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Master of Professional Studies inPsychology of Leadership

Program summary

The online psychology of leadership master's degree program is intended for working professionals seeking advanced education in leadership. You can learn how to apply psychological theories and research to solve practical leadership problems in organizations.

100% Online

Complete your Penn State course work at your own pace and 100% online.

Application deadline

Apply by July 15 to start August 26

Credits and costs

33 Credits$1,017 per credit

Gain Leadership Skills and Competencies with a Psychology of Leadership Degree

  • Evaluate leadership challenges to understand leader behaviors, predict their effectiveness, and develop strategies for improving organizational effectiveness.

  • Analyze ethical dilemmas in leadership and understand the importance of ethical decision-making.

  • Understand people and social situations in work settings where more effective leadership can make an impact.

  • Improve employee relations, inspire employees through mentorship, and create a positive, productive work environment for your team.

Relevant Courses for Today’s Leaders

The curriculum can help you develop your awareness of ethical issues that can arise when leading others. You can also increase your knowledge of applications of leadership research and theory in multinational organizations, creative and innovative teams, and decision-making teams.

Course work addresses the way that aspects and techniques of leadership can enhance the motivation, attitudes, and performance of individual employees and teams in work organizations.

The program is based on well-supported psychological research and theories that have been shown to increase leadership effectiveness in workgroups and organizations. While based on research, the program emphasizes the application of learned knowledge.

Learn from our alumni how they are using their degrees since graduating from the program.

You can earn up to three related graduate certificates along the way to your Master of Professional Studies in Psychology of Leadership. Students who plan to take the stackable credentials pathway to this degree should follow the course lists for each graduate certificate program. To earn each certificate, you must apply, gain acceptance to the program, and complete the required courses.

Students who are not pursuing stackable credentials can follow the full course list for the program:

Required Courses (9 credits)

  • 3

    Students will examine the social and psychological processes underlying leadership in organizations.

  • 3

    Students will examine the psychological and social processes underlying behavior, motivation, and attitudes in work settings.

  • 3

    Students will examine the role of ethics in leadership with an emphasis on supporting ethical decision-making in organizations.

    • Prerequisite

      PSY 532

Psychology Elective Courses (select 15–21 credits)

  • 3

    Students will examine the relation of cultural variations in psychological and social factors affecting the effective leadership of individuals and groups in work organizations.

    • Prerequisite

      PSY 532 and PSY 539

  • 3

    Students will examine the influence of leadership on the psychological and social processes related to effective decision making in work groups.

    • Prerequisite

      PSY 532 and PSY 539

  • 3

    Students will examine the influence of leadership on the psychological and social processes related to developing creative ideas and implementing them within work groups and organizations.

    • Prerequisite

      PSY 532 and PSY 539

  • 3

    Students will examine the psychological and social processes related to leading work groups and teams.

    • Prerequisite

      PSY 532 and PSY 539

  • 3

    Students will examine the importance of developing followers and leader-follower relationships by investigating servant and authentic leadership.

    • Prerequisite

      PSY 532 and PSY 539

  • 3

    Students will explore the impact of negative and destructive leader behaviors including toxic leadership, abusive supervision and leader error.

    • Prerequisite

      PSY 532 and PSY 539

  • 3

    Students will examine the topic of shared and collective leadership, which includes the psychological processes surrounding collective, team-based, and dyadic leadership in organizations.

    • Prerequisite

      PSY 532 and PSY 539

  • 3

    Students will examine a variety of assessments used for assessing leadership capabilities, take those assessments themselves, and reflect on their results to reach personal insights they can use in creating their own leadership development plan.

    • Prerequisite

      PSY 532 and PSY 539

Non-Psychology Elective Courses (select up to 6 credits)

Students have opportunities to take selected courses in one or more of these areas: Communications (COMM), Fundraising Leadership (L A), Health Policy and Administration (H P A), Human Resources and Employee Relations (HRER), Labor and Human Relations (LHR), Management (MGMT), Organizational Leadership (OLEAD), and Workforce Education (WF ED).  Permission from the respective program may be required.

