Master's Degree Programs

Details of requirements and procedures pertaining to master's degree study in the department are described in the department's M.S. Program Handbook. Because master's degree students are personally responsible for learning about and following department requirements and procedures, they should familiarize themselves with this document. The handbook is also available at the department office. Master's degree students are also personally responsible for learning about and following Graduate School policies. The curriculum and instruction graduate program office offers an informational meeting for new graduate students at the beginning of each semester.

M.S. in Curriculum and Instruction

The M.S. in curriculum and instruction prepares students for advanced work in education. In some cases, work leading to the degree prepares students to enter a new career as an educational specialist (e.g., curriculum developer, content-area specialist, school department head, curriculum supervisor, early childhood specialist, ESL or bilingual teacher, or reading teacher). In other cases, it prepares students to perform at a higher level in their existing job. In yet other cases, it prepares students for Ph.D. study. Motivations for Master's degree work include professional updating, maintenance of accreditation, acquisition of new perspectives and skills, development of specialized knowledge, preparation to work with student teachers, preparation for leadership among teachers, and preparation for advanced graduate study. Whatever their personal reasons for pursuing the degree, Master's degree students should expect both an atmosphere of intellectual inquiry and the serious academic standards befitting a graduate research program in curriculum and instruction.

M.S. in Curriculum and Instruction—Named Options (Teacher Certification)

A master of science with secondary teacher certification is offered as an M.S. in Curriculum and Instruction with named options in

Fall Deadline March 30 for international students; June 30 for domestic students
Spring Deadline August 30 for international applicants; November 30 for domestic applicants
Summer Deadline January 30 for international applicants; April 30 for domestic applicants
GRE (Graduate Record Examinations) May be required in certain cases; consult program.
English Proficiency Test Every applicant whose native language is not English or whose undergraduate instruction was not in English must provide an English proficiency test score and meet the Graduate School minimum requirements (https://grad.wisc.edu/apply/requirements/#english-proficiency).
Other Test(s) (e.g., GMAT, MCAT) n/a
Letters of Recommendation Required 3

Master's Applicants

Official transcripts from all previous post-secondary study and three letters of recommendation are required for all master's degree applicants. Letters of recommendation should be written by persons who are qualified to judge the potential of the applicant as a graduate student.  All letters of recommendation are submitted electronically as part of the online application for admission. 

All master's degree applicants are required to submit a detailed statement of reasons for graduate study. This statement should indicate the applicant's primary area of interest, professional objectives, career goals, and why the applicant is interested in pursuing the master's degree in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction. This information is used to gauge the appropriateness of the applicant's program goals in relation to the department's mission and to identify prospective advisors whose research interests match those of the applicant. If an applicant's statement fails to persuade a faculty member to serve as the graduate advisor, the applicant will be refused admission; it is therefore important that this statement be detailed, well-written, and matched to specific areas of study that are available in the department. If an applicant would like for a particular professor to serve as graduate advisor, the applicant should identify the desired advisor in the statement of reasons for graduate study.

All master's degree applicants are required to submit a resume or curriculum vitae (cv).

For the Curriculum and Instruction master's program, if the grade point average (GPA) of an applicant's last 60 semester hours of undergraduate coursework is below 3.0 (on a 4-point scale), the applicant may also be required in certain cases to take the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) general test and have an official report of the scores sent electronically from the Educational Testing Service (ETS) to UW–Madison (institution code: 1846).

International applicants should note additional requirements that are described in the International Applications section, below.

International Applicants

The department has a long and successful history of working with graduate students from around the world. Over the last 25 years, approximately 130 M.S. degrees were earned by international students; students in this group came from 37 countries. During the same period, approximately 150 Ph.D. degrees were earned by international students in the department; students in this group came from 43 countries. Altogether, approximately one-third of our graduate students in Curriculum and Instruction are international students, which enriches the social and intellectual environment for all faculty and students as we continuously learn from each other.

In accord with Graduate School policy, applicants whose native language is not English or whose undergraduate instruction was not in English must provide official scores from the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or International English Language Testing System (IELTS). An admitted applicant whose internet-based TOEFL (iBT) score is below 92, or whose IELTS score is below 7 must take an English assessment test upon arrival. They must then register for any English as a Second Language (ESL) courses that are recommended. For minimum required scores, please see the Graduate School's Requirements for Admissions page. 

Candidates for the M.S. with named option will also be required to demonstrate advanced proficiency in verbal communication in English to be eligible for ESL certification.

Expected Background in Professional Education

(Does not apply to M.S. with named options in Secondary English Education, Secondary Mathematics Education, Secondary Science Education, and Secondary Social Studies Education applicants)

A professional background in education (typically, as a certified teacher) is a prerequisite for most graduate areas of study in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction. Applicants to certain areas of study within the department are sometimes admitted without teacher certification, but they are nevertheless required to have taken at least 12 credits in professional education courses that are equivalent to courses taught within a school of education, as judged by the Graduate Program Committee. Applicants lacking this background will be required to take a specified number of credits of education coursework, in addition to the course work ordinarily required in the graduate program.  The courses taken should be chosen in consultation with the graduate advisor, and each of these courses must be taken for a letter grade (not pass/fail). These courses may be carried concurrently with regular graduate courses; but, being additional requirements, they do not count toward requirements of the graduate program.

Graduate School Resources

Resources to help you afford graduate study might include assistantships, fellowships, traineeships, and financial aid. Further funding information is available from the Graduate School. Be sure to check with your program for individual policies and processes related to funding.

