Master's Degree Programs

Details of requirements and procedures pertaining to master's degree study in the department are described in the department's M.S. Program Handbook. Because master's degree students are personally responsible for learning about and following department requirements and procedures, they should familiarize themselves with this document. The handbook is also available at the department office. Master's degree students are also personally responsible for learning about and following Graduate School policies. The curriculum and instruction graduate program office offers an informational meeting for new graduate students at the beginning of each semester.

M.S. in Curriculum and Instruction

The M.S. in curriculum and instruction prepares students for advanced work in education. In some cases, work leading to the degree prepares students to enter a new career as an educational specialist (e.g., curriculum developer, content-area specialist, school department head, curriculum supervisor, early childhood specialist, ESL or bilingual teacher, or reading teacher). In other cases, it prepares students to perform at a higher level in their existing job. In yet other cases, it prepares students for Ph.D. study. Motivations for master's degree work include professional updating, maintenance of accreditation, acquisition of new perspectives and skills, development of specialized knowledge, preparation to work with student teachers, preparation for leadership among teachers, and preparation for advanced graduate study. Whatever their personal reasons for pursuing the degree, master's degree students should expect both an atmosphere of intellectual inquiry and the serious academic standards befitting a graduate research program in curriculum and instruction.

M.S. in Curriculum and Instruction—Named Options (Teacher Certification)

A master of science with secondary teacher certification is offered as a master of science in curriculum and instruction with named options in English, mathematics, science, and social studies. Additional information may be found at uwteach.com. Elementary teacher certification is not available through the Department of Curriculum and Instruction master's program. Students who desire elementary teacher certification should contact Education Academic Services.)

This streamlined, graduate-level program prepares students for a teaching license both in a specific content area at the secondary level (English, Math, Science, or Social Studies) and to work with English language learners (ESL certification). To learn more see the C&I website or uwteach.com.

The M.S. program with named options in Secondary English Education, Secondary Math Education, Secondary Science Education, and Secondary Social Studies accepts applications starting the summer of the preceding year, until the program reaches its capacity. A new cohort begins each summer.

The program covers two summers and an intervening academic year. Throughout this time span, students take graduate-level courses and engage in fieldwork associated with those courses. In addition, students must complete a master's project.

The department nominates eligible incoming M.S. and Ph.D. students for an Advanced Opportunity Fellowship (AOF). Eligibility criteria for these fellowships can be found at the Graduate School's Funding Information page. The department nominates its most academically competitive Ph.D. candidates for the Social Studies Division Fellowships. Nominees are considered in January by a committee of the Department of Curriculum and Instruction.  For an applicant to be considered in this competition, the graduate-application file should be complete by December 1.

University-wide information about financial aid for graduate students is available through the Office of Student Financial Aid. Additional information about financing graduate education is available from the Graduate School's Types of Funding Available page.

The department itself does not award fellowships or scholarships; however, a limited number of teaching assistantships, project assistantships, research assistantships, and program assistantships are available either in the department or through faculty research projects in the Wisconsin Center for Education Research. These assistantships are awarded to qualified, full-time graduate students and typically involve 10–20 hours of professional work each week, usually in close collaboration with one or more professors. Assistantships provide a stipend and may include the cost of tuition (excluding segregated fees).

Applications for assistantships in the department can be downloaded here or requested from the Academic Department Manager, 210A Teacher Education Building, 608-263-4602, jzander@education.wisc.edu. Students should also check with individual faculty members about opportunities for assistantships in the department. Any teaching, project, or program assistant in the department must carry a full course load of 8–15 graduate-level credits and make satisfactory progress toward the graduate degree.

Minimum Degree Requirements and Satisfactory Progress

To make progress toward a graduate degree, students must meet the Graduate School Minimum Degree Requirements and Satisfactory Progress in addition to the requirements of the program.

