The Department of Botany provides an introduction to the living world: the diversity of its organisms; its historical origins through evolution; its principles of structure, function, and ecology; and its interactions, relationships, and effects on the nonliving world. Botany is the science of plants, algae, fungi, and bacteria—all living organisms except animals. Green plants and algae provide the photosynthetic energy for fueling all other life on earth and drive global water and carbon cycles. Fungi and bacteria are the fundamental recyclers of the earth.

The study of botany provides a broad background in the principles of modern biology and gives a solid foundation for careers in environmental studies, conservation biology, ecology, systematics, evolution, genetics, physiology, biotechnology, agriculture, and horticulture. Jobs requiring such preparation include teaching in secondary schools and colleges, research and development in industry and medicine, stewardship of our natural world through private and governmental programs, and research and teaching in academia.

Prospective Botany majors should consult with the general undergraduate botany advisor by the beginning of the junior year to outline a course of study appropriate to the student's needs. Major Declaration may occur by meeting with the undergraduate advisor in the major.

To be accepted as a major in Botany, a student must have a grade point average of 2.500 for all science courses taken prior to declaration.

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 Letters & Science Breadth and Degree Requirements: Bachelor of Arts (B.A.)

Students pursuing a bachelor of arts degree in the College of Letters & Science must complete all of the requirements below. The College of Letters & Science allows this major to be paired with either a bachelor of arts or a bachelor of science curriculum. View a comparison of the degree requirements here.

Bachelor of Arts degree requirements

Mathematics Fulfilled with completion of University General Education requirements Quantitative Reasoning a (QR A) and Quantitative Reasoning b (QR B) coursework. Please note that some majors may require students to complete additional math coursework beyond the B.A. mathematics requirement.
Foreign Language
  • Complete the fourth unit of a foreign language; OR
  • Complete the third unit of a foreign language and the second unit of an additional foreign language

Note: A unit is one year of high school work or one semester/term of college work.
L&S Breadth
  • Humanities, 12 credits: 6 of the 12 credits must be in literature
  • Social Sciences, 12 credits
  • Natural Sciences, 12 credits: must include one 3+ credit course in the biological sciences; must include one 3+ credit course in the physical sciences
Liberal Arts and Science Coursework 108 credits
Depth of Intermediate/Advanced work 60 intermediate or advanced credits
Major Declare and complete at least one (1) major
Total Credits 120 credits
UW-Madison Experience 30 credits in residence, overall
30 credits in residence after the 86th credit
Minimum GPAs 2.000 in all coursework at UW–Madison
2.000 in intermediate/advanced coursework at UW–Madison

Non–L&S students pursuing an L&S major

Non–L&S students who have permission from their school/college to pursue an additional major within L&S only need to fulfill the major requirements and do not need to complete the L&S breadth and degree requirements above.  Please note that the following special degree programs are not considered majors so are not available to non–L&S degree-seeking candidates:  

  • Applied Mathematics, Engineering and Physics (Bachelor of Science–Applied Mathematics, Engineering and Physics)
  • Journalism (Bachelor of Arts–Journalism; Bachelor of Science–Journalism)
  • Music (Bachelor of Music)
  • Social Work (Bachelor of Social Work)

Requirements for the Major

math, chemistry, and physics

Statistics/Mathematics (One course from the following): 13
Introduction to Statistical Methods
Accelerated Introduction to Statistical Methods
Introductory Applied Statistics for Engineers
Introductory Applied Statistics for the Life Sciences
General Chemistry (One of the following): 25-9
General Chemistry I
and General Chemistry II
Chemical Principles I
and Chemical Principles II
Advanced General Chemistry
Organic Chemistry 33
Elementary Organic Chemistry
Introductory Organic Chemistry
Physics (One course from the following): 43-5
Energy (preferred)
General Physics
General Physics
General Physics
General Physics
General Physics
General Physics
A Modern Introduction to Physics
A Modern Introduction to Physics
A Modern Introduction to Physics
Total Credits14-20


30 credits from:

Introductory Biology (Complete one option):5-10
Option A, Recommended
General Botany 1
Option B: Introductory Biology
Introductory Biology
Introductory Biology
Evolution, Ecology, and Genetics
Evolution, Ecology, and Genetics Laboratory
Cellular Biology
Cellular Biology Laboratory
Principles of Physiology
Botany Distribution - Five courses, to include at least one course in these areas:15
Cell, Molecular, Physiology (1 course required):
Plant Anatomy
Plant Physiology
Ecology (1 course required):
The Vegetation of Wisconsin
General Ecology
Genetics, Evolution (1 course required): 2
Evolutionary Biology
Plant Breeding and Biotechnology
Principles of Genetics 2
General Genetics 1
General Genetics 2
Plant Morphology and Evolution
Plant Systematics
Vascular Flora of Wisconsin
Optionally, 1 of the 5 required courses may come from this list, or students may take a second course from any area listed above:
Environmental Biogeography
Plant Biotechnology: Principles and Techniques I
Grassland Ecology
Field Collections and Identification
Plant Geography
Midwestern Ecological Issues: A Case Study Approach
Plant-Insect Interactions
Plant-Microbe Interactions: Molecular and Ecological Aspects
Phylogenetic Analysis of Molecular Data
Plant Biochemistry
Conservation Biology
Introduction to Biochemistry
Principles of Physiology Laboratory
Biological Interactions
Tree Physiology
Biology of Microorganisms
Cell Biology
Independent Research Experience—choose one: 33-6
Senior Thesis
and Senior Thesis
Senior Honors Thesis
and Senior Honors Thesis
BOTANY 699 Directed Study3-4

