A close-up of the bright red buds and flower of Calliandra haematocephala.

Graduate students in Botany work with faculty and staff on a range of projects in plant biology at all levels of organization — from molecules, through cells and organs, to populations, communities, and lineages of organisms. Major research areas include evolution and systematics; molecular, cellular, and developmental biology; plant biology; biochemistry; and ecology. We also provide advanced instruction and opportunities for research in phycology, bryology, mycology, ethnobotany, paleoecology, conservation and restoration ecology, taxonomy, genetics, and physiology. Increasingly, graduate student projects encompass two or more of these categories.

Students interested in fields bordering botany will find rich opportunities for coursework, collaborative research, and seminars in many other departments and schools such as Bacteriology, Biochemistry, Chemistry, Engineering, Entomology, Forest and Wildlife Ecology, Genetics, Geography, Geoscience, Integrative Biology, Physics, Plant and Agroecosystem Sciences, Plant Breeding/Plant Genetics, Plant Pathology, Statistics, Soil Science, and the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies. Interdisciplinary work is encouraged.

Graduate study in the Department of Botany requires a combination of advanced coursework, participation in seminars, and original research. Course requirements follow one of four pathways: general botany; ecology; evolution; or molecular, cellular, and developmental biology. The department encourages students to pursue independent research soon after arriving. In consultation with the faculty advisor, each student selects a pathway that includes courses and research topics related to their interests as well as training in the array of techniques and approaches needed to pursue research.


Please consult the table below for key information about this degree program’s admissions requirements. The program may have more detailed admissions requirements, which can be found below the table or on the program’s website.

Graduate admissions is a two-step process between academic programs and the Graduate School. Applicants must meet the minimum requirements of the Graduate School as well as the program(s). Once you have researched the graduate program(s) you are interested in, apply online.

Fall Deadline December 1
Spring Deadline The program does not admit in the spring.
Summer Deadline The program does not admit in the summer.
GRE (Graduate Record Examinations) Not required.
English Proficiency Test Every applicant whose native language is not English, or whose undergraduate instruction was not exclusively in English, must provide an English proficiency test score earned within two years of the anticipated term of enrollment. Refer to the Graduate School: Minimum Requirements for Admission policy: https://policy.wisc.edu/library/UW-1241.
Other Test(s) (e.g., GMAT, MCAT) The GRE subject test in Biology or in Cell and Molecular Biology is not required.
Letters of Recommendation Required 3

Please submit all your application materials before the fall deadline to ensure full review of your application. Applications submitted after the above deadline through April 15 will be considered if space is still available. Space for students is typically limited by the department’s ability to provide financial support. To check if space is available, please email: gradinfo@botany.wisc.edu or contact faculty with whom you are interested in working to ask if they have graduate student funding available.

The Department of Botany considers applicants for graduate degrees who surpass the minimum admissions requirements of the Graduate School. Neither the general Graduate Record Exam (GRE) nor the Graduate Record Exam subject test in Biology or in Cell and Molecular Biology is required. Admission is based on the applicant's statement of purpose, undergraduate record, letters of recommendation, experience in research, and the interests they share with one or more potential faculty advisors.

Courses may be required to address deficiencies in the following: GENETICS 466 Principles of Genetics or equivalent;CHEM 103 General Chemistry I and CHEM 104 General Chemistry II or equivalent; CHEM 341 Elementary Organic Chemistry or equivalent; a physics course including electricity and light; one semester of statistics; one semester of calculus. Contact the department for more information.


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 support is available to qualified graduate students in the form of teaching, research, and project assistantships and fellowships. Typically, there are approximately 35 graduate students who hold assistantships or fellowships in the botany department. In addition, graduate students are eligible for a number of intradepartmental awards and grants.

Graduate students who have a teaching, research, or project assistantship of at least a 33.3% appointment (approximately 13.3 hours per week) for a fall or spring term are eligible to receive remission of full tuition. Fellowships or traineeships that are payrolled through the university and that carry stipends equivalent to at least a 33.3% research assistantship also qualify for remission of nonresident tuition. Tuition remission is conditionally awarded at the start of the semester based on the expectation that actual earnings during the semester will be at least 33.3% of the full-time rate. All students pay segregated fees. The only exception is that fellowships paid through the Graduate School have segregated fees waived in addition to tuition. 

Assistantships and fellowships also provide eligibility for an excellent health insurance program, an extremely valuable benefit that provides single or family coverage that is more comprehensive than individuals can usually purchase on their own.

Teaching Assistantships

The most common source of support is a teaching assistantship. Historically, stipend rates for teaching and project assistants are governed by the Teaching Assistants' Association (TAA) bargaining unit.

