student photographing pottery


Each student designs a unique study plan with the help of faculty advisors. The plan includes courses and a thesis (for the M.S. degree) or a dissertation (for the Ph.D.).


Students must complete at least 30 credits for a master's degree and approximately 37 credits for a doctorate. Courses are drawn from the following four categories to provide both depth and breadth in knowledge related to environment and resources problems:

Category Master's Degree Doctorate
Natural Science 6 credits (minimum) 9 credits (minimum)
Social Science and/or Humanities 6 credits (minimum) 9 credits (minimum)
Measurement and Analysis 6 credits (minimum) 9 credits (minimum)
Individual Program Focus 12 credits (minimum), Up to 6 credits of thesis research may be counted 15 course credits (minimum) (9 of the 15 credits can be shared from one breadth category) plus two research seminars and a variable number of research credits

Doctoral students must complete at least one course in each breadth category at UW-Madison.

Every master's student must complete at least one graduate seminar. Each doctoral student must complete two graduate seminars. This requirement can be satisfied by completing Envr St 992 Special Topics in Land Resources, and/or Envr St 993 Seminar: Research Methods in Land Resources, or suitable substitutes.

Courses may be selected from many UW-Madison departments to satisfy the ER curriculum requirements. The following lists demonstrate the wide array of subjects in which courses can be taken:

Natural Science

  • agronomy
  • atmospheric and oceanic sciences
  • bacteriology
  • biological systems engineering
  • botany
  • chemistry
  • civil and environmental engineering
  • computer science
  • entomology
  • environmental studies
  • environmental toxicology
  • forestry
  • geography
  • geology and geophysics
  • industrial engineering
  • landscape architecture
  • plant pathology
  • soil science
  • wildlife ecology
  • zoology

Humanities/Social Science

  • agricultural economics
  • anthropology
  • business
  • continuing and vocational education (CAVE)
  • economics
  • education
  • environmental studies
  • forestry
  • geography
  • history
  • journalism and mass communication
  • landscape architecture
  • law & environmental law
  • life sciences communication
  • political science
  • public affairs
  • rural sociology
  • sociology
  • urban and regional planning
Measurement and Analysis
  • statistics
  • quantitative analysis
  • remote sensing
  • cartography
  • computer sciences
  • mathematics
  • modeling
  • qualitative methods
  • research methodology and other methodology courses
Individual Program Focus

Because courses in this category depend on the focus of a student's individual program, specific suggestions are not included here.

Students should not assume that all courses listed under a specific heading will be universally accepted. Each program should be individually tailored to achieve student and program objectives. Courses should be selected in consultation with each student's faculty committee.

A list of courses previously approved for credit in Environment and Resources is available on the web (PDF) or from the Academic Programs Office, 70 Science Hall.  Course offerings change continually.

Thesis or Dissertation

Every master's student must complete a thesis, and every doctoral student, a dissertation, based on original research. Thesis and dissertation topics vary greatly among ER students. Copies of actual theses and dissertations submitted to the Nelson Institute are kept in the Nelson Institute Student Commons, 15 Science Hall. A summary collection of thesis and dissertation abstracts is also available.

Examples of Environment and Resources theses and dissertations (PDF)

Satisfactory Progress

Students must maintain at least a B (3.0 grade-point) average and meet the Graduate School's minimum credit requirement. A student who falls below a 3.0 grade-point average is placed on probation and must achieve a cumulative average of at least 3.0 in the subsequent semester.