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 90% 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.

Program Type


Program Format

On Campus
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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.
Prerequisite Coursework

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.

Admission will be considered based upon the applicant’s academic and/or professional background, proposed course of study, and possible additional coursework once in the degree program, should important preparatory gaps be identified.

Other Admission Requirements

An applicant must meet Graduate School requirements plus these departmental requirements to be considered for admission to the program:

  • 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.
  • A minimum GPA of 3.0.
  • Three letters of recommendation from persons familiar with the applicant’s scholarship and/or research potential.

The student must indicate in the Statement of Purpose (part of the formalized application process) the track to which they are applying and the intended focus of their MS studies. The statement must also indicate how their previous education has prepared them for graduate studies.

Participating in an internship at a water-related entity allows you to combine science, water policy and business skills. Whether you’re a full-time student, working professional or somewhere in between, we can help you create an experience that accommodates your current schedule and professional goals.

Graduates of our professional science master’s program have high job placement rates. More than 90% of those tracked are working in a water-related job or enrolled in a PhD program.

Recent professional science master’s graduates landed jobs at the following organizations: the 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.

The minimum degree requirement for the Professional Science: Water Policy, Economics, and Management track is 32 graduate credits.

Required courses (16 credits)

FRSHWTR 510G Economics, Policy and Management of Water (3 credits)
FRSHWTR 585G Applied Water Statistics and Data Manipulation (3 credits)
FRSHWTR 781 Water Law for Scientists and Policy Makers (3 credits)
FRSHWTR 810 Professional Development for Water Leaders (3 credits)
FRSHWTR 890 Science, Communication, and Public Engagement (3 credits)
FRSHWTR 900 Colloquium in Freshwater Sciences (1 credit)

Select one of the following courses (3 credits)

FRSHWTR 502G Aquatic Ecosystem Dynamics (3 credits)
FRSHWTR 504G Quantitative Freshwater Analysiss (3 credits)
FRSHWTR 506G Environmental Health of Freshwater Ecosystems (3 credits)

Elective courses selected with advisor (12 credits)

Internship Requirement (1 credit)

FRSHWTR 980 Graduate Internship (1 credit)

Total required credits – 32 credits


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

Phone: 414-382-1700