Only selected courses from the above-listed areas can be taken by Psychology of Leadership students. The list of approved courses is available from the PSYLD program director, Greg Loviscky ([email protected]), or by visiting the program's website for the most current offerings.

Culminating Experience (3 credits)

  • 3

    Supervised, professionally oriented student activities that constitute the culminating experience for the program.

Course Availability

If you're ready to see when your courses will be offered, visit our public LionPATH course search (opens in new window) to start planning ahead.

Advance Your Career

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You can use the knowledge gained from this program and the support of Penn State career resources to pursue careers in a variety of fields, depending on your goals.

Career Services to Set You Up for Success

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From the day you're accepted as a student, you can access resources and tools provided by Penn State World Campus Career Services to further your career. These resources are beneficial whether you're searching for a job or advancing in an established career.

  • Opportunities to connect with employers
  • Career counselor/coach support
  • Occupation and salary information
  • Internships
  • Graduate school resources 

Ready to Learn More?

Get the resources you need to make informed decisions about your education. Request information on this program and other programs of interest by completing this form.

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Learn more about this program

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Ready to take the next step toward your Penn State master's degree?

Apply by July 15 to start August 26. How to Apply 

Costs and Financial Aid

Learn about this program's tuition, fees, scholarship opportunities, grants, payment options, and military benefits.

Costs and Financial Aid

Graduate Tuition

Graduate tuition is calculated based on the number of credits for which you register. Tuition is due shortly after each semester begins and rates are assessed every semester of enrollment.

2023–24 Academic Year Rates

Tuition rates for the fall 2023, spring 2024, and summer 2024 semesters.

How many credits do you plan to take per semester?Cost
11 or fewer$1,017 per credit
12 or more$12,203 per semester

2024–25 Academic Year Rates

Tuition rates for the fall 2024, spring 2025, and summer 2025 semesters.

How many credits do you plan to take per semester?Cost
11 or fewer$1,027 per credit
12 or more$12,325 per semester

Financial Aid and Military Benefits

Some students may qualify for financial aid. Take the time to research financial aid, scholarships, and payment options as you prepare to apply. Military service members, veterans, and their spouses or dependents should explore these potential military education benefits and financial aid opportunities, as well.

To view the detailed list of cost of attendance elements, select “World Campus” as the location on the tuition site.

Earn Stackable Credentials on the Way to Your Degree

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Earn graduate certificates while you work toward your degree. It’s a great way to quickly gain new skills and add valuable credentials to your résumé — without any additional course work, course fees, or application fees. 

Finish the following three certificate requirements and the 3-credit capstone course, and you will have completed the requirements to earn your Psychology of Leadership master's degree. Please note you must apply and be accepted to each program on an individual basis, but you will not be charged application fees for any program beyond the first.

Complete All of These Certificates (30 credits)

This 9-credit online certificate program examines the foundations of leadership psychology. The courses can help students prepare for leadership promotions, analyze and enhance their leadership styles, and motivate and influence others in the workplace.

Learn more about the Graduate Certificate in Psychology of Leadership Foundations

This 9-credit online leadership psychology certificate program can help you become a better leader who fosters integrity in the workplace, successfully navigates challenging ethical dilemmas, and establishes and reinforces ethical organizational values.

Learn more about the Graduate Certificate in Psychology of Ethical Leadership

This 12-credit online leadership psychology certificate explores the research and theories shown to improve team leadership effectiveness. Course work focuses on skills leaders need to motivate team members, foster collaboration, and make unbiased decisions for effective organizational leadership.

Learn more about the Graduate Certificate in Psychology of Team Leadership

Complete the Capstone Course (3 credits)

After the certificate requirements have been met, you just need to complete the 3-credit capstone course to finish the master's.

Expand Your Leadership Skills and Define Your Leadership Style

The online psychology of leadership program can help strengthen your leadership competencies and skills. Course assignments are focused on real-world application, providing you the opportunity to apply new knowledge and skills in your current role.

The leadership competencies emphasized in the program include: 

  • agility 
  • communication 
  • critical thinking 
  • decision-making 
  • execution 
  • innovation 
  • teamwork 

As a graduate, you should also be able to demonstrate a comprehensive understanding of the psychology of leadership, explain relevant theories underlying and related to the psychology of leadership, and apply psychological theories to leadership issues and situations.

