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CAREER GUIDE Master of Science, Management and Leadership

WGU degree programs correspond with careers that promise continued growth. WGU creates career growth.

Career guide: management and leadership.

To be successful, organizations of all types and sizes need qualified, capable leaders—managers who inspire, mentor, model a strong culture, and drive employee satisfaction as well as performance. Professional managers and executives with the right skills, temperament, ethics, and experience to lead—not just manage—will always have attractive career options to choose from across a broad spectrum of industries. Management and leadership careers typically involve taking on a variety of complex issues and challenges every day—from planning budgets and directing teams of people to dealing with legal issues and corporate politics. To acquire the interpersonal, strategic, and leadership skills required to manage strong, effective business teams, many experienced professionals choose to pursue a master’s degree in management and leadership rather than a masters of business administration (MBA), which typically focuses on a more traditional analytical approach to business management.  

Job listing growth 2016–2026.

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Career opportunities.

Unlike more narrow and defined careers like accounting or law, a career focused on leadership and management can take many different forms—from a division leader at a large, fast-moving tech company to the head of a small startup or non-profit organization. With the right skills and qualifications, you can work toward a leadership position that suits your goals and personality, whether that means advancing at your current company or exploring leadership opportunities in totally new areas.  

Positions in the field.

  • Top executive, including CEO, CFO, and COO
  • Human resources manager or director
  • Computer and information systems manager or director
  • Emergency management director
  • Financial manager or director
  • Medical and health services manager
  • Sales manager or director
“WGU allowed me to continue doing the things I love, spending time with my family, and traveling for my job. Another major plus was that the competency-based system enabled me to focus my time in the areas I needed to learn to further my career.” Shonna Wessels
M.S. Management and Leadership

Job market forecast.

Projected demand for experienced managers and business leaders varies greatly depending on the industry and specific job title. For example, the number of top executives across all industries is expected to grow 8% between 2016 and 2026, which is near the average for all occupations. The number of medical and health services managers, on the other hand, is expected to grow roughly twice that much over the same period. Although some lower- and mid-level management positions only require a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree—combined with relevant work experience—can open the door to an expanded range of upper-level and executive positions.

Job growth 2016–2026.

Work environment.

In 2016, there were approximately 2.3 million business leaders and executives working in the United States, including around 308,900 who held the title of chief executive. These top executives worked in nearly every industry for organizations of all sizes—from small businesses with a handful of workers to giant firms with thousands of employees. Most executives work in offices with a substantial support staff, but leadership jobs tend to be highly stressful. Executives are often under intense pressure to succeed, and they are ultimately held responsible when their organizations or departments underperform. Most executives travel frequently for site visits, meetings, and conferences, and they often work long hours, including evenings and weekends.

Professional organizations.

Management and leadership careers can span a wide range of different industries and disciplines. Here are a few professional associations that might be useful as you work to narrow your options and decide whether a master’s degree in management and leadership is right for you.

Job search resources.

Wondering what today’s management and leadership job market looks like? Check out these resources for more information about current openings, opportunities, and salaries.

Salary stats.

Salaries for managers and executives can vary greatly depending on industry, job title, and the size of the organization. In May 2017, chief executives earned a median yearly salary of $183,270, with the top 10 percent taking home more than $208,000. The median salary for all management occupations was $102,590.

Average salary of jobs with related titles.


Virtually every organization needs skillful, capable leaders, which can lead to lucrative and prestigious career opportunities for ambitious people who enjoy a challenge and are willing to invest the time and effort required for a successful career as a manager or executive. Earning a master’s degree in management and leadership from an accredited institution can be a valuable part of that process—by providing you with the balanced people, organizational, and business skills you need to move confidently into a leadership position, either at your current place of employment or in a completely different field.

Next Start Date

Jun 1

Start the 1st of any month — as soon as you complete enrollment!


Your career's next step: Earn a degree.

Ready to jump-start your business career? The next step could be earning your M.S. in Management and Leadership. Accredited, competency-based WGU offers this degree online at a surprisingly affordable flat-rate tuition. Flexible enough for a working adult's schedule with the option to accelerate, your degree may be closer than you think!