To receive a teaching assistantship, candidates for admission must meet the following requirements:

  • evidence (usually from the undergraduate transcript) of an appropriate background in the relevant subject matter of the course(s) to which appointment is being considered; 
  • evidence (usually from letters of recommendation or verbal communication) of the candidate's potential as a teaching assistant;
  • an undergraduate GPA of 3.0 or above (on a 4.0 scale); and
  • for students whose native language is not English, evidence of competence in spoken English through the SPEAK test that is administered by the UW.  International applicants should note that a TA appointment is not normally possible during the first year of graduate study. 

Current students who apply for their first teaching assistantship are also subject to the above criteria, as well as their performance as a graduate student. Reappointment as a teaching assistant depends upon satisfactory progress as a graduate student, satisfactory performance as a teaching assistant, and completing the Equity/Diversity TA Training.

Teaching assistants may be eligible for University teaching awards, including the UW–Madison Early Excellence in Teaching Award, UW–Madison Exceptional Service Award, UW–Madison Innovation in Teaching Award, UW–Madison Capstone PhD Teaching Award, and the College of Letters & Science Teaching Fellow. 

Research or Project Assistantships

Research and project assistantships are made possible by grants awarded to individual professors for particular research programs. Recipients are selected by the individual professor concerned. Availability of research and project assistantships varies.

Advanced Opportunity Fellowships

Advanced Opportunity Fellowships (AOF) are granted to the UW–Madison’s Graduate School by the State of Wisconsin and are combined with other graduate education funds to support the recruitment and retention of highly qualified underrepresented students in UW–Madison graduate programs.  Fellowships are competitive and merit-based. AOF funding is intended to increase the racial and ethnic diversity of the graduate student population, as well as to support economically disadvantaged and first-generation college students. AOF fellowships are paid through the Graduate School by the College of Letters & Science's Community of Graduate Research Scholars (C-GRS) program.

External Fellowships

Fellowships from professional societies and outside agencies provide another important source of aid for which students may apply either before or after commencing graduate work at UW–Madison. If necessary, external fellowships can often be supplemented with university funds up to prevailing university fellowship rates.

All qualified students who are U.S. citizens, nationals, or permanent resident aliens of the U.S. are urged to apply to the National Science Foundation for the pre-doctoral fellowship competition. Students apply directly to NSF; the closing date is usually in early November. Please check the NSF website for the application instructions and deadline.

Intradepartmental Fellowships and Awards

For more information on Intradepartmental Fellowships and Awards, please see the latest descriptions on the botany website.

Minimum Graduate School Requirements

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

Major Requirements

Mode of Instruction

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

Mode of Instruction Definitions

Accelerated: Accelerated programs are offered at a fast pace that condenses the time to completion. Students typically take enough credits aimed at completing the program in a year or two.

Evening/Weekend: ​Courses meet on the UW–Madison campus only in evenings and/or on weekends to accommodate typical business schedules.  Students have the advantages of face-to-face courses with the flexibility to keep work and other life commitments.

Face-to-Face: Courses typically meet during weekdays on the UW-Madison Campus.

Hybrid: These programs combine face-to-face and online learning formats.  Contact the program for more specific information.

Online: These programs are offered 100% online.  Some programs may require an on-campus orientation or residency experience, but the courses will be facilitated in an online format.

Curricular Requirements

Minimum Credit Requirement 30 credits
Minimum Residence Credit Requirement 16 credits
Minimum Graduate Coursework Requirement 15 credits must be graduate-level coursework. Refer to the Graduate School: Minimum Graduate Coursework (50%) Requirement policy: https://policy.wisc.edu/library/UW-1244.
Overall Graduate GPA Requirement 3.00 GPA required. Refer to the Graduate School: Grade Point Average (GPA) Requirement policy: https://policy.wisc.edu/library/UW-1203.
Other Grade Requirements Students must earn a B or above in all pathway coursework.
Assessments and Examinations A written thesis or research report based on work conducted in a formal research course and a final oral exam are required of all students who expect to continue for the PhD degree. All master’s theses must be deposited at Memorial Library.

Students who wish to terminate their graduate studies at the master’s level may submit a literature review instead of a thesis.
Language Requirements No language requirements.

Required Courses

Botany 16
A minimum of 6 credits in graduate-level BOTANY courses must be completed at UW–Madison. 1
Two (2) seminar courses (at least one in BOTANY; see full list of seminars below).
Committee Assigned
Courses assigned by the Academic Advisory Committee and/or the student’s MS committee.
See full list of research courses below.
Pathway 2
Courses required for their selected pathway (see below).
Total Credits30

Seminars and research credits do not count toward the 6 credits in botany (BOTANY).


