Genetics is a bachelor's program for students seeking a broad knowledge of heredity in relation to human, animal, and plant breeding, and for students preparing for teaching and research in genetics. A B.S. degree with a major in genetics prepares students for many jobs in the growing biotechnology industry. Some of these jobs are in research and technical support, technical writing, quality control, assay development, and sales or marketing.

Many graduates continue their education by pursuing an advanced degree. Genetics students are competitive for admission to medical schools, veterinary schools, and graduate schools throughout the country. Graduate students may elect a Ph.D. program to prepare for careers in research, academia, and industry. Others may elect an M.S. program for a career in genetic counseling.

Because of the diversity and quantity of research activity on the Madison campus, the discipline of genetics provides an extraordinary number and range of opportunities for undergraduate majors to gain experience in research, a virtual prerequisite for admission to the top graduate programs in the biological sciences and for entry level positions in the biotechnology industry.

To declare this major, students must be admitted to UW–Madison and the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS). For information about becoming a CALS first-year or transfer student, see Entering the College.

Students who attend Student Orientation, Advising, and Registration (SOAR) with the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences have the option to declare this major at SOAR.  Students may otherwise declare after they have begun their undergraduate studies. For more information, contact the advisor listed under the Advising and Careers tab.

University General Education Requirements

All undergraduate students at the University of Wisconsin–Madison are required to fulfill a minimum set of common university general education requirements to ensure that every graduate acquires the essential core of an undergraduate education. This core establishes a foundation for living a productive life, being a citizen of the world, appreciating aesthetic values, and engaging in lifelong learning in a continually changing world. Various schools and colleges will have requirements in addition to the requirements listed below. Consult your advisor for assistance, as needed. For additional information, see the university Undergraduate General Education Requirements section of the Guide.

General Education
  • Breadth—Humanities/Literature/Arts: 6 credits
  • Breadth—Natural Science: 4 to 6 credits, consisting of one 4- or 5-credit course with a laboratory component; or two courses providing a total of 6 credits
  • Breadth—Social Studies: 3 credits
  • Communication Part A & Part B *
  • Ethnic Studies *
  • Quantitative Reasoning Part A & Part B *

* The mortarboard symbol appears before the title of any course that fulfills one of the Communication Part A or Part B, Ethnic Studies, or Quantitative Reasoning Part A or Part B requirements.

College of Agricultural and Life Sciences Requirements

In addition to the University General Education Requirements, all undergraduate students in CALS must satisfy a set of college and major requirements. Specific requirements for all majors in the college and other information on academic matters can be obtained from the Office of Academic Affairs, College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, 116 Agricultural Hall, 1450 Linden Drive, Madison, WI 53706; 608-262-3003. Academic departments and advisors also have information on requirements. Courses may not double count within university requirements (General Education and Breadth) or within college requirements (First-Year Seminar, International Studies and Science), but courses counted toward university requirements may also be used to satisfy a college and/or a major requirement; similarly, courses counted toward college requirements may also be used to satisfy a university and/or a major requirement.

College Requirements for all CALS B.S. Degree Programs

Quality of Work: Students must maintain a minimum cumulative grade point average of 2.000 to remain in good standing and be eligible for graduation.
Residency: Students must complete 30 degree credits in residence at UW–Madison after earning 86 credits toward their undergraduate degree.
First Year Seminar1
International Studies3
Physical Science Fundamentals4-5
General Chemistry I
Chemistry in Our World
Advanced General Chemistry
Biological Science5
Additional Science (Biological, Physical, or Natural)3
Science Breadth (Biological, Physical, Natural, or Social)3
CALS Capstone Learning Experience: included in the requirements for each CALS major (see "Major Requirements")