Who Should Apply?

The MPS in Psychology of Leadership is designed for eager, motivated students working in industries including health care, finance, higher education, social services, military, law enforcement, engineering, and sales and marketing.

This program is not designed to improve such managerial skills as budgeting or business strategy, but rather to help you understand people and social situations in work settings where more effective leadership can make an impact. If you wish to gain skills that can enhance your leadership effectiveness, this program is a good fit for you. The work you put toward this degree can better position you to improve employee relations, inspire employees through your mentorship, and create a positive, productive work environment for your team.

Set Your Own Pace

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Whether you are looking to finish your program as quickly as possible or balance your studies with your busy life, Penn State World Campus can help you achieve your education goals. Many students take one or two courses per semester.

Our online courses typically follow a 12- to 15-week semester cycle, and there are three semesters per year (spring, summer, and fall). If you plan to take a heavy course load, you should expect your course work to be your primary focus and discuss your schedule with your academic adviser. 

To Finish Your Degree in One to Two Years

  • Take 3–4 courses each semester

To Finish Your Degree in Two to Three Years

  • Take 2–3 courses each semester 

To Finish Your Degree in Three to Four Years

  • Take 1 course each semester

Convenient Online Format

This program's convenient online format gives you the flexibility you need to study around your busy schedule. You can skip the lengthy commute without sacrificing the quality of your education and prepare yourself for more rewarding career opportunities without leaving your home.

A Trusted Leader in Online Education

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Penn State has a history of more than 100 years of distance education, and World Campus has been a leader in online learning for more than two decades. Our online learning environment offers the same quality education that our students experience on campus.

Information for Military and Veterans

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Are you a member of the military, a veteran, or a military spouse? Please visit our military website for additional information regarding financial aid, transfer credits, and application instructions.

How to Apply to Penn State

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Apply by July 15 to start August 26

Application Instructions

Deadlines and Important Dates

Complete your application and submit all required materials by the appropriate deadline. Your deadline will depend on the semester you plan to start your courses.

  • Fall Deadline

    Apply by July 15 to start August 26
  • Spring Deadline

    Apply by November 15 to start January 13
  • Summer Deadline

    Apply by April 1, 2025, to start May 19, 2025

Steps to Apply

  1. For admission to the Graduate School, an applicant must hold either (1) a baccalaureate degree from a regionally accredited U.S. institution or (2) a tertiary (postsecondary) degree that is deemed comparable to a four-year bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited U.S. institution. This degree must be from an officially recognized degree-granting institution in the country in which it operates.

    GPA and Work Experience — Students who do not have a GPA of 3.0 will be considered on a case-by-case basis depending on the quality of their overall application. Applicants who are still completing their baccalaureate requirements at the time of application may be admitted to the Graduate School conditional on the awarding of the baccalaureate degree. Students are also expected to have a minimum of  two years of full-time, paid work experience prior to admission.

  2. You will need to upload the following items as part of your application:

    Official transcripts from each institution attended, regardless of the number of credits or semesters completed. Transcripts not in English must be accompanied by a certified translation. Penn State alumni do not need to request transcripts for credits earned at Penn State but must list Penn State as part of your academic history. If you are admitted, you will be asked to send an additional official transcript. You will receive instructions at that time.

    GRE and Test Scores  No GRE or GMAT scores are required.

    References (1) — You will need to initiate the process through the online application by entering name, email address, and mailing address of one reference. Upon submission of your application, an email will be sent to the reference requesting they complete a brief online recommendation regarding your commitment for success in an online program. Please inform the recommender they must submit the form in order for your application to be complete. Your recommender must have direct knowledge of, and be able to provide examples of, your academic and/or professional skills. Recommendations from family members (spouses, significant others, children, grandparents, etc.) will not be accepted.  

    English Proficiency — The language of instruction at Penn State is English. With some exceptions, international applicants must take and submit scores for the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or International English Language Testing System (IELTS). Minimum test scores and exceptions are found in the English Proficiency section on the Graduate School's "Requirements for Graduate Admission" page. Visit the TOEFL website for testing information. Penn State's institutional code is 2660.

