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Become a freshwater expert capable of analyzing scientific and economic data to create water policy recommendations that solve complex problems and protect valuable water resources.

More than 95% of our students land well-paying jobs in their chosen field or begin a PhD program right out of school. Our job placement rate is high because faculty and staff work with students to explore freshwater careers, build a network and develop the professional skills that will help them land a job.

Required career development coursework helps you develop essential leadership skills and build real-world connections through practicum in water policy consulting, mock interviews, resume-building activities, elevator pitches and mentorships with industry leaders in water-related organizations. In addition, the School of Freshwater Sciences is home to the Center for Water Policy, which connects water policy experts from throughout UW System.

An internship with a water-related business, government or nonprofit organization gives you the experiences and connections to launch your career while you’re still in school.

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Become a Change Maker.

The School of Freshwater Sciences has longstanding connections to industry leaders, nonprofits, advocacy organizations and natural resources agencies who advise our program and actively hire our graduates. Here are some of the areas where our graduates succeed:

  • environmental consulting
  • public health
  • resource management
  • water policy and advocacy
  • science communication and education
  • community outreach

Advance Your Career with a Professional Science Master’s Focused on Water Policy

Whether you’re a full-time student, a working professional or somewhere in between, the professional science master’s degree will help you advance your career and become a change-maker. Students accepted to the program:

  • Gain real-world skills through research opportunities and internships with companies in the private sector, nonprofit organizations and government agencies who are working on the Great Lakes, local beaches and urban waterways.
  • Learn from faculty who are experts in water science, policy and economics.
  • Build a network of professionals as passionate about protecting water as you are.

No GRE required for application. No thesis required for graduation.

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

Bachelor’s Degree

A bachelor’s degree in economics, environmental policy, political science, public policy, journalism/communications, biology, or other appropriate natural science, social science, or engineering discipline.

Undergraduate GPA

Applicant must have at least a 3.0 undergraduate GPA. All of an applicant’s undergraduate coursework completed before award of the first undergraduate degree is included in the GPA computation. For courses that were repeated for credit, each attempt is included.

Those whose undergraduate GPA is below 3.0 should contact Aaron Thiel, Graduate Program Manager, for guidance. Applicants may be considered for admission if they are able to provide evidence of their ability to succeed in graduate study.


All applicants, including UWM students, must upload an official or unofficial transcript 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.

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

Submit a current resume that clearly articulates your professional experience.

Writing Sample

Submit a scholarly writing sample that demonstrates critical thinking and writing skills.

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.

List of Relevant Coursework

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 credit, A-). The following prerequisites are strongly recommended:

  • at least one semester coursework in three of the following at the college level: chemistry, biological sciences, microeconomics, statistics, political science, and advanced algebra or calculus.  
  • one additional semester of statistics, microeconomics, geographic information system, chemistry, or biological sciences.

The minimum degree requirement for the MS Water Policy (Professional) track is 32 graduate credits.

FRSHWTR 510GEconomics, Policy and Management of Water3
or ATM SCI 500G
Applied Water Statistics and Data Manipulation 1
Statistical Methods in Atmospheric Science
FRSHWTR 781Water Law for Scientists and Policy Makers3
FRSHWTR 810Professional Development for Water Leaders3
FRSHWTR 890Science Communication3
FRSHWTR 900Colloquium in Freshwater Sciences1
Select one of the following:3
FRSHWTR 471GIntroduction to Sensing Networks
FRSHWTR 502GAquatic Ecosystem Dynamics
FRSHWTR 504GQuantitative Freshwater Analysis
FRSHWTR 506GEnvironmental Health of Freshwater Ecosystems
Select 12 credits in consultation with the students major advisor
Graduate Internship
FRSHWTR 980Graduate Internship1
Total Credits32
1 ECON 413G if needed in an “off” year.

All students in the professional science track are required to participate in an internship research experience, generally between the first and second years of the program. Internship experiences focus on complex regional, national, and global water problems and often involve authentic, practical problems in the field. The program coordinators provide resources and internship opportunities with industry, government, and non-profit organizations. It is the responsibility of the student and advisor to identify the internship and the direct supervisor within a specific organization and submit a proposal that identifies goals and objectives of the internship. Proposals will be reviewed and approved by the advisor. Alternatively, a group project may occur in lieu of an internship and should provide students with training and experience in performing professional-level work that involves managing group dynamics and applying technical expertise to solve complex, multidisciplinary water-related problems.

Graduates of our MS professional programs have high job placement rates. More than 95% of those tracked are working in a water-related job or enrolled in a PhD program.

School of Freshwater Sciences
Great Lakes Research Facility
600 E Greenfield Avenue
Milwaukee, WI 53204

Phone: 414-382-1700