Major Requirements

Mathematics and Statistics
Select one of the following:5-10
Calculus and Analytic Geometry 1
Calculus with Algebra and Trigonometry I
and Calculus with Algebra and Trigonometry II
STAT 371 Introductory Applied Statistics for the Life Sciences3
Select one of the following:5-9
General Chemistry I
and General Chemistry II
Advanced General Chemistry
CHEM 343 Introductory Organic Chemistry3
CHEM 344 Introductory Organic Chemistry Laboratory2
CHEM 345 Intermediate Organic Chemistry3
Select one of the following:10
General Physics
and General Physics (recommended)
General Physics
and General Physics
General Physics
and General Physics (recommended)
Select one of the following options:10
Option 1:
Introductory Biology
and Introductory Biology (recommended)
Option 2:
General Botany
Animal Biology
and Animal Biology Laboratory
Option 3:
Evolution, Ecology, and Genetics
and Cellular Biology
Select two of the following labs:
Evolution, Ecology, and Genetics Laboratory
Cellular Biology Laboratory
Organismal Biology Laboratory
Core Biology Requirements
Select one of the following options:6
Option 1:
General Genetics 1
and General Genetics 2 (recommended)
Option 2: 1
Principles of Genetics
additional 3 credit subset 1 course (see course list below)
Option 3: 2
Organismal Biology
Biological Interactions
BIOCHEM 501 Introduction to Biochemistry 33
or BIOCHEM 507 General Biochemistry I
Select 2 credits from the following:2
Genetics Laboratory
Independent Study 4
Special Problems 4
Senior Honors Thesis
Senior Honors Thesis
Coordinative Internship/Cooperative Education
Select 12 credits with 6 credits minimum from subset 1 (see course list below)12
Select one of the following:3-9
Option 1:
Advanced Genetics (offered in spring semester)
Option 2:
Genomics and Proteomics (offered in spring semester) 5
Option 3 (must be taken concurrently): 5
Special Problems (offered in fall semester)
Companion Research Seminar (offered in fall semester)
Option 4 (must be taken concurrently):
Senior Honors Thesis
Senior Honors Thesis
Companion Research Seminar (offered in fall semester)
Total Credits67-82

Subset 1 course will not count toward 12 subset credits. 


If the Biocore sequence was taken to fulfill the Biology requirement (BIOCORE 381 and BIOCORE 382 and BIOCORE 383 and BIOCORE 384), then BIOCORE 485 and BIOCORE 587 must be taken.


 If BIOCHEM 507 is taken, it must be taken as a part of BIOCHEM 507 General Biochemistry I & BIOCHEM 508 General Biochemistry II, which counts in Subset 2 of electives.


Consult with your advisor if genetics-related research will be performed in a department other than Genetics.


May count for Subset 1 or Capstone.

Subset Courses

Subset 1

AGRONOMY/BOTANY/HORT 339 Plant Biotechnology: Principles and Techniques I4
BIOCHEM 550 Topics in Medical Biochemistry2
GENETICS/HORT 550 Molecular Approaches for Potential Crop Improvement3
GENETICS/​MD GENET/​ZOOLOGY  562 Human Cytogenetics2
GENETICS 564 Genomics and Proteomics3
GENETICS/​MD GENET  565 Human Genetics3
GENETICS/​MICROBIO  607 Advanced Microbial Genetics3
GENETICS/​BIOCHEM/​MICROBIO  612 Prokaryotic Molecular Biology3
GENETICS/​BIOCHEM/​MD GENET  620 Eukaryotic Molecular Biology3
GENETICS/​CHEM  626 Genomic Science2
GENETICS 627 Animal Developmental Genetics3
GENETICS 631 Plant Genetics2
GENETICS 633 Population Genetics3
GENETICS/​BOTANY/​M M & I/​MICROBIO/​PL PATH  655 Biology and Genetics of Fungi3
GENETICS 660 Evolutionary Genomics2
GENETICS 662 Cancer Genetics2
GENETICS/​MD GENET  677 Advanced Topics in Genetics 11-3
MICROBIO 470 Microbial Genetics & Molecular Machines3

May choose only Evolutionary Systems Biology, Developmental Genetics for Conservation or Epigenetics.

