Career Pathway: Organizational Change and Leadership

Organizational change and leadership is a broad industry that includes roles in the educational, non-profit, and government sectors. Obtaining an advanced degree in organizational change and leadership prepares you to advance into leadership positions and implement change within organizations. Typical fields of interest include management and leadership, human resources, organizational development, consulting, and policy. Though these are diverse industries, they all emphasize learning, leadership, and change. 

What can I do with organizational change and leadership skills?

A career in organizational change and leadership offers a wide range of potential directions.

Instructional Design

Instructional design involves creating instructional materials, often in an online learning environment; though, IDs can focus on in-person instruction or a hybrid of both. Instructional designers study the principles of online and in-person learning, the process of creating effective materials, and the tools and technology needed to make them. Instructional designers can be found in education and corporate settings.

Work settings include:

  • K-12 public, charter, or private schools
  • State universities or private colleges
  • Community colleges 
  • For-profit companies
  • Online educational programs 
  • Edtech companies

Entry-level job title examples: Instructional Designer, Learning Experience Designer, Instructional Design Support Specialist, Training and Instructional Designer

Future roles: Senior Instructional Designer, Instructional Designer II, LMS Administrator, Senior Leader Learning Designer, Director of Learning Design and Development

Instructional designers create content to educate students, staff, or clients on a wide-variety of topics. They often partner with subject-matter experts (SMEs) to help them write learning objectives and design the most effective methods of teaching specified content. In the education sector, instructional designers often work 1:1 with professors on specific courses and provide educational workshops and training about effective teaching methods both online and in person. In the corporate sector, instructional designers work internally with teams across the organization to build training content, explore new training methods, and build eLearning education solutions to serve wide-ranging audiences. 

Senior instructional designers often manage a team of instructional designers and work closely with internal teams to create effective curricula. They are responsible for all aspects of training, including curriculum, material development, and training delivery.

LMS administrators develop and maintain learning management system platforms and collaborate with project managers, technical subject matter experts, and clients to help define and develop virtual training offerings. This involves refining and maintaining training requirements and keeping training documentation, certifications, and marketing/engagement resources up to date.

Organizational Development

Organizational development (OD) is an evidence-based practice that seeks to solve problems. Organizational development professionals are trained in a five-step process of entry, diagnosis, feedback, solution, and evaluation to design and implement OD strategies in four key areas: human resources management, human processes, techno-structural initiatives, and strategic initiatives. 

Work settings include:

  • For-profit companies
  • Non-profit organizations
  • Military or government organizations

Entry-level job title examples: Organizational Development Specialist, Organizational Development and Training Associate, Project Consultant – Organizational Strategy, Organizational Change Management Consultant

Future roles: Senior Learning & Organizational Development Consultant, Director of Leadership/Organization Development, Vice President of Organizational Development And Learning

Organizational development specialists work in organizations to drive culture, improve processes, and increase effectiveness. They create and implement employee strategies and policies focused on engagement, performance management, retention and talent development, leadership development, and diversity, equity, and inclusion. Organizational development specialists partner with stakeholders throughout the company to assess needs, design initiatives, implement evidence-based strategies, and assess effectiveness. 

Organizational development consultants provide external perspectives and services to companies to improve their organizational strategies and processes. Consultants may work with multiple clients at a time and provide recommendations on a wide-variety of OD topics, such as organizational restructuring, employee engagement, company culture, talent management, and leadership development.

Management and Leadership

Managers and leaders work in every area of business, education, healthcare, government, and non-profit organizations. Leaders are responsible for the vision and mission of an organization, creating strategic plans and making important decisions; they are ultimately accountable for the success of an organization. Leaders often report to a board of directors that advises and helps guide the future of an organization. Most companies have a leadership team that includes representatives from operations, finance, technology, legal/compliance, human resources, sales, and marketing. These leaders often supervise managers who are in charge of day-to-day operations and employee management. 