Residence and quality of work

2.000 GPA in all BOTANY and major courses

2.000 GPA on 15 upper-level major credits, taken in residence 1

15 credits in BOTANY, taken on the UW–Madison campus

Honors in the Major

Students may declare Honors in the Botany Major in consultation with the Botany undergraduate advisor.

Honors in the Major in Botany: Requirements

To earn Honors in the Major in Botany, students must satisfy the requirements for the major (above) and the following additional requirements:

3.300 University GPA

3.400 GPA in all BOTANY and major courses

Complete a Senior Honors Thesis in BOTANY 681 & BOTANY 682, for a total of 6 credits

12 additional credits in Intermediate/Advanced level BOTANY, taken for Honors1

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. Acquire and demonstrate foundational understanding of the basic properties of plant life from the subcellular to the ecosystem level of organization.
  2. Acquire and demonstrate basic understanding in chemistry, physics, and mathematics to interpret biological phenomena.
  3. Acquire and demonstrate detailed knowledge in at least five of these core areas of plant biology: Genetics, Physiology, Structural biology, Ecology, Systematics, Evolution, Cryptogamic biology.
  4. Explore these core areas in the context of the laboratory and/or the field.
  5. Engage in plant biology research (to include algae, photosynthetic bacteria, and fungi): develop hypotheses, acquire scientific information, and interpret results in the context of the historical scientific literature in one or more specialized botanical subdisciplines.
  6. Develop an appreciation of communicating scientific information, especially in written form.

Sample Four-Year Plan

This Sample Four-Year Plan is a tool to assist students and their advisor(s). Students should use it—along with their DARS report, the Degree Planner, and Course Search & Enroll tools—to make their own four-year plan based on their placement scores, credit for transferred courses and approved examinations, and individual interests. As students become involved in athletics, honors, research, student organizations, study abroad, volunteer experiences, and/or work, they might adjust the order of their courses to accommodate these experiences. Students will likely revise their own four-year plan several times during college.

First Year
CHEM 103 or 10914-5CHEM 1045
MATH 221 or 2115STAT 301 or 3713
Foreign Language3-4Communications B or L&S Breadth3
Communications A (complete during your first year)3Elective or L&S Breadth3
 15 14
Second Year
CHEM 34323CHEM 3442
Introductory Biology (select one of the following options):5CHEM 34523
Ethnic Studies 3
Introductory Biology5
L&S Breadth3-5
 14 16
Third Year
PHYSICS 115, 103, 201, or 2075PHYSICS 104, 202, or 20824
5Botany Breadth (I/A) Course(s) or L&S Breadth Course(s) or Elective(s)12
Botany Breadth course (I/A)3-6 
Botany Breadth (I/A) Course(s) or L&S Breadth Course(s) or Elective(s)3 
 17 16
Fourth Year
BOTANY 691, 681, or 699 (Botany Major Capstone)2-3BOTANY 692 or 682 (Botany Capstone)3
Botany Breadth (I/A) Course(s) or L&S Breadth Course(s) or Elective(s)11Botany Breadth (I/A) Course(s) or L&S Breadth Course(s) or Elective(s)11
 14 14
Total Credits 120


The Department of Botany encourages our majors to begin working on their career exploration and preparation soon after arriving on campus. We partner with SuccessWorks in the College of Letters & Science. L&S graduates are in high demand by employers and graduate programs. It is important to us that our students are career ready at the time of graduation, and we are committed to your success.

L&S career resources

SuccessWorks at the College of Letters & Science helps students leverage the academic skills learned in their major, certificates, and liberal arts degree; explore and try out different career paths; participate in internships; prepare for the job search and/or graduate school applications; and network with professionals in the field (alumni and employers). In short, SuccessWorks helps students in the College of Letters & Science discover themselves, find opportunities, and develop the skills they need for success after graduation.

SuccessWorks can also assist students in career advising, résumé and cover letter writing, networking opportunities, and interview skills, as well as course offerings for undergraduates to begin their career exploration early in their undergraduate career. 

Students should set up their profiles in Handshake to take care of everything they need to explore career events, manage their campus interviews, and apply to jobs and internships from 200,000+ employers around the country.

Professors Ane, Baum, Cameron (chair), Emshwiller, Fernandez, Gilroy, Givnish, Graham, Hotchkiss, Larget, Otegui, Spalding, Sytsma, Waller

Associate Professor Pringle

Assistant Professors Keefover-Ring, Maeda, McCulloh

Majors will eventually choose from the faculty a Senior Thesis advisor, who then will be the student's undergraduate advisor. Prospective majors should contact the general advisors directly.