    Program-Specific Questions/Materials

    Vita or Résumé — Upload your résumé to the online application.

    Statement of Purpose —  An essay 2–3 pages long, articulating career and educational goals that demonstrate the student’s written communication skills.

  3. To begin the online application, you will need a Penn State account.

    Create a New Penn State Account

    If you have any problems during this process, contact an admissions counselor at [email protected].

    Please note: Former Penn State students may not need to complete the admissions application or create a new Penn State account. Please visit our Returning Students page for instructions.

  4. If you have been previously accepted to a program with stackable credentials, you will not be charged an additional application fee for any associated programs.

    Associated programs in the psychology of leadership stack:


    • Master of Professional Studies in Psychology of Leadership


    • Graduate Certificate in Psychology of Leadership Foundations
    • Graduate Certificate in Psychology of Ethical Leadership
    • Graduate Certificate in Psychology of Team Leadership

    If you begin with a certificate and are interested in pursuing the Master of Professional Studies in Psychology of Leadership, work with your adviser while completing your first certificate to determine which program to apply to next.

    Up to 15 credits earned in any of these certificate programs may be transferred to the Master of Professional Studies in Psychology of Leadership, subject to restrictions outlined in GCAC-309 Transfer Credit.

  5. You can begin your online application at any time. Your progress within the online application system will be saved as you go, allowing you to return at any point as you gather additional information and required materials.

    • Choose Enrollment Type: "Degree Admission"
    • Choose "WORLD CAMPUS" as the campus

    Checking Your Status 
    You can check the status of your application by using the same login information established for the online application form. 

    Technical Requirements  
    Review the technical requirements for this degree program. 

  6. 6. Complete the application.

Admissions Help

If you have questions about the admissions process, contact an admissions counselor at [email protected].

Contact Us

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Have questions or want more information? We're happy to talk.

To learn more about the Master of Professional Studies in Psychology of Leadership, please contact:

Greg Loviscky
Program Director
140 Moore Building
The Pennsylvania State University
University Park, PA 16802-2905
[email protected]
Phone: 814-863-1116

Learn from the Best

Study with highly regarded faculty who are world-renowned researchers and practitioners of leadership who have exhibited leadership as entrepreneurs and in a variety of organizations. This program was developed in collaboration with the Penn State College of the Liberal Arts.


  • Richard Bakken

    • Degree
      Ph.D., Leadership Studies, University of San Diego
    • Degree
      M.A.Ed., University of Phoenix
    • Degree
      B.A., Wisconsin Lutheran College

    Dr. Richard Bakken is a member of the faculty in the psychology of leadership program. An experienced educator, he also serves as chief information officer for the Graduate School of Design at Harvard University. His leadership research focuses on higher education administration in a global setting, exploring the impact of native students attending western universities in Doha, Qatar. His research interests include applied leadership informing administrators how students describe their learning experiences in Western university environments and ways that technology can impact those processes.

  • James M. Dobbs

    • Degree
      Ph.D., Leadership Studies, University of San Diego
    • Degree
      M.A., Counseling and Leadership, University of Colorado, Colorado Springs
    • Degree
      M.S., Aeronautical Science, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University
    • Degree
      B.B.A., Business Management, University of New Mexico

    Dr. James M. Dobbs is an instructor of organizational management, psychology, and leadership. He has been a behavioral change agent for approximately 15 years, coaching and mentoring high-potential leaders who are thriving and successful, as well as those who are struggling and derailing. His research and writing involve leadership development and self-awareness, toxic leadership, cynicism, and assessment of leadership programs. He understands that the pace of change facing organizations requires multiple approaches to leadership development and requires more adaptive, flexible leadership.

  • Keith Gatto

    • Degree
      Ph.D., Organizational Leadership, The Chicago School of Professional Psychology
    • Degree
      M.Ed., Psychology, Cambridge College
    • Degree
      B.S., Business Administration and Marketing, Villanova University

    Dr. Keith Gatto has more than 25 years of experience in both industry and academics and has taught professionals domestically and internationally. His research and teaching focus is on the intersection of innovation, leadership, and positive psychology. He works extensively with Silicon Valley industry leaders on the development of positive employee mindsets that impact the culture and productivity of organizations. Before working in academics, Dr. Gatto worked in various organizations, including Vanguard, CIGNA, and MFS Investment Management.

