The graduate program in social and administrative sciences in pharmacy (SAS) provides a rigorous background in a range of disciplines critical to preparing the next generation of health services researchers. The program focuses on scientific and humanistic bases for understanding and influencing interactions involving patients, medications, pharmacists, other caregivers, and health care systems. Further, it evaluates the need for pharmacists to fulfill various roles, such as clinical practitioner, drug consultant, and drug distribution system manager, in order to meet the needs of diverse patients, providers, and organizations that utilize pharmacy services.

The program's interdisciplinary approach integrates knowledge of pharmacy and pharmaceuticals with knowledge from disciplines such as economics, sociology, psychology, management sciences, communications, education, epidemiology, law, industrial/safety engineering, ethics and history. The overall objective of the program is to prepare students to carry out independent, theory-based research leading to new knowledge and understanding of medication use and safety, patient and provider communication and behaviors, health outcomes, health care systems, and the pharmacy profession. For additional SAS faculty information, see faculty research interests on the SAS website.

The SAS graduate program has considerable curricular flexibility and can be tailored to the interests of individual students, allowing specialization in diverse areas of emphasis. Facilitating student support is a high priority; division faculty work to ensure that students have sufficient funding support to be successful. Incoming students are provided with computing and technology resources for their learning and research endeavors. Travel funding allows students to present their research findings at national meetings. The Sonderegger Research Center is housed within the division.

The program maintains uniform admission requirements, M.S. and Ph.D. course and credit requirements, and procedures for monitoring student progress and program quality. The SAS graduate student handbook provides this information in detail. See also the program brochure.

A dual PharmD–M.S. degree program in SAS was recently approved. The dual degree program is an opportunity for professional pharmacy students to pursue an M.S. degree in SAS while completing requirements for their professional pharmacy degree. See the School of Pharmacy's graduate programs coordinator (contact information below) for more information about this dual degree's specifics.

Post-Graduate Information

Placement information for recent SAS alumni is updated yearly; see the program website. SAS has a rich history of creating future pharmacy educators. Beyond academia, common career setting options are the pharmaceutical industry, managed care, contract research organizations, and consulting.

Prospective students should see the program website for funding information.

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.

Doctoral Degrees


Minimum Graduate Degree Credit Requirement

56 credits

Minimum Graduate Residence Credit Requirement

32 credits

Minimum Graduate Coursework (50%) Requirement

At least half of degree coursework (at least 29 credits out of 56 total credits) must be 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

If accepted into the SAS Ph.D. program with a master’s degree equivalent to an M.S. (SAS) degree and with program approval, students are allowed to count no more than 24 credits of graduate coursework from other institutions (the student must have graduate student status on the other institution’s transcript at the time the courses were taken) towards the Ph.D. at UW–Madison. Such courses should be presented to SAS faculty prior to one’s first graduate semester and require the review/approval of at least two SAS faculty members. coursework earned ten years or more prior to admission to a doctoral degree is not allowed to satisfy requirements.

Prior Coursework Requirements: UW–Madison Undergraduate

No credits earned as a UW–Madison undergraduate may be used toward achieving the 24 credits beyond the M.S. that are required for the Ph.D. in SAS.

Prior Coursework Requirements: UW–Madison University Special

No credits earned as a UW–Madison Special student may be used toward achieving the 24 credits beyond the M.S. that are required for the Ph.D. in SAS.

Credits per Term Allowed

Non-dissertators may enroll in a maximum of 15 credits per fall/spring term and 12 credits in the summer; dissertators may enroll in a maximum of 3 credits each session (fall, spring, summer).

Program-Specific Courses Required

Completion of a set of courses is required. At least 16 credits in core courses (seminar, core principles, and core methods), 15 credits in research and analysis (additional research methods, analytic techniques), and 19 credits in specialty/advanced courses is required.

See this link for specific doctoral curriculum information.

