Human Resources

Organizational Behavior Degrees, Certificates, and Courses

Organizational Behavior Degrees, Certificates, and Courses
What makes one corporate team dedicated, productive and successful and another team unfocused and ineffective? Image from
Lucy Davies profile
Lucy Davies October 25, 2022

Can't decide between a career in business or psychology? Why not combine the two? Organizational behavior management employs psychology and business studies to improve work conditions and optimize productivity.

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Organizational behavior occupies the intersection of psychology and business studies, focusing on the way people behave within organizations, particularly in work environments. The field considers multiple factors in producing its results: tools and technology, organizational structure, access to information, and project management styles, to name a few.

Organizational behavior management (OBM) seeks to explain how all these elements interact to influence group behavior and inform evidence-based intervention strategies that can improve performance. It uses social science as a lens to address a range of challenges, including conflict resolution, lack of direction, and lack of employee buy-in for a business plan. Other potential benefits include creating an inclusive work environment, streamlining employee training, or focusing on a strategic goal. These improvements make businesses more efficient and profitable, enhance healthcare safety, and allow increased creativity to drive competitive advantage.

Organizational behavior operates on three different levels, all utilizing psychology, sociology, anthropology, ethics, and economics to understand human behavior in the workplace. The individual (micro) level employs organizational psychology and the study of human behavior and motivation to describe how and why people do what they do. The group (mezo) level applies sociology and social psychology to study group dynamics. The organizational (macro) level utilizes sociology and organizational theory to look at systems-level functions and interactions in the marketplace.

Addam Marcotte, VP of Operations and Organizational Development for the strategic advisory firm FMG Leading points out that “Effective leadership today is both art and science—it takes excellence in both the doing and the being to be an effective leader. In my view, mastery of organizational behavior is the new currency of leading today’s business.”

What degrees, certificates, and courses can you take to develop your organizational behavior expertise? This article explores that question.

Organizational behavior degrees, certificates, and courses

What makes one corporate team dedicated, productive and successful and another team unfocused and ineffective? Organizational structure and investment in human resource management can be as important as investment in information technology or means of production.

Various academic programs allow you to study organizational culture and how it impacts business. You could pursue a Master of Business Administration (MBA) or a Master of Science in Applied Psychology with a concentration in organizational behavior. Depending on your career goals and budget for professional development, you may want to consider opportunities like graduate certificates in organizational behavior or continuing education courses that require fewer credit hours and less of a financial investment.

Benefits of studying organizational behavior

Understanding the politics of power and structure, organizational leadership, conflict management, decision making, and organizational change is a complicated business. Competency in this subject means business managers can provide a framework for success in both established businesses and entrepreneurship opportunities. Because organizational behavior studies human beings and how they behave in response to their environment and social influences, it is applicable to any industry, business, or group, whether large or small.

Organizational behavior degree programs

A long list of MBA programs offer a concentration in organizational behavior. Many have hybrid or online programs in addition to their traditional on-campus format and provide both full-time and extended program models. Programs are designed to be flexible to accommodate the working professionals who constitute a significant portion of their student bodies. Rolling admission deadlines and multiple fixed start dates add convenience and flexibility.

Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business takes a strong STEM approach to its OB concentration. Major themes include helping organizations learn better in the age of big data, transferring knowledge between individuals and departments, and designing organizations to remain robust in the face of high turnover.

Coursework in these MBA programs include classes in organizational design, ethics and leadership, behavior analysis, probability and statistics, performance management, global economics, and corporate strategy.

You could also pursue a master’s degree in a related discipline. Cornell’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations (ILR) offers a Masters in Human Resources Studies with a Human Resources and Organizations concentration. This full-time program requires completing six core courses, six specialized courses, and four electives. It focuses on both theoretical and practical applications of leadership, conflict resolution, and decision-making.

Organizational behavior certificate programs

If pursuing your MBA or MS with an organizational behavior concentration demands too much of your time and energy, you may want to explore organizational behavior certificate programs. These typically consist of a series of required courses in organizational behavior and conflict management plus electives. Certificate programs can take anywhere from three months to three years to complete.

Harvard’s Division of Continuing Education offers on-campus and online courses that require no formal admission application. These courses can eventually be applied to the school’s management master’s degree or its industrial-organizational psychology master’s degree.

Iona University offers a 15-credit stand-alone advanced certificate in organizational behavior that can also be applied to its Master of Arts in Psychology. Lectures for this program are held on-campus only.

Florida Tech offers an entirely online program with content split into five sessions or modules. Online learners can work at their own pace but are expected to finish all five modules in 13 weeks.

Organizational behavior courses

Professional courses offered by extended studies departments at colleges and universities represent a third option for learning about organizational behavior. Auburn University offers an online OB course that prepares students to take a nationally recognized certification exam. Program objectives include examining the challenges of effective organizational communication, evaluating ethical and management issues, and assessing the impact of culture on organizational behavior. University of California – San Diego‘s three-credit extended studies course focuses on group dynamics, communication, leadership, motivation, power, and organizational design.


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Jobs you can pursue in organizational behavior (and what you’ll make)

Because the practice of organizational behavior is applicable to any industry, understanding the theories behind it allows professionals flexibility in career choices and supports their goals for entrepreneurship. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) lists a number of occupations that use the study of human behavior and motivation in their work.

Positions with direct connections for organizational behavior graduates are jobs like human resource manager, which pays a median annual salary of $111,975/year, with the top ten percent earning $138,121/year. Other jobs that use organizational behavior management techniques include operations manager ($110,342), organizational psychologist ($130,397), compensation and benefits manager ($127,530), labor relations specialist ($77,010), and training and development manager ($120,130).

Organizational culture will continue to evolve and change with the advent of more employees working from home. The ever-growing amount of data and information available to managers will also drive rapid change in organizational behavior studies. Organizational effectiveness and the relationships between the micro, mezo, and macro levels of organizational structure will continue to inform human resources and business decisions and strategy over time. Understanding how to observe this data will only become more important for businesses moving forward.

(Last Updated on February 26, 2024)

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Tom Meltzer spent over 20 years writing and teaching for The Princeton Review, where he was lead author of the company's popular guide to colleges, before joining Noodle.

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