Graduate training in genetics emphasizes study and research leading to a Ph.D. degree in genetics. A master's degree in medical genetics with specialized training in genetic counseling are also available. For more information on a master's degree in genetic counseling, see Genetic Counseling.


The Laboratory of Genetics is the oldest and one of the finest centers of genetics in the nation. It is highly regarded for its research contributions in the areas of disease geneticscell biology, neurogeneticsdevelopmental geneticsgene expressiongenomicsevolutionary and population genetics, and computational biology. The laboratory consists of two departments: Genetics, in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences; and Medical Genetics, in the School of Medicine. Although administratively distinct, these two departments function as one at both the faculty and student levels.

This M.S. is offered for work leading to the Ph.D. Students may not apply directly for the master’s, and should instead see the admissions information for the Ph.D.

A master's degree in medical genetics with specialized training in genetic counseling are also available. For more information on M.S. degrees in genetic counseling, see Genetic Counseling.

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.

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 32 credits
Minimum Residence Credit Requirement 32 credits
Minimum Graduate Coursework Requirement Half of degree coursework 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 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 Contact the program for information on required assessments and examinations.
Language Requirements No language requirement.

Required COURSES

Students may earn an M.S. in Genetics on the way to the Ph.D. in Genetics under certain circumstances. Contact the Genetics graduate coordinator for more information.

GENETICS 701 Advanced Genetics3
GENETICS 702 Advanced Genetics II3
GENETICS/​MD GENET  707 Genetics of Development3
GENETICS/​MD GENET  708 Methods and Logic in Genetic Analysis 13
ONCOLOGY 715 Ethics in Science 21
Elective: Any graduate level Genetics course (including special topics) 3
Four seminars
Specialized elective coursework at the discretion of your thesis committee

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

Graduate Program Handbook

The Graduate Program Handbook is the repository for all of the program's policies and requirements.

Prior Coursework

Graduate Work from Other Institutions

For well-prepared advanced students, the program may accept prior graduate coursework from other institutions toward the minimum graduate degree credit and minimum graduate coursework (50%) requirement. The minimum graduate residence credit requirement can be satisfied only with courses taken as a graduate student at UW–Madison. Coursework earned five or more years prior to admission to a master’s degree is not allowed to satisfy requirements.

UW–Madison Undergraduate

For well-prepared advanced students, the program may decide to accept up to 7 credits numbered 300 or above completed at UW–Madison toward fulfillment of minimum degree and minor credit requirements. This work would not be allowed to count toward the 50% graduate coursework minimum unless taken at the 700 level or above. Coursework earned five or more years prior to admission to a master’s degree is not allowed to satisfy requirements.

UW–Madison University Special

The program may decide to accept up to 15 University Special student credits as fulfillment of the minimum graduate residence, graduate degree, or minor credit requirements on occasion as an exception (on a case-by-case basis). UW–Madison coursework taken as a University Special student would not be allowed to count toward the 50% graduate coursework minimum unless taken at the 700 level or above. Coursework earned five or more years prior to admission to a master’s degree is not allowed to satisfy requirements.


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.


Every graduate student is required to have an advisor. To ensure that students are making satisfactory progress toward a degree, the Graduate School expects them to meet with their advisor on a regular basis.

An advisor generally serves as the thesis advisor. In many cases, an advisor is assigned to incoming students. Students can be suspended from the Graduate School if they do not have an advisor. An advisor is a faculty member, or sometimes a committee, from the major department responsible for providing advice regarding graduate studies.

A committee often accomplishes advising for the students in the early stages of their studies.


15 credits

Time Constraints

Master’s degree students who have been absent for five or more consecutive years lose all credits that they have earned before their absence. Individual programs may count the coursework students completed prior to their absence for meeting program requirements; that coursework may not count toward Graduate School credit requirements.



Graduate School Resources

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

  1. Demonstrate a broad understanding in the principles of genetics and heredity in all organisms. They will develop particular expertise in at least one of the broad subject areas of the doctoral program.
  2. Demonstrate a broad understanding of major current and past theories, research findings and methodologies and techniques in genetics, with particular expertise in their area of concentration, both orally and in writing.
  3. Develop critical thinking skills. They will retrieve and examine scientific literature, evaluate evidence for and again hypotheses, identify knowledge gaps, strengths and weaknesses in existing literature, synthesize knowledge, develop conclusions, and formulate plans for moving the current state of knowledge forward.
  4. Demonstrate research expertise in genetics by presenting to their supervisory committee a research report based on their own experimental work or based on critical review of original peer-reviewed literature on a topic of current interest in genetics.
  5. Retrieve and interpret professional peer-reviewed literature and use this information to evaluate theoretical frameworks, testable hypotheses, and predictions.
  6. Demonstrate the ability to critically evaluate research based on design, feasibility, and internal controls, and to explain how such research addresses important unsolved problems in genetic or biomedical research.
  7. Communicate effectively to diverse audiences in writing, through oral presentations, and during formal and informal discussions.
  8. Master methods of communicating and interacting effectively with professional colleagues.
  9. Articulate their research and its significance both formally and informally to diverse audiences.
  10. Give and receive feedback on communication skills both orally and in writing.
  11. Be provided with opportunities to engage in public outreach and education.
  12. Effectively teach the principles of genetics and the methods used in contemporary genetic research.
  13. Receive in-class educational training by serving as teaching assistants for at least one semester of an undergraduate genetics course.
  14. Be provided with opportunities to mentor other students (for example, undergraduate students) in a laboratory research setting.
  15. Opportunities to perform outreach activities in which they educate school-age students or individuals from other fields on the principles of modern genetics.
  16. Be provided with diverse training that will prepare them for a range of flexible and sustainable careers in, for example, academia, industry, government, science policy, administration, commerce, journalism, law, education and community outreach.
  17. Develop broadly applicable skills in critical thinking and problem solving.
  18. Be provided with opportunities for teamwork, written and oral communication skills and collaborations.
  19. Receive training in professional ethics and the responsible conduct of science.
  20. Be trained to use scientific rigor when designing experiments, collecting and analyzing data, and interpreting and reporting results.
  21. Discuss and formulate opinions on the many situations that working scientists encounter involving professional ethics and conflicts of interest.
  22. Receive training in laws, regulation, permits and licenses, occupational health, safety standards and best practices, will demonstrate understanding of such and adhere to compliance.


Doebley, John (chair); Gasch, Audrey; Ikeda, Aki; Laughon, Al; Masson, Patrick; Payseur, Bret; Pelegri, Francisco; Perna, Nicole; Prolla, Tom; Schwartz, David; Skop, Ahna; Wassarman, David;  Yin, Jerry


Chang, Qiang; Hittinger, Chris; Pool, John 


Loewe, Laurence;  Zhong, Xuehua

Student Services

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