This is a named option in the Environmental Conservation M.S.

The Environmental Conservation named option is a 15-month, 32-credit blended learning curriculum designed to train conservation leaders in practical interdisciplinary skills. Built on the legacy of pioneering environmental leaders such as John Muir, Aldo Leopold, and Gaylord Nelson, alongside current leaders in the field of conservation, the program helps early-career working professionals advance their leadership and environmental management expertise through campus learning and remote experiences.

With curricula in conservation planning, land use policy, and in professional skills such as applied GIS, conservation fundraising, protected area management, program evaluation, and strategic communications, students are better prepared to tackle complex challenges in a changing world. Students also engage directly with a range of conservation organizations and practitioners, helping to solve some of the most urgent challenges in biodiversity conservation and environmental protection.

Graduate School Admissions

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

Fall Deadline This program does not admit in the fall.
Spring Deadline The program does not admit in the spring.
Summer Deadline December 1
GRE (Graduate Record Examinations) May be required in certain cases; consult program.
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 2

Although applications for the professional master's with a named option in Environmental Conservation (EC) will be accepted on a rolling basis, applications received by December 1 each year will be given preference for admissions purposes and tuition assistance. Applications are submitted online through the UW-Madison Graduate School. Applicants will need to create a username and password to access the application system. For current or former UW students, this will be a new account that does not use your NetID. When applying for our MS program select the summer term for the calendar year you are applying for, and then choose Environmental Conservation in the drop-down tab. Prospective students who apply by December 1 will be informed of their admissions status by late January.

Ideal candidates for our program will have approximately two to five years of professional work and/or field experience, preferably in the conservation sector, though candidates with diverse professional and academic backgrounds are encouraged to apply. Applicants must have received a bachelor's degree from an accredited four-year institution with an undergraduate GPA of 3.0 or higher. Applicants with GPAs below 3.0 may be considered for admission under special circumstances. No additional prerequisite classes are required for the EC named option.

Complete applications will include all items below. For applicants who have a GPA below 3.0, the GRE is required. For those who have GPAs at 3.0 or above, GRE scores are not required for admission to the EC named option. Admissions decisions will be based on the entirety of each applicant's credentials.

  1. Professional credentials/resume
  2. Reasons for graduate study/statement of interest in this program or field
  3. Two letters of professional recommendation; one letter from a current or former employer and one letter from a former university advisor are preferred. Although the online UW-Madison application gives you the option of adding three references, only two references are required for this program.
  4. One copy of undergraduate transcripts submitted electronically in the application
  5. Supplemental application (found in UW-Madison online application)
  6. GRE scores (dependent on undergraduate GPA)

For foreign students, TOEFL or IELTS scores are also needed. The minimum TOEFL score required is 92 for the internet-based test (iBT) and 580 for the paper-based test (PBT). The minimum IELTS score required is 7.0. Applicants with language scores below these requirements may be considered for program admission under special circumstances. The UW-Madison Graduate School also requires proof of sufficient tuition funds for foreign applicants accepted into the program.

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 processes related to funding.

Program Resources

Because of the immersive nature of our programs, with condensed time on campus and remote experiences, Environmental Conservation students are not eligible for any campus appointments such as teaching assistantships, project assistantships, research assistantships, or fellowships. This applies to both the Environmental Conservation and the Environmental Observation & Informatics named options. We encourage all students to apply for our Environmental Conservation tuition assistance program, and to seek additional sources of grants, scholarships, or loans. Students in the Environmental Conservation program's named options are not permitted to seek double, joint, or dual degrees.

Minimum Graduate School Requirements

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

Named Option Requirements


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

Mode of Instruction Definitions


Minimum Credit Requirement 32 credits
Minimum Residence Credit Requirement 16 credits
Minimum Graduate Coursework Requirement Half of degree coursework (16 credits out of 32 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 The Graduate School requires a cumulative GPA of 3.0 in all coursework (300 and above) taken as a graduate student unless program-specific conditions require higher grades for probationary status. Grades of Incomplete (I) are considered to be unsatisfactory if they are not removed during the next enrolled semester.
Assessments and Examinations All students must submit a leadership placement proposal and work plan, complete a professional leadership experience (independent practice) of at least eight weeks, followed by a substantial written report or deliverable for their host organization, and an exit seminar presentation.
Language Requirements No language requirements.

