Skip to main content
University of Wisconsin–Madison

Master of Science (M.S.)

Incoming MS students will determine if they are seeking a terminal MS degree or planning to pursue a PhD in the department. Students who decide to pursue the PhD must go through the PhD Advancement Process (AP), and can receive the MS degree en route to the PhD, but are not required to complete the MS requirements en route to the PhD. Once the degree goal has been determined, students and their advisor will design a curriculum that adheres to the AOS department and Graduate School requirements.

In addition to completing credit requirements, MS degree seeking students will complete a clearly written research thesis which must be approved by their advisor and two other faculty readers. After satisfactory completion of the thesis, the student’s committee will determine if the student should be awarded the MS degree.

Graduate Advising Committee (GAC)

All students will form a Graduate Advising Committee (GAC) during the first semester of enrollment in the department. The purpose of the GA committee is to provide broad research and career advice.

The GAC should include a minimum of three members including the faculty advisor/chair and two other Graduate faculty in or affiliated with the Department of Atmospheric Sciences, selected and invited by the student after consultation with the advisor. The GAC will also be the MS thesis committee.

Note that if a student intends to complete a terminal Master’s Degree, the GAC membership may follow existing AOS and UW-Madison guidelines for Master’s Committees. Composition can be changed with agreement of the advisor and the Graduate Chair. The GAC may have four members if circumstances warrant. If the student has a separate research advisor from their academic advisor, and intends to complete a PhD, in addition to those two members, two other committee members are recommended

Students will meet with their GAC at least once per year and will submit a summary of all meetings to the Graduate Coordinator and their GAC shortly after holding them. In addition, students are required to submit an annual progress report by April 1st of the Spring semester. Failure to submit annual reports and summaries in a timely manner will be considered unsatisfactory progress.

A student’s GAC shall disband after graduation with a terminal MS degree or after the PhD Advancement Process has been completed, at which time the GAC will be replaced by the PhD committee.

Departmental MS Degree Requirements

Course Credits

See the Graduate School catalog description of requirements.

Students normally take a full load of 8 to 12 credits (maximum 15) during each of their first two semesters. International students might take fewer credits if necessary to allow time to improve their English. The timeline for receiving a terminal research Master’s degree is approximately 2 to 3 years.

-30 credits are required, a minimum of 16 must be earned while in residence at UW-Madison.

-15 credits out of the 30 total credits must be completed in courses numbered 700 or above or in courses 300-699 designated as graduate courses and 12 of these credits must be taken in the department as lecture courses numbered 400 or above. Seminars, research, independent study or directed reading courses do not satisfy this requirement. A grade of B or greater is required for these 12 credits.

-Another 12 (at least) credits may be taken in or outside of the department. These credits can include seminars, core courses, and other courses taken as a graduate student. Research credits do not count toward this requirement. Up to six research credits in the department can be counted (but are not required) toward the 30 credit requirement.

-A GPA of 3.0 must be maintained.

Core Courses

For the M.S. degree, the following five core courses are highly recommended as a good foundation for graduate degrees in the Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences.

ATM OCN 610: Geophysical Fluid Dynamics 1 (3 credits)

ATM OCN 611: Geophysical Fluid Dynamics 2 (3 credits)

ATM OCN 630: Introduction to Atmospheric Physics (3 credits)

ATM OCN 640: Radiation in the Atmosphere & Ocean (3 credits)

ATM OCN 660: Physical Oceanography (3 credits)

Courses Outside of AOS

With advisor approval, some 300 level courses in other departments may be allowed to count towards the degree requirements. Courses in our department must be at or above the 400 level.

Here is a listing of courses that students have taken outside of the department to satisfy degree requirements.

Previous Coursework

With program approval, students are allowed to count up to 14 credits of graduate coursework from other institutions. Students with undergraduate degrees from UW-Madison, with program approval, are allowed to count up to 7 credits of graduate coursework taken as an undergraduate at UW–Madison, as long as those credits were not applied toward an undergraduate degree.

With program approval and payment of the difference in tuition (between Special student and graduate tuition), students are allowed to count no more than 15 credits of coursework numbered 300 or above taken as a UW–Madison special student. In all cases, coursework earned five or more years prior to admission to a master’s degree or earned ten years or more prior to admission to a doctoral degree is not allowed to satisfy requirements.

Satisfactory Progress

Each student must make satisfactory progress, as specified by the departmental and Graduate School satisfactory progress guidelines, which are available from the grad chair or grad coordinator. Failure to maintain satisfactory progress may result in probation, or dismissal from the department. The cumulative GPA in Graduate School must be no less than 3.0.

A semester GPA below 3.0 will result in the student being placed on academic probation. If a semester GPA of 3.0 is not attained during the subsequent semester of full time enrollment (or 12 credits of enrollment if enrolled part-time) the student may be dismissed from the program or allowed to continue for 1 additional semester based on advisor appeal to the Graduate School. The Graduate School regularly reviews the record of any student who earned grades of BC, C, D, F, or Incomplete in a graduate course (300 or above), or grade of U in research credits. This review could result in academic probation with a hold on future enrollment or in being suspended from the Graduate School.

When the student and their advisor determine that all degree requirements will be met during the current semester, the student should email the graduate coordinator to obtain a warrant request form. The graduate coordinator will input the warrant request information to the Graduate School. The warrant request should be made at least three weeks before the degree deadline for the current semester. Once all degree requirements have been fulfilled, the warrant is signed by the student’s major professor, thesis committee, or advisor as appropriate. Your warrant must be deposited by the degree deadline in order for your degree to be conferred. You must be enrolled for the semester in which you complete your degree.

MS Degree Completion

When the student and their advisor determine that all requirements will be met for completion of the MS degree, the student should email the Graduate Coordinator to obtain a warrant request form. Upon receipt of the completed form, the Graduate Coordinator will request a warrant from the Graduate School.

Information on Graduate School policy, deadlines, thesis formatting and procedures can be found at” The AOS department does not have any additional formatting requirements beyond the Graduate School guidelines.

After the MS Committee members have signed the warrant, the warrant should be sent to the Graduate Program Coordinator, along with a pdf of the thesis. The thesis will be sent to the AOSS library to be posted online at the Journal of UW-AOS” and added to the minds@UW repository.

If the student has a research assistantship and will not be continuing on for the Ph.D., the assistantship will end on the date that the warrant is deposited or the offical graduation date of the term.

Commencement Information

Students can find information and important deadlines for participating in UW-Madison commencement ceremonies on the University’s commencement website.

In addition to the campus commencement ceremonies, the Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences department hosts its own graduation celebration event at the end of the Spring semester. All graduate students who completed their degrees in the previous year or will be finishing in the upcoming summer or winter semesters are encouraged to take part in this departmental event. It provides an opportunity to celebrate with fellow students, faculty, friends and family.