Degree Requirements

To earn a master’s degree, students must complete a minimum of 45 credits. These include:

Four core requirements totaling 20 credits:

  • COMMLD 501: Leadership Through Story and Communities (5 credits)
  • COMMLD 502: Communication Through Digital Media and Networks (5 credits)
  • Law and/or Ethics (5 credits)
  • Research Methods (5 credits)

Students have multiple choices to meet the Law & Ethics and Research Methods requirements. Classes meeting these requirements are indicated as such on the Comm Lead website list of courses.

Elective courses totaling 25 credits:

  • 10 credits may be taken outside of chosen degree emphasis, including a maximum of 5 credits taken outside of the Communication Leadership program
  • Electives may include COMMLD 593 internship (max 15 credits), COMMLD 591 independent research (max 10 credits), or COMMLD 600 research project (5 credits)
  • The program has no master’s thesis requirement. If students are interested they can complete a COMMLD 600 Research Project. It is a rare occurrence, and usually most appropriate for students planning to continue on to a PhD program and enter academia as a professor and researcher.

Elective Courses

Our wide breadth of course offerings allow students to either explore a variety of distinct areas related to the field of professional communication, or to pick courses in related topics to specialize in a selected area. We develop classes in these topic areas in consideration of the changes and needs of the professional communication field. Our commitment is to train professionals in current and future practices and trends. Our classes and explored topics combine professional skills with critical thinking.

Content Strategy/UX

The Content Strategy/User Experience focus area appeals to students who seek a career in user research, user experience, and content strategy. The area showcases our series of Comm Lead electives that relate content and product strategy for organizations and brands, user research, data science, and user experience and brand development. Job Titles related to this area include: User Experience Researcher, Content Strategist.

Marketing & Analytics

For Comm Lead students who are interested in the work of how cross-sector entities build and measure their brand effectiveness, this area includes everything from futurist-oriented classes that push the envelope on marketing strategies, to data science, marketing copywriting, and brand development. Job Titles related to this area include: Marketing Manager, Brand Manager, Engagement Analyst.


All institutions, movements, and leaders require a strong narrative. This focus area houses our video and audio storytelling classes, as well as courses on storytelling for organizations and businesses. This focus area particularly suits students who are interested in producing the stories that both help to define and elevate the profile of institutions. Job Titles related to this area include: Chief Storyteller, Videographer.

Organizational and Professional Communication

For students interested in the potential to drive internal communications and institutional protocols, this focus area is designed to build core and reaching competencies. These courses give students a deep dive into professional communication best practices for internal and external communication, diversity and inclusion communication strategies for organizations, as well as change management. Job Titles related to this area include: COO, Program Operations, Diversity Officer.

Communication Ethics and Law

Since Comm Lead’s inception, Communication Ethics and Law has been a core requirement. Students can take classes from this area in digital media law, crisis communication, and the law and ethics of community building. This focus area attracts students who are interested in work at the nexus of ethical behavior and communications. Job Titles related to this area include: Crisis Communications Manager, Risk Assessment.

Communication and Culture

This curricular area appeals to students interested in more deeply understanding community dynamics, motivation, and sustained change. The courses in this focus area include civic advocacy movement-building, ethnography, and individualized research. Job Titles related to this area include: Community Organizer, Brand Ethnographer, Researcher.

Community and Leadership

For students with a keen interest in careers that involve leadership development, training, and thought leadership, the Community and Leadership focus area provide students with choices that explore leadership attributes, such as how leaders cultivate strong listening habits, to how leaders successfully transmit their ideas to their publics. Job Titles related to this area include: CEO, Executive Director.

Emergent Technologies

In every graduate program there are a subset who are the early adopters, the explorers, and the futurists. This focus area provides a crucial collection of classes that explore the near horizon, keeping our students ahead of the curve on issues such as Artificial Intelligence, or the implications of Big Data and privacy. Job Titles related to this area include: Futurist, Market Researcher, Tester.

Earning The Degree

Course Format

Comm Lead offers classes on weekday evenings and all-day on Saturdays to suit the schedules of working professionals. All classes are on the Seattle campus and we do not currently offer any online or distance classes.


All students start as a cohort in autumn quarter, beginning with the core cohort class COMMLD 501, plus any additional elective they might choose. The admission application deadline is February 1 each year, and full details on how to apply can be found here .

How long does it take to complete a Comm Lead degree?

For part-time students enrolling in five credits per quarter, it can take between two and three years to complete the 45-credit program.

Full-time students enrolling in 10 credits per quarter and taking classes in summer can complete the 45-credit program in 15 months.

International students must maintain a minimum of 10 credits per quarter, with the exception of their final quarter or annual vacation quarter.

How do I graduate and officially earn my degree?

During the final quarter of classes, students must submit a master’s request in order to earn the degree. The master’s request is submitted between the first and last days of instruction, per UW Graduate School deadlines. Degrees typically post to transcripts within two to four weeks after final quarter grades are posted, and diplomas are mailed three to four months later. UW holds graduation ceremonies once per year in June, for all students who earned their degrees during the prior academic year.

NikaDegree Requirements