Work settings include:

  • For-profit companies
  • Non-profit organizations
  • Local, state, and federal government 
  • K-12 and higher education 
  • Military

Entry-level job title examples: Manager, Director, Associate Director

Future roles: Senior Manager, Director of Operations, Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Chief People Officer (CPO), Chief Learning Officer (CLO

C-level executives include the top leaders of an organization, such as the chief executive officer (CEO), chief operating officer (COO), chief people officer (CPO), chief finance officer (CFO), and more. C-level executives drive the direction of the organization and make key decisions affecting the company at large. 

Managers are responsible for leading a team, which includes hiring, training, supervising, and evaluating. Managers often set the direction, vision, and goals for their teams, as well as keep them accountable. Managers conduct performance evaluations, and often recommend whether or not employees receive promotions, raises, or bonuses.

Human Resources 

Human resources (HR) professionals work in every type of organization and are responsible for employee management. The HR field includes compensation and benefits, recruiting, learning and development, performance management, and career development. 

Work settings in a hospital include:

  • For-profit companies
  • Non-profit organizations
  • Government agencies

Job title examples: HR Coordinator, Assistant HR Business Partner, HR Generalist, HR Specialist, Recruiter, Learning and Development Assistant, Corporate Learning and Development Specialist

Future roles: Human Resources Manager, Chief People Officer, Human Resources Director

HR generalists manage a wide-range of human resources functions. They often serve as the main point of contact for employee questions, manage benefits and compensation, and often work on recruiting as well. HR generalists are often found at smaller organizations that do not have the capacity for multiple HR teams. 

Recruiters find and hire top talent to fill open positions at an organization. They may focus on a specific area of a company, and they may be the first line of contact for all employees in the interview process. Recruiters often create pipelines of talent, manage employee referral programs, market and advertise open roles through a variety of job boards, manage applicant tracking systems (ATS), review candidate applications, coordinate with hiring managers, and conduct first-round phone interviews. 

Learning and development specialists are responsible for all aspects of training, including curriculum, material development, training delivery, and assessment. Training often includes onboarding and ongoing professional development and may be delivered either in person or online. Learning and development specialists often assess the training needs of an organization, work with subject matter experts to create the curriculum, implement training, and assess effectiveness. They are also often responsible for documentation and certification related to training.

Pro tip:
This is a basic guide to kick-start exploration, not a complete list of all paths. See specific job descriptions for more details. In addition, titles such as instructional designer, curriculum developer, etc., are sometimes used interchangeably. The title may change the level of the position, for example, Learning Experience Designer II or Senior often indicates mid-level vs. entry-level.

How can I acquire organizational change and leadership skills and turn them into a career?

If you are interested in pursuing your own career in organizational and change leadership, we recommend exploring these skills:

Transferable Skills and Qualities

  • Leadership Ability
  • Business Acumen
  • Critical Thinking
  • Collaborative
  • Communicative
  • Strategic 
  • Management Adept
  • Analytical
  • Deadline-Oriented
  • Organized
  • Budget Conscious
  • Project-Management Focused

Field-Specific Skills

  • Leadership and Management 
  • Organizational Development
  • Change Management 
  • Strategic Planning  
  • Instructional and Curriculum Design
  • Teaching
  • Education Administration
  • Data Analysis and Interpretation
  • Decision Making 
  • Project Management

What could my career look like with a organizational change and leadership skill set?

The pursuit of knowledge in organizational change and leadership is a wise decision for several compelling reasons. Firstly, it bestows graduates with a broad spectrum of career possibilities, enabling them to thrive in diverse industries and roles. The skills honed in this field are in high demand, making individuals with expertise in organizational change and leadership highly sought after in today’s dynamic job market. Additionally, it often leads to a desirable payscale, providing financial stability and recognition for their valuable skills. Equally important, it creates abundant opportunities for career advancement, allowing individuals to progress and contribute significantly to their chosen fields by spearheading positive organizational transformations and demonstrating effective leadership.

What are my next steps?

Learn more about organizational change and leadership:

Register for a course on edX to learn about a variety of topics within the field of organizational change and leadership.

Watch a session

Watch a relevant session on our Events page to learn more about the industry and other professionals’ experiences within it.

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