These pathways are internal to the program and represent different curricular paths a student can follow to earn this degree. Pathway names do not appear in the Graduate School admissions application, and they will not appear on the transcript.

A minimum of 30 credits in natural sciences (undergraduate and graduate program courses combined) is required.

Each graduate student in botany selects one of the following pathways:

General Botany Pathway1

Complete one course from at least six of the seven.

  • genetics,
  • biochemistry, cell or molecular biology,
  • plant physiology or plant developmental biology,
  • cryptogamic botany,
  • plant anatomy or morphology,
  • ecology, and
  • evolution or systematics

These pathways are internal to the program and represent different curricular paths a student can follow to earn this degree. Pathway names do not appear in the Graduate School admissions application, and they will not appear on the transcript.

Ecology Pathway1

Complete a minimum of five courses as follows:

  • at least three courses (minimum of 9 credits) in ecology,
  • one course in evolution, and
  • one course in any of the following: systematics; cryptogamic botany; biochemistry, cell or molecular biology; plant physiology or plant developmental biology; plant anatomy or morphology; or genetics

These pathways are internal to the program and represent different curricular paths a student can follow to earn this degree. Pathway names do not appear in the Graduate School admissions application, and they will not appear on the transcript.

Evolution Pathway1

Complete a minimum of five courses, at least one from each of the following:

  • evolution,
  • systematics or cryptogamic botany,
  • population or quantitative genetics,
  • ecology, and
  • one course in any of the following: biochemistry, cell or molecular biology; plant physiology or plant developmental biology; or plant anatomy or morphology

These pathways are internal to the program and represent different curricular paths a student can follow to earn this degree. Pathway names do not appear in the Graduate School admissions application, and they will not appear on the transcript.

Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology (MCDB) Pathway1

Complete a minimum of five courses, at least one from each of the following:

  • plant anatomy or morphology,
  • biochemistry, cell or molecular biology,
  • plant physiology,
  • plant developmental biology or genetics, and
  • one course in any of the following: ecology; systematics; evolution; or cryptogamic botany 

These pathways are internal to the program and represent different curricular paths a student can follow to earn this degree. Pathway names do not appear in the Graduate School admissions application, and they will not appear on the transcript.

Seminar Course Options

BOTANY/​ATM OCN/​CIV ENGR/​ENVIR ST/​GEOSCI/​ZOOLOGY  911 Limnology and Marine Science Seminar1
BOTANY 920 Seminar in Algology: Fresh Water Algae1
BOTANY/​PL PATH  930 Seminar-Mycology1
BOTANY 940 Seminar in Plant Systematics and Evolution1
BOTANY 950 Seminar-Plant Ecology1
BOTANY 960 Seminar-Plant Physiology1
BOTANY/​ATM OCN/​ENVIR ST/​F&W ECOL/​GEOG/​GEOSCI/​ZOOLOGY  980 Earth System Science Seminar1
ENTOM 601 Seminar in Methods of Scientific Oral Presentations1
ENTOM 901 Seminar in Organismal Entomology1
GENETICS 670 Seminar in Clinical Cytogenetics1
GENETICS 672 Seminar in Laboratory Operations and Quality Control1
GENETICS 673 Seminar in Clinical Cytology1
GENETICS/​AN SCI/​DY SCI  951 Seminar in Animal Breeding1
GENETICS/​AGRONOMY/​HORT  957 Seminar-Plant Breeding1
GENETICS 993 Seminar in Genetics0-1
GEOG 900 Seminar in Geography1-3
GEOG 901 Seminar in Cultural Geography2-3
GEOG 918 Seminar in Political Geography2-3
GEOG 920 Seminar in Physical Geography1-3
GEOG 930 Seminar in People-Environment Geography2-3
GEOG/​HISTORY  932 Seminar in American Environmental History3
GEOG 970 Seminar in Geographic Information Science1-3
GEOG/​ATM OCN/​BOTANY/​ENVIR ST/​F&W ECOL/​GEOSCI/​ZOOLOGY  980 Earth System Science Seminar1
GEOG/​A A E/​ANTHRO/​C&E SOC/​HISTORY/​LACIS/​POLI SCI/​PORTUG/​SOC/​SPANISH  982 Interdepartmental Seminar in the Latin-American Area1-3
GEOG/​AFRICAN/​ANTHRO/​ECON/​HISTORY/​POLI SCI  983 Interdepartmental Seminar in African Studies Topics3
HORT 910 Seminar1
HORT/​AGRONOMY/​GENETICS  957 Seminar-Plant Breeding1
SOIL SCI 728 Graduate Seminar1
ZOOLOGY/​ATM OCN/​BOTANY/​CIV ENGR/​ENVIR ST/​GEOSCI  911 Limnology and Marine Science Seminar1
ZOOLOGY/​AN SCI/​OBS&GYN  954 Seminar in Endocrinology-Reproductive Physiology0-1
ZOOLOGY 955 Seminar-Limnology1
ZOOLOGY 956 Seminar-Ecology1
ZOOLOGY 957 Seminar-Evolution1
ZOOLOGY 958 Seminar-Biophysical and Physiological Ecology1
ZOOLOGY 960 Seminar in Cellular Biology1
ZOOLOGY/​ATM OCN/​BOTANY/​ENVIR ST/​F&W ECOL/​GEOG/​GEOSCI  980 Earth System Science Seminar1
ENVIR ST/​PUB AFFR/​URB R PL  810 Energy Analysis and Policy Capstone3
ENVIR ST 900 Seminar1-3
ENVIR ST/​URB R PL  923 Seminar-Land Problems: Institutional Development2-3
ENVIR ST/​ATM OCN  925 Seminar-Climatology1-2
ENVIR ST 950 Environmental Monitoring Seminar2
F&W ECOL/​AGRONOMY/​ATM OCN/​BOTANY/​ENTOM/​ENVIR ST/​GEOG/​ZOOLOGY  953 Introduction to Ecology Research at UW-Madison1-2
F&W ECOL 961 Wildlife Seminar1
GEOSCI 920 Seminar in Glacial and Pleistocene Geology1-3
GEOSCI 929 Seminar-Hydrogeology1-2
GEOSCI 940 Seminar in Paleontology1
GEOSCI 970 Seminar-Geochemistry2
GEOSCI 991 Seminar: Geophysics1-3
AGRONOMY 920 Seminar1
AGRONOMY/​GENETICS/​HORT  957 Seminar-Plant Breeding1
ATM OCN 900 Seminar-Meteorology1-2
ATM OCN/​ENVIR ST  925 Seminar-Climatology1-2
ATM OCN 965 Seminar-Oceanography1-2
M S & E 900 Materials Research Seminar1
M&ENVTOX 800 Seminar1