  • Andrew D. Katayama

    • Degree
      Ph.D., Educational Psychology, Mississippi State University
    • Degree
      M.Ed., Curriculum and Instruction, Freed-Hardeman University
    • Degree
      B.S.E., Secondary Education and Psychology, Freed-Hardeman University

    Dr. Andrew D. Katayama’s research and teaching foci have been in the areas of learning and cognition. He has taught courses in behavioral and cognitive psychology, educational psychology, research methods and statistics, and marriage and family. Dr. Katayama’s publications have been in the areas of learning strategies, team efficacy, assistive technology in special education, and sports psychology, among other areas of scholarship.

  • George Mastroianni

    • Degree
      Ph.D., Experimental Psychology, University of New Hampshire
    • Degree
      M.A., Experimental Psychology, University of New Hampshire
    • Degree
      M.A., International Relations, San Francisco State University
    • Degree
      B.S., Psychology, Georgetown University

    Dr. George Mastroianni teaches courses in the psychology of leadership. Having served in the U.S. Army as a research psychologist, Dr. Mastroianni has considerable experience conducting applied psychological research to solve problems, evaluate new equipment, and measure and improve human performance. He has also published extensively on obedience, ethics, and leadership. His current research and scholarship focus on the psychology of the Holocaust.

  • Paul Obidinski

    • Degree
      J.D., University at Buffalo, School of Law
    • Degree
      B.S., Psychology, Penn State

    Professor Obidinski teaches several courses, including Ethics and Leadership and the Psychology of Leading Work Groups and Teams. Over the course of his career, he has served as an attorney in private practice and has held executive leadership roles in ethics, compliance, and human resources at several Fortune 100 companies. He works closely with professional athletes on career management initiatives and with small businesses on employee and business development projects.

  • Peter Reiley

    • Degree
      Ph.D., Industrial and Organizational Psychology, Penn State
    • Degree
      M.A., Organizational Leadership, Chapman University
    • Degree
      B.B.A., Management, Leadership, & Administration, University of Texas at San Antonio

    Dr. Peter Reiley has taught university-level courses in leadership, psychology, and management for more than a decade. He has more than 20 years of leadership experience ranging from leading a national nonprofit to service in the United States Air Force as a program manager for the multibillion-dollar U.S. space launch program, leading blended teams of military personnel, government civilians, and contractors from Fortune 500 companies. He is an international scholar with more than 50 publications and presentations on leadership, power, influence, and military veteran transition, and he has consulted for organizations across the government and private sectors.

  • Eileen Schiffer

    • Degree
      Ph.D., Industrial/Organizational Psychology, University of South Florida
    • Degree
      M.A., Industrial/Organizational Psychology, University of South Florida
    • Degree
      B.A., Psychology, University of South Florida

    Dr. Eileen Schiffer is an industrial organizational psychologist who has had a wide range of opportunities to support students and clients in their pursuits of their professional goals. Those experiences have included individual counseling, comprehensive project management, program development and evaluation, and training and support of others who shared a commitment to facilitating academic and professional growth of students and clients. Dr. Schiffer is an advocate and driver for high-quality online adult education.

  • Jill K. Wheeler

    • Degree
      Ph.D., Industrial-Organizational Psychology, University of Maryland, College Park
    • Degree
      M.A., Industrial-Organizational Psychology, University of Maryland, College Park
    • Degree
      B.A., Psychology (Honors), Wayne State University

    Dr. Jill K. Wheeler is an instructor in the MPS in Psychology of Leadership program. In addition to teaching, she is a consultant with expertise in developing practical business solutions to help organizations succeed by selecting, developing, engaging, and retaining outstanding talent. She possesses a broad experience base, having worked for 20 years in Fortune 500 and privately held companies in a variety of industries. Dr. Wheeler has also authored or delivered more than 20 publications and presentations on topics including employee selection, job satisfaction, performance management, and leadership.

Ready to take the next step toward your Penn State master's degree?

Apply by July 15 to start August 26. How to Apply