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We’re preparing the next generation of scientists, researchers,  and policymakers who are committed to exploring, protecting, and preserving one of our most vital natural resources.

Our PhD in Freshwater Sciences is a dissertation-based program that prepares you for a rewarding career in academia, research, or industry. With a strong emphasis on research, doctoral students concentrate on complex, interdisciplinary issues through a well defined focus of study.  You’ll have the opportunity to work alongside some of the world’s leading freshwater scientists, while advancing critical research.


Freshwater Sciences admits new students Fall and Spring
Fall 2021 applications were due January 15, 2021
Spring 2022 applications are due October 1, 2021

Admission Requirements

You must meet Graduate School requirements in addition to the following to be considered for admission:

    1. Bachelor’s degree
      A bachelor’s degree in biology, chemistry, economics, geosciences, mathematics, physics, public policy, or other appropriate natural science, social science or engineering discipline.
    2. 3.0 undergraduate GPA
    3. Transcripts
      All applicants, including UWM students, must upload an official or unofficial transcripts directly in the Panthera admission application system for all work done at higher education/post-secondary institutions. All applicants who are admitted to the Graduate School will be required to submit an official transcript with the degree posted within two weeks of the beginning of their first semester of enrollment.
    4. GRE Scores
      Submission of scores on the General Test of the Graduate Record Examination taken within the past 5 years.  Submit your scores to UWM (code 1473) and to the School of Freshwater Sciences (code 508).
    5. Reason Statement
      The reason statement is an essential part of the application.  It is used to determine the appropriateness of your educational and professional goals and serves as an example of your ability to express yourself in writing.  Your reason statement should include:

      • your reasons for pursuing graduate study
      • your specific background interests and background in the field
      • any relevant skills or training you’ve acquired
      • any academic awards or honors you have received
    6. Resume
      Submit a current resume that clearly articulates your professional experience.
    7. Writing sample
      Submit a scholarly writing sample that demonstrates your critical thinking and writing skills.
    8. Three letters of recommendation
      Three letters of recommendation are required by persons who can attest to your scholarship and/or research potential and your success in graduate school at the School of Freshwater Sciences.
    9. Relevant courses
      List relevant courses taken at previous institutions.  Please include course number, course title, credits, and final grade (example: BioSci 150, Foundations of Biological Sciences, 4 cr, A-).  The following prerequisites are strongly recommended:

      • at least one semester of any three of the following topical areas: chemistry, biological sciences, physics, and calculus
      • one additional semester of chemistry, biological sciences, or physics

Launch Your Career – 98% Job Placement Rate

If you want a good job in water, start here. Our job placement rate is so high because everything you do in this program creates opportunities for you to thrive. Every course trains you in the scientific and business skills employers are looking for. Our equipment and research vessels give you hands-on opportunities to build expertise you can only get in the field. Your internship gives you the experience and connections to go anywhere. We provide frequent opportunities to connect with our huge network of scientific agencies, businesses, nonprofits and government offices changing water around the region and the world. The knowledge, hands-on experience and connections you build here make you the person everyone wants to hire for the jobs creating a better water future.

You’ll also have full access to Academics Office staff, faculty advisors, and external mentors from non-profits, business, and government organizations. The UWM Career Development Center offers additional resources. You’ll have opportunities to join the Student Water Council, volunteer in the community, help at events and participate in conferences and symposiums to enhance your skills and experience and grow your academic and professional networks.

Recent graduates work at Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District (MMSD), The Nature Conservancy, Milwaukee Riverkeeper, Veolia North America, Oklahoma Water Resource Board, Pentair, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Milwaukee Water Works, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, and the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission, to name just a few.

Curriculum and Program Requirements

Students must earn 54 credits beyond the bachelor’s degree, of which 24 credits may be taken from formal coursework completed as part of a master’s degree. A minimum of 27 credits must be earned in residence at UWM. Students may take up to a maximum of 9 credits of independent study counting toward the degree.

Select four of the following (12 credits)

FRSHWTR 502 Freshwater Ecosystem Dynamics (3 cr)
FRSHWTR 504 Quantitative Freshwater Analysis (3 cr)
FRSHWTR 506 Environmental Health of Freshwater Ecosystems (3 cr)
FRSHWTR 508 Aquatic Technologies (3 cr)
FRSHWTR 510 Economics, Policy, and Management of Water (3 cr)

Select one of the following courses (3 credits)

FRSHWTR 513 Field Experimentation and Analysis in Freshwater Sciences (3 cr)
FRSHWTR 514 Analytical Techniques in Freshwater Sciences (3 cr)

Required courses (5 credits)

ENGLISH 890 Science, Communication, and Public Engagement (3 cr)
FRSHWTR 900 Colloquium in Freshwater Science (1 cr each, taken twice)

Elective courses selected with advisor (17 credits)

Research and Dissertation credits (up to 17 credits)

FRSHWTR 990 Doctoral Research and Dissertation

Total required credits – 54 credits

PhD in Freshwater Sciences program requirements can be found in the UWM Academic Catalog.

Click here for the Freshwater Sciences course catalog.

Funding Your Education

Doctoral students are typically funded through faculty research projects.  We strongly recommend you reach out to faculty members whose interests align with your own to discuss potential research and funding opportunities.

Students in the PhD program must be accepted by a faculty member who will serve as the major professor, and be primarily responsible for matriculation.  Meet our faculty and explore their research.

The School of Freshwater Sciences also offers competitive assistantships and scholarships. For more information about other financial aid options, please visit UWM Financial Aid.