Subset 2

AGRONOMY/​HORT  338 Plant Breeding and Biotechnology3
AGRONOMY/​BOTANY/​HORT  340 Plant Cell Culture and Genetic Engineering4
AGRONOMY/HORT 501 Principles of Plant Breeding3
AGRONOMY/HORT 502 Techniques of Plant Breeding1
BIOCHEM 508 General Biochemistry II3-4
B M I/​COMP SCI  576 Introduction to Bioinformatics3
BMOLCHEM 504 Human Biochemistry Laboratory3
BOTANY 563 Phylogenetic Analysis of Molecular Data3
BOTANY/ZOOLOGY 410 Evolutionary Biology3
DY SCI/​AN SCI  361 Introduction to Animal and Veterinary Genetics2
DY SCI/​AN SCI  362 Veterinary Genetics2
DY SCI/​AN SCI  363 Principles of Animal Breeding2
GENETICS/​BIOLOGY  522 Evolution Seminar Series-Undergraduate1
HORT/PATH-BIO 500 Molecular Biology Techniques3
MICROBIO 303 Biology of Microorganisms3
MICROBIO 304 Biology of Microorganisms Laboratory2
MICROBIO/​M M & I/​PATH-BIO  528 Immunology3
MICROBIO/​ONCOLOGY  545 Topics in Biotechnology1
MICROBIO/​PL PATH  622 Plant-Bacterial Interactions2-3
MICROBIO 632 Industrial Microbiology/Biotechnology2
MICROBIO/​ONCOLOGY/​PL PATH  640 General Virology-Multiplication of Viruses3
M M & I 341 Immunology3
M M & I 460 Techniques in DNA Science for Microbiologists3
PL PATH/​BOTANY/​ENTOM  505 Plant-Microbe Interactions: Molecular and Ecological Aspects3
ZOOLOGY/​ENVIR ST/​F&W ECOL  360 Extinction of Species3
ZOOLOGY 425 Behavioral Ecology3
ZOOLOGY 470 Introduction to Animal Development3
ZOOLOGY 555 Laboratory in Developmental Biology3
ZOOLOGY 570 Cell Biology3
A biological science course as approved by advisor (must have significant genetics component)

University Degree Requirements  

Total Degree To receive a bachelor's degree from UW–Madison, students must earn a minimum of 120 degree credits. The requirements for some programs may exceed 120 degree credits. Students should consult with their college or department advisor for information on specific credit requirements.
Residency Degree candidates are required to earn a minimum of 30 credits in residence at UW–Madison. "In residence" means on the UW–Madison campus with an undergraduate degree classification. “In residence” credit also includes UW–Madison courses offered in distance or online formats and credits earned in UW–Madison Study Abroad/Study Away programs.
Quality of Work Undergraduate students must maintain the minimum grade point average specified by the school, college, or academic program to remain in good academic standing. Students whose academic performance drops below these minimum thresholds will be placed on academic probation.
  1. Demonstrate an understanding of genetic principles at the level of molecules, cells, systems, organisms, populations and ecosystems.
  2. Use quantitative approaches to evaluate experimental design, critically interpret, and analyze data sets from primary research papers.
  3. Integrate genetic data and apply the scientific method to formulate research questions.
  4. Communicate genetic concepts to multiple audiences with written, oral and visual presentations.
  5. Understand mechanisms of segregation and expression of genetic material during development and homeostasis.
  6. Apply primary genetic approaches used to study biological processes, including the use of model organisms.
  7. Describe how environmental influences may modify the inheritance and expression of the genetic material.
  8. Apply the use of quantitative methods to implement genetic analysis, including the linkage of gene variants with traits.
  9. Appreciate how the fields of genomics, proteomics and other data-driven approaches facilitate research and clinical assessment.
  10. Understand the contribution of genetics analysis to elucidating population history and evolution.
  11. Address the connection between genetics and trends in clinical practice, such as personalized medicine, cloning and regenerative biology.
  12. Understand evolutionary processes, with current variation in human traits as its natural outcome.
  13. Appreciate the contributions of genetic methods to sustainability, including food production, bio-energy generation and the preservation of ecosystems and biodiversity.