Master’s Degrees

M.S., and M.S. with available named options in Secondary English Education, Secondary Mathematics Education, Secondary Science Education, and Secondary Social Studies Education

Minimum Graduate Degree Credit Requirement

M.S.: 30 credits

M.S. with named option: 51 credits

Minimum Graduate Residence Credit Requirement

M. S.: 21 credits

M.S. with named option: 51 credits

Minimum Graduate Coursework Requirement

100% of the credits taken at UW–Madison must be completed in graduate-level coursework; courses with the Graduate Level Coursework attribute are identified and searchable in the university's Course Guide.

Prior Coursework Requirements: Graduate Work from Other Institutions

M.S.: With program approval, students are allowed to count no more than 9 credits of graduate coursework from other institutions. This coursework does not appear on a UW–Madison transcript nor count toward graduate career GPA. Coursework earned five or more years prior to admission to a master’s degree is not allowed to satisfy requirements.

M.S. with named option: Students may not transfer in credits of graduate course from other institutions.

Prior Coursework Requirements: UW–Madison Undergraduate

M.S.: No credits from a UW–Madison undergraduate degree are allowed to count toward the degree.

M.S. with named option: No credits from a UW–Madison undergraduate degree are allowed to count toward the degree.

Prior Coursework Requirements: UW–Madison University Special

M.S.: With program approval, students are allowed to count no more than 9 credits of coursework numbered 300 or above taken as a UW–Madison University Special student. Coursework earned five or more years prior to admission to a master’s degree is not allowed to satisfy requirements.

M.S. with named option: No credits as a UW–Madison University Special student are allowed to count toward the degree.

Credits per Term Allowed

15 credits

Program-Specific Courses Required

M.S.: None required.

M.S. with named option: Requirements vary by named option; see program website.

Overall Graduate GPA Requirement

M.S.: 3.25 GPA required.

M.S. with named option: 3.00 GPA required.

Other Grade Requirements

Students must earn a B average or above in all coursework.

Probation Policy

The status of a student can be one of two options:

  1. Satisfactory progress (progressing according to standards)
  2. Unsatisfactory progress (not progressing according to standards; permitted to enroll with specific plan with dates and deadlines in place in regard to removal of unsatisfactory progress to avoid dismissal from the program).

Advisor

All students are required to have an advisor. An advisor is assigned to all incoming students. To ensure that they are making satisfactory progress toward a degree, students should meet with their advisor on a regular basis.

The advisor serves as the thesis advisor. Students can be suspended from the program, if they do not have an advisor.

Assessments and Examinations

M. S.: thesis & examination required.

M.S. with named option: requirements vary by named option; please see the program website

Time Constraints

Master’s degree students who have been absent for five or more consecutive years lose all credits that they have earned before their absence. Individual programs may count the coursework students completed prior to their absence for meeting program requirements; that coursework may not count toward Graduate School credit requirements.

Language Requirements

No language requirements other than the English proficiency required for admission.

All applicants should apply online at Graduate School Online Application. Official transcripts should be sent in duplicate to the

Curriculum and Instruction Graduate Program Office
225 North Mills Street
Madison WI 53706-1707

Printed letters of recommendation may also be sent to this address, but persons writing recommendations may find it faster and more convenient to submit their recommendations electronically to the Graduate School through the online application. Any additional documentation required specifically by the Department of Curriculum and Instruction should be uploaded to the application or the supplemental application.

Master's Applicants

Official transcripts from all previous post-secondary study and three letters of recommendation are required for all master's degree applicants. Letters of recommendation should be written by persons who are qualified to judge the potential of the applicant as a graduate student.  Requests to have letters of recommendation submitted electronically are made as part of the online application for admission. Letters may also be sent directly to the Department of Curriculum and Instruction. 

All master's degree applicants are required to submit a detailed statement of reasons for graduate study. This statement should indicate the applicant's primary area of interest, professional objectives, career goals, and why the applicant is interested in pursuing the master's degree in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction. This information is used to gauge the appropriateness of the applicant's program goals in relation to the department's mission and to identify prospective advisors whose research interests match those of the applicant. If an applicant's statement fails to persuade a faculty member to serve as the graduate advisor, the applicant will be refused admission; it is therefore important that this statement be detailed, well-written, and matched to specific areas of study that are available in the department. If an applicant would like for a particular professor to serve as graduate advisor, the applicant should identify the desired advisor in the statement of reasons for graduate study.