Doctoral Minor/Breadth Requirements

All doctoral students are required to complete a doctoral minor. Students can complete a concentrated (Option A) or distributed (Option B) minor. Students completing Option A minors follow the requirements of the minor department. Students completing option B minors must complete a minimum of 10 credits outside their major department, reflecting a cohesive and logical combination of courses for specialization emphasis. Courses for an option B minor follow the Graduate School requirements for type, level, GPA, and timing for the minor coursework. The doctoral minor is developed and finalized by the student and faculty advisor as a plan for specialization courses within the Ph.D. program requirements. In SAS, a faculty committee composed of members of the student’s preliminary examination committee approves the minor plan. The minor plan should be approved before courses qualifying for the minor are completed. Some courses in the minor plan may be completed before the plan is submitted, but at least half of the minor coursework must be completed after the minor plan is submitted and approved by the student’s committee. The minor represents the theoretical foundation for the PhD and should consist of a majority of courses that are theory focused (i.e., not methods or analytical techniques); such theoretical courses should comprise all or most of the minor plan.

Overall Graduate GPA Requirement

3.00 GPA required for graduate-level courses (numbered 300 and above, excluding research) to receive a degree.

Other Grade Requirements

Candidates will be dropped from the program if they receive more than 7 credits of grades at the BC level or lower. This applies to formal courses, seminars, and research credits.

Probation Policy

A semester GPA below 3.0 will result in the student being placed on academic probation. If a semester GPA of 3.0 is not attained during the subsequent semester of full-time enrollment (or 12 credits of enrollment if enrolled part-time) the student may be dismissed from the program or allowed to continue for one additional semester based on advisor appeal to the Graduate School.

Advisor / Committee

All students in the Ph.D. program are required to have a major professor/advisor through the duration of their studies. Students should select a permanent major professor before the end of the second semester enrolled in the program. SAS graduate faculty monitor the progress of Ph.D. students annually.

Composition requirements of the SAS Ph.D. oral preliminary examination committee are presented at this link; this same committee typically also serves as the dissertation final oral defense committee.

Assessments and Examinations

Doctoral students must pass both written and oral preliminary examinations to achieve dissertator status (see this link). The written preliminary examination is evaluated on a pass/fail basis. The oral preliminary examination must be completed within six months after having passed the written preliminary examination.

A dissertation and final oral defense are required. See the this link for details.

Time Constraints

A candidate for a doctoral degree who fails to take the final oral defense and deposit the dissertation within 5 years after passing the preliminary examinations may be required to take another preliminary examination and to be admitted to candidacy a second time.

Language Requirements

Candidates with an emphasis in the history of pharmacy are required to achieve competence in two foreign languages (one in addition to the language acquired for the M.S. degree). Contact the School’s graduate programs coordinator for more information.

The online application and all supplemental materials (official transcripts, three letters of recommendation, Graduate Record Exam (GRE) scores, statement of purpose for attending graduate school, resume/CV, School of Pharmacy's financial aids statement) must be received by January 1 for consideration for matriculation in the following fall semester. Applications are not reviewed at any other time during the year.

A professional degree in pharmacy is helpful, but not required, for applicants to the SAS graduate program. Academic backgrounds in public health, sociology, industrial engineering, or economics, for example, are well suited for graduate study in SAS. Those with pharmacy-type work experience or a degree in a related field are invited to inquire about the compatibility of their background for admissions purposes.

Knowledge and Skills

  • Demonstrate critical knowledge and in-depth understanding of principles in the core area of the program and the student's area of expertise.
  • Identify important research questions, formulate testable hypotheses, and design experiments to test those hypotheses.
  • Conduct original research that contributes to the student's field of study.
  • Communicate, both orally and in writing, scientific knowledge and research results effectively to a range of audiences.
  • Demonstrate ability to teach SAS concepts and principles to a range of audiences.

Professional Conduct

  • Apply ethical principles in conducting scientific research.