A blue plastic mug from Western Governors University.

The MSML Degree Program at Western Governors University

From December 2017-May 2018, I did a second graduate degree at Western Governors University: the Master of Science in Management and Leadership (MSML). I was inspired to do it by Steve Ritter, the president of an airport business that handles lost luggage for over a dozen airlines, who had completed it after completing his Master of Business Administration in under four months. As Steve said he was motivated by my article, How I Did an MBA in 4.5 Months, it was poetic that I should take inspiration from one of my readers.

In some of our original correspondence, Steve explained,

Not so sure if it’s a new degree. I originally was going to do this degree last year, as the subject matter is interesting, but was convinced my my economics Course Mentor and friend, Dr. Pook Carson, and my Student Mentor to do the MBA first, as being more prestigious. I surely enjoy wearing my MBA ring.

The MSML has 11 classes, like the MBA, and there are 5 cross-over classes, so a WGU MBA graduate needs only to complete 5 classes plus a capstone class.

If you are trying to decide between doing an MBA and MSML, an MBA would be more useful for larger corporations, whereas a MSML may be more appropriate for non-profit organizations. But as there is a lot of overlap, they are relevant to both.

In my case, I had already completed the MBA and considered the MSML to be continuing education. It is relevant to my life because I am on the board of directors of several non-profit organizations (MiHEC, AXIS International Academy, and Fort Collins Running Club) and am also a small business owner (Horsetooth Design). I also lead Spanish, French, and Mandarin language groups. Concurrently with the MSML program, I was also the crew chief of Team Sea to See, an organization of 30 people that fielded the world’s first four-tandem bicycle team with all-blind stokers to successfully complete the grueling Race Across America.

Unlike the MBA program which I focused exclusively on, I did the MSML program during an ridiculously busy time of my life as described in the post Like Back in College (a.k.a. the Elon Musk Experiment). This included working full-time, involvement with the organizations mentioned in the preceding paragraph, and girlfriend. So instead of doing a class every 8-12 days like in the MBA program, I completed one every four weeks.

I still completed the program in less than a semester, but if I had to take all of the 11 classes due to not doing the MBA first, it would have taken me a year. Still, at WGU’s affordable tuition rate of roughly $4000/semester, even a year would have been a great value.


The classes I needed to take included:

  1. C203 Becoming an Effective Leader
  2. C205 Leading Teams
  3. C201 Business Acumen
  4. C208 Change Management and Innovation
  5. C209 Strategic Management
  6. C210 Capstone
ClassAssessmentsDatesTime Completed
C203 Becoming an Effective Leader 2 papersDecember 1-January 232 days
C205 Leading Teams 2 papers (including team Powerpoint)January 1-3129 days
C201 Business AcumenexamJanuary 31-February 55 days*
C208 Change Management and Innovation multimedia presentation; examFebruary 5-249 days
C209 Strategic Management 2 papersFebruary 24-April 211 days
C210 Capstone business report; oral presentation; paperApril 2-May 89 days

*Might have been 12-15 days since I think I started this class before C205 was completed, as I was waiting for C205 team members to complete some work.

The classes I didn’t have to retake due to having already completed the Master of Business Administration program included:

  1. Managing Organizations and Leading People
  2. Managing Human Capital
  3. Management Communication
  4. Ethical Leadership
  5. Data-Driven Decision Making

Papers & Presentations

  1. C203 Task 1: 18 pages
  2. C203 Task 2: 10 pages
  3. C208 Task 1: 16 PowerPoint slides (no video presentation needed)
  4. C209 Task 1: 19 pages
  5. C209 Task 2: 34 pages (way overkill, but I did receive a WGU Strategic Management Excellence Award for it)
  6. C210 Task 2: 27 pages
  7. C210 Task 3: 15-minute presentation with PowerPoint slides
  8. C210 Task 4: 14 pages

Note: There is no page length requirements for papers. I listed the above (which includes cover pages and references) to give you an idea of how much writing you can expect to do to complete the assessments. How long your papers would be depends entirely on how concisely you write to fulfill the requirements of the rubrics.

Note #2: Please do not ask me to share my papers with you. Believe it or not, several Masters students ask me to do so every year. I will not do so due to the potential for plagiarism. If you find yourself “stuck,” please reread the rubrics and follow them exactly, reach out to course mentors, and/or peruse the class forums (cohorts) for tips and similar questions. You can do it!

More Information

The article How I Did an MBA in 4.5 Months contains many tips and other musings that are applicable to the MSML program too. Be sure to read that article if you are considering either program. Good luck!

A blue plastic mug from Western Governors University.
A blue plastic mug from Western Governors University.