Program Resources


The department nominates eligible incoming M.S. and Ph.D. students for an Advanced Opportunity Fellowship (AOF). Eligibility criteria for these fellowships can be found at the Graduate School's Funding Information page. Nominees are considered in January by a committee of the Department of Curriculum and Instruction.  For an applicant to be considered in this competition, the graduate-application file should be complete by December 1.

University-wide information about financial aid for graduate students is available through the Office of Student Financial Aid. Additional information about financing graduate education is available from the Graduate School's Types of Funding Available page.

Traditional M.S.: The department itself does not award fellowships or scholarships; however, a limited number of teaching assistantships, project assistantships, research assistantships, and program assistantships are available either in the department or through faculty research projects in the Wisconsin Center for Education Research. These assistantships are awarded to qualified, full-time graduate students and typically involve 10–20 hours of professional work each week, usually in close collaboration with one or more professors. Assistantships provide a stipend and may include the cost of tuition (excluding segregated fees).  Applications for assistantships in the department can be downloaded here or requested from the Academic Department Manager, 210A Teacher Education Building, 608-263-4602. Students should also check with individual faculty members about opportunities for assistantships in the department. Any teaching, project, or program assistant in the department must carry a full course load of 8–15 graduate-level credits and make satisfactory progress toward the graduate degree.

M.S. with named option:  The School of Education offers a limited number of scholarships and awards for teacher education candidates. The scholarship application window opens each year from February through March. A list of currently available scholarships may be found at the UW Scholarship search page. Candidates in the M.S. with named option are not allowed to accept teaching assistantships, project assistantships, research assistantships, nor program assistantships which include tutition remission. 

Minimum Graduate School Requirements

Review the Graduate School minimum academic progress and degree requirements, in addition to the program requirements listed below.

Major Requirements 


Face to Face Evening/Weekend Online Hybrid Accelerated
Yes Yes No No No

Mode of Instruction Definitions


Minimum Credit Requirement 30 credits
Minimum Residence Credit Requirement 21 credits
Minimum Graduate Coursework Requirement 100% of the credits taken at UW–Madison must be completed graduate-level coursework; courses with the Graduate Level Coursework attribute are identified and searchable in the university's Course Guide.
Overall Graduate GPA Requirement 3.25 GPA required.
Other Grade Requirements Students must earn a B average or above in all coursework.
Assessments and Examinations Thesis & examination required.
Language Requirements No language requirements other than the English proficiency required for admission.

Required Courses

At least 15 of the 30 credits must be from Curriculum & Instruction.

Named Options (Sub-Majors)

A named option is a formally documented sub-major within an academic major program. Named options appear on the transcript with degree conferral.

Graduate School Policies

The Graduate School’s Academic Policies and Procedures provide essential information regarding general university policies. Program authority to set degree policies beyond the minimum required by the Graduate School lies with the degree program faculty. Policies set by the academic degree program can be found below.

Major-Specific Policies

Graduate Program Handbook

The Graduate Program Handbook is the repository for all of the program's policies and requirements.

Prior Coursework

Graduate Work from Other Institutions

With program approval, students are allowed to count no more than 9 credits of graduate coursework from other institutions. This coursework does not appear on a UW–Madison transcript nor count toward graduate career GPA. Coursework earned five or more years prior to admission to a master’s degree is not allowed to satisfy requirements.Students should read the program handbook to see which credits may be covered.

UW–Madison Undergraduate

No credits from a UW–Madison undergraduate degree are allowed to count toward the degree.

UW–Madison University Special

With program approval and payment of the difference in tuition, students are allowed to count no more than 9 credits of coursework numbered 300 or above taken as a UW–Madison University Special student. Coursework earned five or more years prior to admission to a Master’s degree is not allowed to satisfy requirements.


The status of a student can be one of two options:

  1. Satisfactory progress (progressing according to standards)
  2. Unsatisfactory progress (not progressing according to standards; permitted to enroll with specific plan with dates and deadlines in place in regard to removal of unsatisfactory progress to avoid dismissal from the program).


All students are required to have an advisor. An advisor is assigned to all incoming students. To ensure that they are making satisfactory progress toward a degree, students should meet with their advisor on a regular basis.

The advisor serves as the thesis advisor. Students can be suspended from the program, if they do not have an advisor.


12 credits. Students may take up to 15 credits with the approval of their advisor and notification to the graduate program coordinator.

Time Constraints

Master’s degree students who have been absent for five or more consecutive years lose all credits that they have earned before their absence. Individual programs may count the coursework students completed prior to their absence for meeting program requirements; that coursework may not count toward Graduate School credit requirements.



Graduate School Resources

Take advantage of the Graduate School's professional development resources to build skills, thrive academically, and launch your career. 

  1. (Breadth of Knowledge) Examples of competence may include demonstrating awareness of historical and intellectual context, educational practices, critical research paradigms within the broader field of Curriculum and Instruction, and theories and approaches from other fields as appropriate for their research.
  2. (Depth of Knowledge) Examples of competence may include demonstrating mastery of concepts, theories, and research, and understanding of relevant educational practices and contexts, sufficient to pose questions that extend the current boundaries of knowledge within their chosen subfield of Curriculum and Instruction.

Faculty: Professors Rudolph (chair), Baker (graduate program chair), Gomez, Grant, Graue, E. Halverson, Hawkins, Hess, Koza, Lockwood, Popkewitz, Schweber,Tochon; Associate Professors L. Berland, M. Berland, Feinstein, Ghousseini, Hassett, Ho, Pacheco; Assistant Professors Bullock, Louie, McKinney de Royston, Prasad, Russ, Wardrip, Wright; Affiliate Professors L. Bartlett, T. Dobbs, R. Halverson, P. Matthews, Nathan, H. Zhang. For more information about respective members of the faculty, see People on the department website.