Lake Michigan coast

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 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.

  • Fall applications are due January 31
  • Spring applications are due October 1

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

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.

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 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.

GRE scores are not required, but are strongly recommended.

Minimum degree requirement is 31 graduate credits.

Required courses
or ATM SCI 500G
Applied Water Statistics and Data Manipulation 1
Statistical Methods in Atmospheric Sciences
FRSHWTR 781Water Law for Scientists and Policy Makers3
FRSHWTR 890Science Communication3
FRSHWTR 900Colloquium in Freshwater Sciences1
Choose one of the following four courses:3
FRSHWTR 502GAquatic Ecosystem Dynamics
FRSHWTR 504GQuantitative Freshwater Analysis
FRSHWTR 506GEnvironmental Health of Freshwater Ecosystems
FRSHWTR 583GCost-Benefit Analysis for Environmental Resource Decisions
Master’s Research and Thesis Credits6
FRSHWTR 985Master’s Research and Thesis (Up to 6 credits)
Select 12 credits in consultation with the students major advisor
Total Credits31
1 ECON 413G if needed in an “off” year.

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. Current research assistantship 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.

Graduates of our MS thesis programs have high placement rates. More than 89% went into a water-related job 11% enrolled in a PhD program.

Important Dates
Fall applications due January 31
Spring applications due October 1
School of Freshwater Sciences
Great Lakes Research Facility
600 E Greenfield Avenue
Milwaukee, WI 53204

Phone: 414-382-1700