Graduate Program

Admissions | Financial Aid/Housing | Requirements | Forms and Docs
New Graduate Student Orientation

Areas of Concentration

The UW-Madison Department of Soil Science has offered M.S. and Ph.D degrees in specialty areas for over 90 years. The pioneering work of Franklin H. King, Emil Truog, A.R. Whitson and M.L. Jackson built a strong foundation for today’s graduate programs.

The department’s graduate training is subdivided into the following areas of concentration:

  • Soil and environmental physics
  • Soil chemistry and mineralogy
  • Soil fertility and plant nutrition
  • Soil ecology, biochemistry and microbiology
  • Soil and water management/conservation
  • Soil genesis, morphology and land use
  • Forest soils

In addition to production agriculture, emphasis is placed on wise environmental stewardship and rehabilitation of contaminated or deteriorated biomes. Check out the Grad School Catalog

International Programs

For decades the Department of Soil Science has made significant contributions to international agriculture. The limited and fragile nature of the resources that farmers control in developing countries requires research on new approaches to managing soil and water. The department offers a M.S. degree in soil and water technology for sustainable agriculture which emphasizes studies in different agroecological zones. CALS has cooperative agreements with the University of the West Indies, Trinidad; the Institut Pertanian, Bogor, Indonesia; Centro Agronomico Tropical de Investigacion Ensenanza (CATIE), Costa Rica; Visoyas State College of Agriculture, Philippines; and The Gambia Agricultural Research and Diversification Project, Banjul, The Gambia, Africa.

Applying for Admission

Students apply for admission online at the UW Graduate School online application website. Three letters of reference are required ( via the online application). In addition, materials that must be sent to the department directly are official transcripts (two copies) and reasons for graduate study (if not entered into online application). Send transcripts and reasons for graduate study to:

Graduate Admissions Coordinator
Department of Soil Science
Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison
1525 Observatory Drive
Madison, WI 53706-1299

Applications for summer session should be submitted by April 15, fall semester by June 15 and spring semester by November 15.

Financial Support/Housing

Financial support is usually available to qualified students in the form of research assistantships. Most assistantships are funded from research grants, and the final decisions for granting a research assistantship usually rests with the professor(s) supervising the research. Any research assistantship for at least one-third time qualifies a student for remission of all tuition. The department does not offer teaching assistantships.

A limited number of Graduate School fellowships are available to new students with outstanding records. The deadline for application (completed graduate school admissions, GRE scores, and three letters of recommendation) for these scholarships is early January of each year. The department selects the most qualified applicants and forwards their applications to a campus-wide selection committee. You are encouraged to contact Graduate Admissions in the Department of Soil Science early in the fall if you want to be considered for a Graduate School Fellowship.

The department offers one O.N. Allen Award each year to an exceptionally-qualified new student. This award includes a stipend of $2,000 in addition to any research assistantship. Working with the University of Wisconsin Foundation, the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation and private donors, we are fortunate to have two Wisconsin Distinguished Graduate Fellowships: The Wayne R. Kussow/Wisconsin Turfgrass Association Wisconsin Distinguished Graduate Fellowship was established in 2000 by the Wisconsin Turfgrass Association in honor of Dr. Wayne Kussow’s work in the turf area; the Leo M. Walsh/Wisconsin Fertilizer and Chemical Association Soil Fertility Distinguished Graduate Fellowship was established in 2002 in honor of Leo M. Walsh, Dean Emeritus, CALS.

Information on loans, grants, part-time jobs, and related opportunities may be obtained from the Office of Student Financial Services, 432 N. Murray Street, Madison, WI 53706.

Over 1000 modern University apartments near the campus are available for married graduate students at relatively low rental rates; campus buses provide continuous service to the area. Information on these apartments and graduate dormitories may be obtained by writing to University Housing, Slichter Hall, 625 Babcock Drive, Madison, WI 53706. A wide range of off-campus housing is also available. Information may be obtained from the Campus Information and Visitor Center, 716 Langdon Street, Madison, WI 53706, or the Chamber of Commerce, 615 East Washington Avenue, Madison, WI 53703.

Additional Links

Graduate School Checklist
Criteria for Satisfactory Progress
International Applicant Financial Information
Graduate Admissions
Online Application


University Requirements

All students must meet the minimum admission standards of the UW-Madison Graduate School, defined in its Graduate School Catalog. Once accepted, all students must meet minimum degree requirements and satisfactory progress including the following requirements: a minimum of 51 graduate credits are required for a Ph.D. degree in Soil Science, of which 32 credits must be taken at UW-Madison; a minimum of 30 graduate credits are required for a M.S. Degree in Soil Science, of which 16 credits must be taken at UW-Madison. For information on the Graduate School policies and procedures, forms, and deadlines, please click here.

Departmental Requirements

The department requires all students to have successfully completed one semester of calculus for the M.S. degree and two semesters of calculus (differential and integral) for the Ph.D., one course in statistics, nine credits of chemistry, and four credits of physics. These courses are usually completed as an undergraduate. Admission with deficiencies is possible although this is likely to delay completion of graduate studies. The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is required.

A minimum of 18 credits in Soil Science courses are required for a Ph.D. degree in Soil Science. A minimum of 17 credits in Soil Science courses are required for a M.S. degree in Soil Science. See below for the M.S. and Ph.D. degree documents and forms.

Joint degrees with other departments can be granted through early coordination and planning. Departments or programs commonly used for joint degrees include Forestry, Agronomy, Bacteriology, Horticulture, Land Resources, Environmental Chemistry and Technology, and Molecular and Environmental Toxicology. Because our graduate requirements presuppose extensive science coursework, continuing undergraduate students are encouraged to select undergraduate courses carefully if they are considering advanced degrees in Soil Science.

Please see the MS Requirements and PhD Requirements attachments below for more details.

Thesis Advisors

Selecting a thesis advisor is important because it affects students’ future career more profoundly than almost any other decision made during graduate studies. A thesis advisor influences students’ choice of research topic and often makes final decisions concerning assignment of research assistantships. We encourage students to contact professors doing research in their area of interest, especially when arranging research assistantships for financial support.

Graduate Student Forms and Documents

Master’s Degree
Current Forms/Documents

Previous Forms/Documents

PhD Degree
Current Forms/Documents

Previous Forms/Documents

PhD Degree Minor (for non-Soils majors)
Current Forms/Documents

Affiliated Programs

Agroecology Program
Nelson Institute
Microbiology PhD Training Program
Environmental Chemistry and Technology
Molecular and Environmental Toxicology Center


New Graduate Student Orientation

Department of Soil Science New Graduate Student Orientation. An overview of the Department of Soil Science Graduate Program for newly admitted graduate students. Topics covered include where to find information, graduate program sequence of events, certification forms and processes, exam and evaluations, basic requirements, and some other important miscellaneous information.