Required COURSES

ENVIR ST/​URB R PL  843 Land Use Policy and Planning3
ENVIR ST 951 Conservation of Biodiversity3
ENVIR ST 972 Conservation Planning4
ENVIR ST 974 Environmental Conservation Cohort Seminar1
ENVIR ST 975 Environmental Conservation Leadership Seminar1
ENVIR ST 976 The Practice of Conservation Biology and Sustainable Development1
ENVIR ST 978 Environmental Conservation Tools Modules1
ENVIR ST 979 Environmental Conservation Professional Practice3
ENVIR ST 999 Advanced Independent Study1-3

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.

Named Option-Specific Policies

Graduate Program Handbook

A Graduate Program Handbook containing all of the program's policies and requirements is forthcoming.

Prior Coursework

Graduate Work from Other Institutions

No credits from another institution are allowed to count toward the program.

UW–Madison Undergraduate

With program approval, courses ZOOLOGY/​BOTANY/​ENVIR ST/​F&W ECOL  651 Conservation Biology and URB R PL/​ECON/​ENVIR ST/​POLI SCI  449 Government and Natural Resources taken as a UW–Madison undergraduate student may count toward the EC program curriculum in place of the ENVIR ST 951 Conservation of Biodiversity  and URB R PL/​ENVIR ST  843 Land Use Policy and Planning  curriculum requirements, respectively. Those two courses taken as an undergraduate student cannot count toward the graduate residence or graduate coursework requirements, but they can count toward the graduate degree requirement if completed within five years of matriculating in the program.

UW–Madison University Special

With program approval and payment of the difference in tuition (between special student and graduate student), courses ZOOLOGY/​BOTANY/​ENVIR ST/​F&W ECOL  651 Conservation Biology and URB R PL/​ECON/​ENVIR ST/​POLI SCI  449 Government and Natural Resources taken as a UW–Madison special student may count toward the EC program curriculum in place of the ENVIR ST 951 Conservation of Biodiversity  and URB R PL/​ENVIR ST  843 Land Use Policy and Planning curriculum requirements, respectively. If URB R PL/​ENVIR ST  843 Land Use Policy and Planning has been taken already as a UW–Madison special student, the URB R PL/​ENVIR ST  843 curriculum requirement would be satisfied. Those two courses taken as a special student can count toward the graduate residence and graduate degree requirements if completed within five years of matriculating in the program, but they cannot count toward the graduate coursework requirement since they are not 700 level or above.


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). This review could result in academic probation with a hold on future enrollment or in being suspended from the Graduate School. The status of a student falls into one of the following three categories:

  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).


Every student in the program will be required to have an advisor. Program staff will work with the student to identify an advisor during the fall semester. Once an advisor has been identified, the student is expected to maintain communication with their advisor to ensure they are making satisfactory progress toward their degree.


15 credits

Time Constraints

If a student has been absent for a semester or more, they must file a new Graduate School application for admission and submit it with a new application fee. UW–Madison master’s degree students who have been absent for five or more consecutive years lose all credits they had earned before their absence. The program may count the coursework students completed prior to their absence toward meeting EC named option requirements, but the Graduate School will not count that coursework toward their graduate residence, graduate degree, or graduate coursework requirements.


Because of the immersive nature of our program, with condensed time on campus and remote experiences, Environmental Conservation students are only eligible for campus appointments that total 30% time or less, or hourly work. We encourage all students to apply for our Environmental Conservation program scholarship, and to seek additional sources of grants, scholarships, or loans. Students in the Environmental Conservation program are not permitted to seek dual degrees.

Graduate School Resources

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

Faculty executive program committees

Environmental conservation program committee

Robert Beattie, David Drake, Thomas Eggert, Holly Gibbs, Evelyn Howell, Timothy Van Deelen, Alberto Vargas, Paul Zedler (Ex Officio)

environmental observation & informatics program committee

Annemarie Schneider (Program Chairperson), Mutlu Ozdogan, Janet Silbernagel, Stephen Ventura, Jun Zhu, Paul Zedler (Ex Officio)