the market. The salaries for CEOs vary wildly, and while many imagine CEOs making millions upon millions of dollars per year, that’s typically not the reality. CEOs of mid-sized and large companies tend to make very good money. CEOs of small companies, startups (in the early years), and nonprofit organizations tend to make less.

  • Median Salary: $107,680
  • Top 10% Earn More Than: $208,000
  • Lowest 10% Earn Less Than: $45,850

Medical and Health Services Managers

This job is the healthcare services equivalent of a business manager. Medical and health services managers essentially coordinate the business activities of healthcare providers. They handle everything from front-office management to employee scheduling, managing customer service, and billing (either personally, in a small practice, or by managing the employees responsible for those activities). Medical and health services managers free up the medical staff to do what they’re best at: care for and treat patients. A good combination of degrees for this field is either an organizational leadership bachelor’s with a master’s in healthcare administration, or a healthcare administration bachelor’s with a master’s in organizational leadership. Some schools may offer minors in healthcare administration with their bachelor’s in organizational leadership, which is often good for a medical and health services entry-level job. Pay is heavily dependent on the context of your employment. The best-paying positions are in government, hospitals, and outpatient care centers.

  • Median Salary: $104,280
  • Top 10% Earn More Than: $195,980
  • Lowest 10% Earn Less Than: $59,980

Administrative Services and Facilities Managers

Companies with large buildings and warehouses to manage will need administrative services and facilities managers. Facilities managers oversee maintenance, security, and services of work environments. An administrative services manager oversees the administrative staff and operations of a workplace, coordinating mail distribution, keeping records, and monitoring the facilities in which these tasks take place. Essentially, administrative services and facilities managers exist so that the other workers and managers can be about their business without fixing a broken toilet, changing light bulbs, and dealing with other issues that would distract them from accomplishing their tasks.

  • Median Salary: $98,890
  • Top 10% Earn More Than: $169,930
  • Lowest 10% Earn Less Than: $56,080

Elementary-, Middle-, and High-School Principals

This is one of the fields where you will almost certainly need your bachelor’s degree to be in education. Most principal positions will require more than five years of experience in teaching. In some states, principals will be required to have a master’s degree in education as well. This will usually be in educational administration. In order to make yourself a prime candidate for this position, you could double major in education and organizational leadership at the undergraduate level. The place where the organizational master’s really shines is if you have a master’s in education, but not in the administration element of it. The master’s in organizational leadership is a perfect way to supplement your education degrees in order to switch careers and become an administrator.

  • Median Salary: $98,490
  • Top 10% Earn More Than: $152,500
  • Lowest 10% Earn Less Than: $65,150

GCD Staff
July 2021


This concludes our article on the top 10 highest-paying organizational leadership jobs for 2021.