Degree Requirements for M.S. Students

  1. Academic Advisory Committee Meeting
  2. Selection of Major Professor, Vice Major Professor, and M.S. Committee
  3. Selection of a Track
  4. Certification Meeting
  5. Completion of Coursework
  6. Research and Thesis Options
  7. Final Oral Examination
  8. Time Required 

1. Academic Advisory Committee Meeting

All entering graduate students meet with the departmental Academic Advisory Committee (AAC) at the beginning of the first semester, usually during orientation week. The AAC answers questions about the Botany graduate programs and advises the student on meeting general course requirements, making up deficiencies, and formulating a program that will lead to an advanced degree in the time allotted.

2. Selection of Major Professor, Vice Major Professor, and M.S. Committee

Students select a major professor, vice major professor and M.S. committee within the first year of graduate studies. The major professor is primarily responsible for directing the student’s coursework, supervising the student’s research and preparation of their thesis, chairing the M.S. committee, and monitoring the student’s satisfactory academic progress toward a degree. The vice major professor assumes the major professor’s duties when the major professor is unavailable. The M.S. Committee consists of at least 3 Botany Faculty.

3. Selection of a Track

Course requirements depend on which of the four tracks in Botany the student selects. The four tracks are: General Botany; Ecology; Evolution; and Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology. Students select a track as soon as possible but no later than their Certification Meeting at the end of their first year of study. The Academic Advisory Committee or the M.S. Committee will advise the student on available courses that could fill track requirements.

4. Certification Meeting

Students meet with their M.S. Committee by the end of their first year of study to determine what courses in addition to the major requirements (e.g., courses for the student’s selected track, seminar courses, and minimum Botany credits) will be required or recommended.

5. Completion of Coursework

M.S. students complete a minimum of 16 credits while in residence at the UW, including:

  • Courses required for their selected track
  • Six (6) credits within the Botany Department (can also fulfill track requirements)
  • Two (2) seminar courses
  • Courses assigned by the Academic Advisory Committee and/or the student's M.S. Committee
  • Research credits

See the UW Graduate School website for minimum credit and grade requirements

6. Research and Thesis Options

Students complete a non-terminal M.S. degree if they plan to pursue a Ph.D. at the University of Wisconsin – Madison.  There are two options for completing a non-terminal M.S. degree:

(1) Thesis
This option requires a written thesis based on original research. The thesis is reviewed and approved by the student’s M.S. Committee and deposited in the UW Memorial Library.

(2) Research Report
Research reports are not deposited in the UW Memorial Library. Students may select this option for a number of reasons. For example, research results may be potentially patentable, and therefore, cannot be published in a library thesis which would invalidate the patent application.

Students who expect to terminate their graduate studies at the University of Wisconsin - Madison with a M.S. degree have three options:

(1) Thesis (same as above)

(2) Research Report (same as above)

(3) Written Literature Review
This option requires a written literature review approved by the student’s major professor, plus six additional graduate-level credits while in residence at UW-Madison. Candidates who submit a written literature review normally will not be admitted to the Ph.D. program in the Botany Department at the University of Wisconsin – Madison.

The Non-thesis Professional Degree in Ecological Restoration is designed to prepare Botany students for careers in environmental consulting, natural resource agencies, and nongovernmental organizations.

This professional M.S. degree program is based on tailored coursework and skills training and requires a written literature review discussing the practical and biological aspects of a restoration practice. It is intended for students who wish to terminate their graduate studies with a Master’s degree. Students enrolled in this program are not eligible for teaching or project assistantships.

Students participate in a summer practicum that involves 4 skill modules from the following:

  1. Plant Identification
  2. Surveying
  3. Wetland Delineations
  4. Monitoring and Assessment
  5. Use of chainsaws, herbicides, and prescribed burn techniques
  6. Environmental Planning
  7. Environmental Regulations
  8. Use of Global Positioning System
  9. Use of Geographic Information Systems
  10. Facilitating meetings to plan restorations

 For more information or to apply to this program, contact Professor Kate McCulloh at

7. Final Oral Examination

M.S. candidates who submit a thesis or research report must pass a final oral examination administered by the student’s M.S. committee. The committee bases the final oral exam on the student’s thesis or research report and will test the student’s ability to:

  • analyze biological problems and formulate effective research approaches,
  • integrate and apply knowledge from a variety of fields related to his/her research,
  • respond articulately to questions regarding his/her research and related fields, and
  • demonstrate knowledge of recent advances and exhibit perspective on the history and philosophy of scientific investigation in his/her field.

8. Time Required

Normally, a M.S. degree is completed within 2½ calendar years of residency.