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Are you interested in the ecology, health implications, economics and politics of water? Ready to be part of the next generation of water scientists and policymakers? Explore a freshwater sciences master’s degree.

The thesis track in the Master of Aquatic Science offers an interdisciplinary, research-based program to prepare you for a career in research and industry, or to further your studies in a PhD program. Thesis track students work closely with faculty and scientists to conduct original research, develop new technologies, inform water policy, and advance our understandings of complex freshwater systems and issues.

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Strong Research. Freshwater Solutions.

Graduate students in the thesis freshwater sciences master’s degree program work in one of the research labs at the Great Lakes Research Facility. A faculty advisor will help you choose your thesis topic and guide you as you develop research skills.

What you learn will prepare you to solve scientific problems, inform policy, improve water management, and promote the health and sustainability of freshwater systems worldwide.

Learn more about our research areas.

Researcher in lab

Turn science into action with a freshwater sciences master’s degree.

While earning your graduate degree, you will

  • Explore natural and human-created freshwater systems.
  • Learn from world-class faculty within a small-class environment.
  • Build a multidisciplinary science foundation.
  • Develop in-demand technical and professional skills.
  • Gain research experience working in a scientific lab.

Students in the MS Thesis program must be accepted by a faculty member who will serve as the major professor and be primarily responsible for matriculation. 

Freshwater Sciences admits new thesis students for fall and spring semesters.
Spring applications are due Oct. 1. Fall applications are due Jan. 15.

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. Undergraduate GPA of at least 3.0.
  3. Transcripts
    All applicants, including UWM students, must upload an official or unofficial transcript directly into the Panthera admission application system for all work done at higher education/postsecondary 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. 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
  5. Resume
    Submit a current resume that clearly articulates your professional experience.
  6. Writing sample
    Submit a scholarly writing sample that demonstrates your critical thinking and writing skills.
  7. 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.
  8. 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 credits, 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
  9. GRE Scores – Strongly recommended
    Submission of scores on the General Test of the Graduate Record Examination taken within the past five years are not required, but strongly recommended. Submit your scores to UWM (code 1473) and to the School of Freshwater Sciences (code 508).

Minimum degree requirement is 31 graduate credits.

Choose three of the following:9
FRSHWTR 502Aquatic Ecosystem Dynamics
FRSHWTR 504Quantitative Freshwater Analysis
FRSHWTR 506Environmental Health of Freshwater Ecosystems
FRSHWTR 510Economics, Policy and Management of Water
Choose one of the following:3
FRSHWTR 513Field Experimentation and Analysis in Freshwater Sciences
FRSHWTR 514Analytical Techniques in Freshwater Sciences
Required courses
FRSHWTR 890Science Communication3
FRSHWTR 900Colloquium in Freshwater Sciences1
Select 9 credits in consultation with the students major advisor9
Master’s Research and Thesis Credits
FRSHWTR 985Master’s Research and Thesis (Up to 6 credits)6
Total Credits31

Freshwater sciences master’s thesis 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.

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

Of the MS thesis graduates we have tracked (93% of them), 89% went into a water-related job and 11% enrolled in a PhD program.

Our thesis graduates are working with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Geological Survey, The Nature Conservancy, Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District (MMSD), the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission (SWRPC), and Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.

Important Dates
January 15: Deadline for fall admission applications

October 1: Deadline for spring admission applications
School of Freshwater Sciences
Great Lakes Research Facility
600 E Greenfield Avenue
Milwaukee, WI 53204

Phone: 414-382-1700