Master of Arts in Leadership Studies

University Of San Diego School of Leadership and Education Sciences

Program Description

Master of Arts in Leadership Studies

University Of San Diego School of Leadership and Education Sciences

This program is designed for candidates who seek to create innovative and dynamic approaches to learning and leadership. This master's degree offers a unique degree of freedom and flexibility in how one seeks this degree. Students are invited to examine, reflect, and act on passionate concerns, working closely with faculty and fellow students, to bring theory and practice together to meet academic and professional goals.

Areas of specialization include Organizational Leadership/Consulting or Coaching. Students are also permitted to craft an individualized specialization using courses from Leadership Studies and other SOLES programs. Courses may also be selected from USD’s graduate programs with approval of the advisor and program administrator.

What can I do with this degree?

This program prepares students for leadership positions in a wide variety of organizations, including (but not limited to) in education, mentoring and consulting. Students may go on to work as administrators, executives, instructors, coaches and consultants in the public, private, educational and non-profit sectors.

The program prepares "practitioner-scholars" to make significant contributions in a variety of organizational settings and aspires to enhance students' capacity to lead in ways that are creative, caring and inspirational. Students develop their understanding of leadership by examining best practices and studying leadership theories, research, ethics and organizational change. Students also build skills in assessing organizational dynamics, creating systemic interventions, leading groups, consulting, strategic planning, developing leadership in others, and more. To view a sample list of positions held by graduates, visit our Student Outcomes page.

Who should apply?

Students in the program have a wide variety of backgrounds. They include working professionals in the private, public and nonprofit sectors; educators and administrators; active duty military and veterans; Americorps alumni; and recent graduates interested in beginning careers in consulting, community organizing and leadership development. Most applicants have some professional experience, and some have decades. Additionally, applicants generally have experience in leadership roles, though not all have held formal positions of authority. Undergraduate coursework in the field of leadership is not required.

Our Students

Students in the MA in Leadership Studies comes to us from a variety of backgrounds and undergraduate majors. Many of our students work full-time or part-time while completing the program, and they include educators, nonprofit professionals, business leaders, educational administrators, consultants, and active duty military personnel.

Learning Outcomes

Objective Area: Leadership and Development Theories
Outcome 1: Masters candidates will articulate prominent leadership theories in Leadership Studies, analyze and critique these theories, and apply these theories in the course of addressing a variety of organizational issues and problems.

Objective Area: Critical Thinking and Analytical Approaches
Outcome 2: Students will select relevant information, organize and evaluate the information, and apply the information to issues of leadership.

Objective Area: Organizational Systems and Group Dynamics
Outcome 3: Students will demonstrate an understanding of key theories of organizational behavior and change, and to apply these theories in an organizational setting.

Objective Area: Cultural Competency Global Understanding
Outcome 4: Students will critically examine culture other than their own, and apply the knowledge gained in their personal and professional lives.

Objective Area: Self-Awareness
Outcome 5: Graduates will have an ability to reflect upon their own skills and limitations as leaders, evidenced by performance in working with groups.


The MA in Leadership Studies is designed to prepare students for leadership roles in a wide variety of organizational contexts. Students build skills in assessing organizational dynamics, creating systemic interventions, leading groups, consulting, strategic planning, and developing leadership in others. The program is highly customizable - half of the program consists of elective units, which students select in consultation with their advisor. Students may choose to focus on Organizational Leadership and Consulting, Coaching or an Individualized option which may include coursework from other graduate divisions (including counseling, education, peace studies, business, and law).

Some students in this program plan to use the skills they build in this program in practice, through work in administration, consulting, education or business, and do not plan to pursue further study. Other students complete this program with the goal of applying to doctoral programs in leadership.

Leadership Core Curriculum (15 units)



*Substitutions will be allowed for 3 units of LEAD 589 with LEAD 595 for students writing a thesis.

Electives (12 units)

Students complete 12 units of electives. Electives are selected in consultation with the student's advisor and may be drawn from the School of Leadership and Education Sciences, the School of Peace Studies, the School of Business and the School of Law. Electives drawn from other programs may require instructor approval in order to enroll.

Examples of elective courses include, but are not limited to:


Exit Requirement All students will be expected to complete an applied project and present it to the faculty and their peers.

Application Checklist

  • The University of San Diego Graduate School Admission Application;
  • One official sealed transcript from all colleges and universities attended, including community colleges. Foreign transcripts must be accompanied by a Course-by-Course transcript evaluation from World Education Services (WES);
  • A minimum of two professional letters of recommendation from professors or employers;
  • A current resumé or curriculum vitae;
  • A 500-word statement of purpose. Please include a brief narrative describing yourself, your career goals and the importance of graduate study at this point in your life. You may discuss influences on your intellectual development, educational and cultural opportunities (or lack of them) which have been available to you, and the ways in which these experiences have affected you. This should not be a recording of facts already listed on the application; it should give the Admissions Committee a better sense of who you are and why you are applying to graduate school at the University of San Diego. If you are in a graduate program at another university, please explain why you wish to leave;
  • International applicants only: Official score reports for the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or the International English Language Testing System (IELTS).
This school offers programs in:
  • English

Last updated December 23, 2017
Duration & Price
This course is Campus based
Start Date
Start date
Sept. 2018
2 - 3 years
Part time
Full time
1,450 USD
tuition per unit
USA - San Diego, California
Start date : Sept. 2018
Application deadline Request Info
End date Request Info
Sept. 2018
USA - San Diego, California
Application deadline Request Info
End date Request Info