All master's degree applicants are required to submit a resume or curriculum vitae (cv).

For the traditional C&I master's program, if the grade point average (GPA) of an applicant's last 60 semester-hours of undergraduate course work is below 3.0 (on a 4-point scale), the applicant must also take the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) general test and have an official report of the scores sent electronically from the Educational Testing Service (ETS) to UW–Madison (institution code: 1846).

The Graduate Record Exam (GRE) is required if one is applying for the M.S. with named options in Secondary English Education, Secondary Mathematics Education, Secondary Science Education, and Secondary Social Studies Education.

International applicants should note additional requirements that are described in the International Applications section, below.

International Applicants

The department has a long and successful history of working with graduate students from around the world. Over the last 25 years, approximately 130 M.S. degrees were earned by international students; students in this group came from 37 countries. During the same period, approximately 150 Ph.D. degrees were earned by international students in the department; students in this group came from 43 countries. Qualified international students add to the enrichment of the social and intellectual environment for all faculty and students.

In accord with Graduate School policy, applicants whose native language is not English or whose undergraduate instruction was not in English must provide official scores from the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), International English Language Testing System (IELTS), or the Michigan English Language Assessment Battery (MELAB). An admitted applicant whose internet-based TOEFL (iBT) score is below 92, IELTS score is below 7, or MELAB score is below 82 must take an English assessment test upon arrival. They must then register for any English as a Second Language (ESL) courses that are recommended.

Expected Background in Professional Education

(Does not apply to M.S. with named options in Secondary English Education, Secondary Mathematics Education, Secondary Science Education, and Secondary Social Studies Education applicants)

A professional background in education (typically, as a certified teacher) is a prerequisite for most graduate areas of study in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction. Applicants to certain areas of study within the department are sometimes admitted without teacher certification, but they are nevertheless required to have taken at least 12 credits in professional education courses. Equivalent courses taught outside a school of education are permissible, so long as an express focus on professional education is judged by the graduate program chair to be evident. At least 6 credits must be in foundations of education (e.g., educational anthropology, educational sociology, history of education, human development, human learning, philosophy of education). Applicants lacking this background may be admitted with deficiencies. They will then be required to take a specified number of credits in the areas of deficiency, in addition to the course work ordinarily required in the graduate program.  Courses taken to remove deficiencies should be chosen in consultation with the graduate advisor, and each of these courses must be taken for a letter grade (not pass/fail). These courses may be carried concurrently with regular graduate courses; but, being additional requirements, they do not count toward requirements of the graduate program.

Knowledge and Skills

  • Articulates, critiques, or elaborates the theories, research methods, and approaches to inquiry or schools of practice in the field of study.
  • Identifies sources and assembles evidence pertaining to questions or challenges in the field of study.
  • Demonstrates understanding of the primary field of study in a historical, social, or global context.
  • Selects and/or utilizes the most appropriate methodologies and practices. Evaluates or synthesizes information pertaining to questions or challenges in the field of study.
  • Communicates clearly in ways appropriate to the field of study.

Professional Conduct

  • Recognizes and applies principles of ethical and professional conduct.

Faculty: Professors Graue (chair), Feinstein (graduate program chair), Apple, Baker, Compton-Lilly, Gomez, Grant, Hawkins, Hess, Ivey, James, Knuth, Koza, Ladson-Billings, Popkewitz, Squire, Tochon, Winn; Associate Professors Dobbs, Ellis, E. Halverson, Hassett, Pacheco, Schweber, Steinkuehler; Assistant Professors L. Berland, M. Berland, Braaten, Ghousseini, Prasad, Russ, Wager, Wright; Affiliate Professors R. Halverson, Nathan, Uttal, Fujita Geyer, Zhang. For more information about respective members of the faculty, see People on the department website.