Four-year plan

Sample Genetics Four Year Plan

CHEM 103 or 1094-5CHEM 104 (or elective course)5
MATH 221 (or math placement)5International Studies3
GENETICS 155 (Freshman Seminar)1COMM A Course (if needed)3
Electives (Humanitites, Social Science, Ethnic Studies)3Humanities / Literature / Arts / Ethnic Studies Course3
 13-14 14
Total Credits 27-28
CHEM 3433CHEM 344
CHEM 345
Biostatistics Course3Humanities / Literature / Arts / Ethnic Studies Course5
Humanities / Literature / Arts / Ethnic Studies Course3GENETICS 299 (Independent Research)2
 14 17
Total Credits 31
PHYSICS 103, 207, or 20114-5PHYSICS 104, 208, or 20214-5
GENETICS 466, 467, or BIOCORE 4853GENETICS 468 or BIOCORE 587 (or Subset 1 elective)3
BIOCHEM 501 or 5073BIOCHEM 508 (or Advanced course)3
Electives5Genetics Elective5
 15-16 15-16
Total Credits 30-32
Advanced Genetics Electives6Advanced Genetics Electives3
Senior Thesis (681-Research)22-3Senior Thesis (682-Research)22-3
Electives (Humanities, Social Sciences, Ethnic Studies)3Genetics Capstone3
 17-18 14-15
Total Credits 31-33

Physics could be taken in year 2 (consult your advisor)


If in CALS Honors in Research

  • 120 total credits required for bachelor's degree—aim for 15 credits per semester.
  • Students who have not maintained a GPA of at least 2.5 by the end of their first two years, or transfer students by the end of their first year in residence, need to evaluate their major and career options with an advisor.
  • Freshmen may elect to take INTER-AG 155 Issues in Agriculture, Environment, and Life Sciences, 1-credit freshman seminar course offered in the fall, and/or GENETICS 155 Freshman Seminar in Genetics, 1-credit freshman seminar course offered in the spring. INTER-AG 155 fulfills the first year seminar requirement. GENETICS 155 is an elective course.
  • Study Abroad is an enriching experience. Check with your advisor on how you can fulfill your curriculum and study abroad.

Undergraduate Advisors

Reck, Martha; Tilmann, Kit; Vermillion Kalmon, Katie.  

Current students may use scheduling assistant to schedule an appointment with an undergraduate advisor. 


The biotechnology industry has exploded within the last decade, providing many diverse career opportunities for our graduates. A strong background in genetics will prepare you for careers in research technical support, technical writing, quality control, assay development, technical services, and sales or marketing.

Many of our graduates continue their education by pursuing an advanced degree. Our students are competitive for admission to medical schools, veterinary schools, and graduate schools throughout the country. Students may elect a Ph.D. in genetics to prepare them for careers in research, academia, and industry. Others may elect an M.S. program for a career in genetics counseling.


Anderson, Phil; Carroll, Sean; Doebley, John (chair); Engels, Bill; Gasch, Audrey; Ikeda, Aki; Laughon, Al; Masson, Patrick; Payseur, Bret; Pelegri, Francisco; Perna, Nicole; Prolla, Tom; Schwartz, David; Wassarman, David;  Yin, Jerry

Associate Professors

Chang, Qiang; O'Connor-Giles,Kate; Skop, Ahna

Assistant Professors

Hittinger, Chris;  Loewe, Laurence; Pool, John;  Zhong, Xuehua

Faculty Associates

Tilmann, Kit; Vermillion Kalmon, Katie

Undergraduate Advisors

Reck, Martha; Tilmann, Kit; Vermillion Kalmon, Katie