Are you interested in the economics and politics of water? Ready to be part of the next generation of water policymakers?

The water policy thesis track in the Master of Freshwater Sciences and Technology offers an interdisciplinary, research-based program that will prepare you for a career in research and industry, or to further your studies in a PhD program. Thesis track students work closely with water policy and economics experts to conduct original research and learn how to develop water policy that offers solutions for long-term environmental health and quality of life.

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Water Policy That Creates Change.

The School of Freshwater Sciences is home to the Center for Water Policy, which connects water policy experts from throughout UW System. You will have opportunities to learn from legal experts and natural resource economists who know how to bridge the gap between science, policy and water resource management. Your research will prepare you to develop interdisciplinary solutions to freshwater issues.

Learn more about the Center for Water Policy

Professor Melissa Scanlan, director of the Center for Water Policy, discusses climate change with CBS News.

Turn science into action with a freshwater sciences master’s degree specializing in water policy.

While earning your graduate degree, you will

  • 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 with experts in water policy and economics.

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. 

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

Prerequisite Coursework

The following prerequisites are strongly recommended:  

  • At least one semester of coursework in three of the following at the college level: chemistry, biological sciences, physics, calculus, microeconomics, statistics, political science or advanced algebra.  
  • One additional semester of chemistry, biological sciences, physics, microeconomics, Geographic information systems, or statistics.  

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.  

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. Submission of scores on the General Test of the Graduate Record Examination.
  4. 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.

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.

Required courses (10 credits)
FRSHWTR 585 Applied Water Statistics and Data Manipulation OR ATM SCI 500 Statistical Methods in Atmospheric Sciences
FRSHWTR 781 Water Law for Scientists and Policy Makers
FRSHWTR 890 Science Communication (3 credits)
FRSHWTR 900 Colloquium in Freshwater Science (1 credit)

Select one of the following (3 credits)
FRSHWTR 502 Freshwater Ecosystem Dynamics (3 credits)
FRSHWTR 504 Quantitative Freshwater Analysis (3 credits)
FRSHWTR 506 Environmental Health of Freshwater Ecosystems (3 credits)
FRSHWTR 583 Cost-Benefit Analysis for Environmental Resource Decisions (3 credits)

Master’s Research and Thesis Credits
FRSHWTR 985 Master’s Research and Thesis (up to 6 credits)

Elective courses selected with advisor (12 credits)

Total required credits – 31 credits

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.


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

Phone: 414-382-1700