Fall Deadline February 1
Spring Deadline December 1
Summer Deadline March 1
GRE (Graduate Record Examinations) Not required but may be considered if available.
English Proficiency Test Every applicant whose native language is not English or whose undergraduate instruction was not in English must provide an English proficiency test score and meet the Graduate School minimum requirements (
Other Test(s) (e.g., GMAT, MCAT) n/a
Letters of Recommendation Required 3

Admission Requirements

Graduate Record Exam (GRE)

Not required but may be considered if available. 

Prerequisites for Graduate Work

Math—three semesters college calculus sequence for science/engineering majors plus differential equations

Physics—two semesters calculus-based general college physics

Chemistry—one semester general chemistry

A minimum undergraduate GPA of 3.0 is required for admission.

International students must submit scores from the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or the International English Language Testing System (IELTS).

Prior work in atmospheric or oceanic sciences is not required, but it is beneficial. Knowledge of computer programming is recommended.

Applications are also judged on academic record, letters of recommendation, prior research experience, and the statement of purpose. PhD students must have an advisor identified before they can be recommended for admission.

For additional information on applying for admission, please go to the AOS website.

Graduate School Resources

Resources to help you afford graduate study might include assistantships, fellowships, traineeships, and financial aid. Further funding information is available from the Graduate School. Be sure to check with your program for individual policies and restrictions related to funding.

Program Resources

Financial assistance is available to qualified students. The typical sources of funding are research and teaching assistantships. All applicants are considered for any available assistantships. Financial aid is handled separately from admission in the department. Students generally hear about their admission status well before any decision about financial aid is made.

Prospective students should see the ATM OCN website for additional funding information.

Minimum Graduate School Requirements

Review the Graduate School minimum academic progress and degree requirements, in addition to the program requirements listed below.

Major Requirements


Face to Face Evening/Weekend Online Hybrid Accelerated
Yes No No No No

Mode of Instruction Definitions


Minimum Credit Requirement 51 credits
Minimum Residence Credit Requirement 32 credits
Minimum Graduate Coursework Requirement Half of degree coursework (26 credits out of 51 total credits) must be completed graduate-level coursework; courses with the Graduate Level Coursework attribute are identified and searchable in the university's Course Guide.
Overall Graduate GPA Requirement 3.00 GPA required.
Other Grade Requirements All grades must be C or better to count towards the degree.

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.
Assessments and Examinations Students wishing to pursue a Ph.D. are required to take a qualifying examination prior to forming a Ph.D. committee (see department website for information regarding how to form the committee). For more information about the qualifying examination, please consult the department's Qualifying Exam FAQs (

Ph.D. students are required to complete a preliminary examination by the Ph.D. committee prior to becoming a Ph.D. candidate. Prior to the preliminary examination the student works with the major professor to define an appropriate research topic. This topic is written into a several page research proposal that is given to the Ph.D. committee members a few weeks prior to the preliminary examination.
Language Requirements No language requirements.
Doctoral Minor/Breadth Requirements All doctoral students are required to complete two broadening requirements: a minor, and a supplemental requirement.

Minor requirement:

A minor program consists of Option A (external) 9 or more course credits in one discipline or Option B (distributed) 9 or more credits in one or more departments and can include coursework in the major department. Selection of Option A requires approval of the minor department. Selection of Option B requires approval of the major department. The department monitors minor requirements.

Supplemental requirement:

The supplemental requirement is specified by the Ph.D. committee during the first Ph.D. committee meeting. Examples include (but are not limited to): an augmented minor, substantial foreign language skill, significant professional or field experience, or interdisciplinary coursework.

Required COURSES

Core Courses15
At least 15 credits are from lecture courses numbered 600 or above in the department. Seminars, research credits, and audited courses are not included.
ATM OCN 900 Seminar-Meteorology1-2
These credits may be from the department, but cannot be used to satisfy the Core Courses requirement.
Additional Credits25+
Students choose additional courses in consultation with their advisor. Most additional credits are made up of 990 research credits.
Total Credits51

Graduate School Policies

The Graduate School’s Academic Policies and Procedures provide essential information regarding general university policies. Program authority to set degree policies beyond the minimum required by the Graduate School lies with the degree program faculty. Policies set by the academic degree program can be found below.

Major-Specific Policies

Prior Coursework

Graduate Work from Other Institutions

With program approval, students are allowed to count no more than 19 credits of graduate coursework from other institutions. Coursework earned five or more years prior to admission to a doctoral degree is not allowed to satisfy requirements.

UW–Madison Undergraduate

With program approval, students are allowed to count no more than 7 credits of graduate coursework taken as an undergraduate at UW–Madison, as long as those credits were not applied toward an undergraduate degree. Coursework earned five or more years prior to admission to a master's degree or earned ten years or more prior to admission to a doctoral degree is not allowed to satisfy requirements.

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 or more years prior to admission to a master's degree or earned ten years or more prior to admission to a doctoral degree is not allowed to satisfy requirements.


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 1 additional semester based on advisor appeal to the Graduate School.

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.

Probation is based on student status. The status of a student can be one of three options:

  1. Good standing (progressing according to standards; any funding guarantee remains in place).
  2. Probation (not progressing according to standards but permitted to enroll; loss of funding guarantee; specific plan with dates and deadlines in place in regard to removal of probationary status).
  3. Unsatisfactory progress (not progressing according to standards; not permitted to enroll, dismissal, leave of absence or change of advisor or program).


A Ph.D. committee is required in order to become a Ph.D. student. The student, under the guidance of the major professor, must form a committee of five professors consisting of the major professor, three other professors from our department, and one professor from outside the department (often from the minor department). Additional members may be added, if appropriate. Adjunct faculty can be included among the five committee members. If the committee dissolves for any reason, the candidate cannot continue in the Ph.D. program unless a new committee is formed.

The first meeting of the Ph.D. committee should normally occur after the student completes the qualifying examination, but within the same semester as the qualifying examination. Potential committee members, in deciding whether to form a Ph.D. committee, use results from the qualifying examination as well as additional information about a student's suitability for pursuing a Ph.D.

All students are required to conduct a yearly progress report meeting with their thesis committee after passing the preliminary examination.


15 credits

Time Constraints

The Ph.D. degree should be completed within five years after establishing a Ph.D. committee.  For additional time constraints please consult the Graduate School Academic Policies and Procedures.

Grievances and appeals

These resources may be helpful in addressing your concerns:

Students should contact the department chair or program director with questions about grievances. They may also contact the L&S Academic Divisional Associate Deans, the L&S Associate Dean for Teaching and Learning Administration, or the L&S Director of Human Resources.



Graduate School Resources

Take advantage of the Graduate School's professional development resources to build skills, thrive academically, and launch your career. 

  1. Have an in-depth knowledge of the fields that are relevant to their research areas by taking appropriate courses not only in atmospheric and oceanic sciences, but also in related disciplines including mathematics, statistics, physics, and engineering.
  2. Ask the right scientific questions: What are the important scientific problems in this field? Can a problem be solved by the available resources in a reasonable time? How to design a scientific approach to tackle the problem?
  3. Read original papers of their research field to understand how previous investigators approach the problem and how they can improve on previous results.
  4. Articulate research problems, potentials, and limits with respect to theory, knowledge, or practice within the field of study.
  5. Formulate ideas, concepts, designs, and/or techniques beyond the current boundaries of knowledge within the field of study.
  6. Fosters ethical and professional conduct.