The mission of the department is to create, evaluate, exchange, and apply knowledge about leadership, learning, and organizational performance to prepare scholars and scholar practitioners who cultivate equity and educational opportunity in a diverse and changing world.

Many varied educational constituencies need to be able to analyze and to inform debate on educational issues, and to lead and develop learning communities that meet the diverse learning needs of students and society. We believe effective educational leadership in any institution embodies three core values: inquiry, equity and reflection.

Graduates and recipients of the department's instruction are expected to reflect the knowledge, skills, and personal qualities that will be successful in promoting, producing, and improving learning and increasing public trust in educational institutions.

The Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis offers the M.S. degree; Global Higher Education named option in the M.S. degree; the Ph.D. degree; the Wisconsin Idea Executive Ph.D. named option cohort; an educational specialist certificate program; and Principal, Director of Instruction, Director of Special Education and Pupil Services, and Superintendent licensure programs. All are intended to increase professional knowledge and skills essential for educational leadership, and to prepare persons for leadership positions at all levels of education: preschool, elementary, secondary, special education, vocational and technical schools, and colleges and universities, both public and private.

In keeping with this mission, the department has three specialties or emphases: higher, postsecondary, and continuing education, focused on the effective administration of postsecondary institutions, including higher education leadership, student affairs administration, and athletic administration; K–12 leadership, emphasizing the effective administration of primary and secondary institutions; and educational policy, stressing effective formation and analysis of policies governing the administration of all educational institutions. Students in each specialty will focus their course work within the emphasis, although students are encouraged to learn about other areas as well. Many students in the department also pursue the course work leading to certification for administrative licensure by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.

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.

Specialist Certificate

Specialist Certificate

Minimum Graduate Degree Credit Requirement

60 credits

Minimum Graduate Residence Credit Requirement

24 credits

Minimum Graduate Coursework (50%) Requirement

30 credits out of 60 total credits 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 from: Graduate Work from Other Institutions

With program approval, students are allowed to count no more than 36 credits of graduate coursework from other institutions. Coursework earned five years or more prior to admission to the certificate is not allowed to satisfy requirements.

Prior Coursework Requirements from: UW–Madison Undergraduate

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

Prior Coursework Requirements from: UW–Madison University Special

With program approval, students are allowed to count no more than 15 credits of coursework numbered 300 or above taken as a UW–Madison Special student. Coursework earned five years or more prior to admission to the certificate is not allowed to satisfy requirements.

Credits per Term Allowed

15 credits

Program-Specific Courses Required

Contact the program for information on any additional required courses.

Overall Graduate GPA Requirement


Other Grade Requirements

The Graduate School requires an average grade of B or better in all coursework (300 or above, not including research credits) taken as a graduate student unless conditions for probationary status require higher grades. Grades of Incomplete are considered to be unsatisfactory if they are not removed during the next enrolled semester.

Probation Policy

The Graduate School regularly reviews the record of any student who earned grades of BC, C, D, F, or Incomplete in a graduate course (300 or above), or grade of U in research credits. This review could result in academic probation with a hold on future enrollment or in being suspended from the Graduate School.


Every graduate student is required to have an advisor. An advisor is a faculty member, or sometimes a committee, from the major department responsible for providing advice regarding graduate studies. An advisor generally serves as the thesis advisor. In many cases, an advisor is assigned to incoming students. Students can be suspended from the Graduate School if they do not have an advisor.

To ensure that students are making satisfactory progress toward a degree, the Graduate School expects them to meet with their advisor on a regular basis.

A committee often accomplishes advising for the students in the early stages of their studies.

Assessment and Examinations

Contact the program for information on required assessments and examinations.

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

Contact the program for information on any language requirements.

Admission to the department is based, in part, on the following criteria: undergraduate GPA in the last 60 hours of undergraduate work, GPA on 9 or more graduate credits, Graduate Record Exam (GRE) scores (required for Ph.D. and specialist certificate only), three letters of recommendation from persons who are qualified to judge the applicant's academic and professional competence, resume, transcripts, and a "reasons for study" essay.

For information regarding admissions criteria, deadlines and the application process, see Admissions on the department website.

Faculty: Professor Camburn (chair); Professors Borman, Capper, Conrad, Jackson, Halverson, Kelley, Mead; Associate Professors Diamond, Miller, Winkle-Wagner; Assistant Professors Goff, Hillman, Wang; Clinical Professors Crim, Rainwater