Research Course Options

BOTANY 699 Directed Study1-4
BOTANY 698 Directed Study1-4
BOTANY 990 Research-Phycology1-12
BOTANY 993 Research: Fungal Biology1-12
BOTANY 994 Research-Plant Systematics1-12
BOTANY 995 Research-Plant Ecology1-12
BOTANY 996 Research-Plant Physiology1-12
BOTANY 999 Independent Work1-3

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 Credits Earned at Other Institutions

No credits from other institutions are allowed to transfer toward the minimum credit requirement and the minimum graduate coursework requirement.

Undergraduate Credits Earned at Other Institutions or UW-Madison

No credits from an undergraduate degree are allowed to transfer toward the minimum graduate degree credit requirement and the minimum graduate coursework requirement.

Credits Earned as a Professional Student at UW-Madison (Law, Medicine, Pharmacy, and Veterinary careers)

No credits from a UW-Madison professional degree are allowed to transfer toward the minimum credit requirement and the minimum graduate coursework requirement. 

Credits Earned as a University Special student at UW–Madison

No credits earned as a UW–Madison University Special student are allowed to transfer toward the minimum residence credit requirement, the minimum credit requirement, or the minimum graduate coursework requirement.


Refer to the Graduate School: Probation policy.

Advisor / Committee

A major professor must be chosen as soon as possible after beginning graduate study and in all cases by the end of the first year. A vice major professor is required.

Students meet with an advisory committee before their first semester and with their MS committee by the end of their first year to plan their coursework.

Students meet with their advisor on a regular basis to assess progress.

Credits Per Term Allowed

15 credits

Time Limits

The master’s degree should be completed within two and one-half years of study.

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.


Assistantships are only available for thesis MS and PhD degrees.

Professional Development

Graduate School Resources

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

Learning Outcomes

  1. Acquire and demonstrate fundamental understanding of the basic properties of plant life from the subcellular to the ecosystem level of organization.
  2. Use critical elements of the methodological or theoretical framework in a specialized botanical subdiscipline to develop hypotheses, acquire scientific information, and interpret results in the context of the historical scientific literature.
  3. Develop the skills of communicating scientific information, especially in written form.
  4. Engage in the critical evaluation of botanical scientific data and its interpretation.
  5. Recognize and apply ethical conduct in the collection, analysis, and presentation of scientific data.
  6. Develop the skills essential to critical debate, discussion, and exchange of scientific information among peers and audiences of diverse intellectual and personal backgrounds.


Faculty: See Botany