The Department of Curriculum and Instruction offers graduate studies that lead to the Master of Science (M.S.) in Curriculum and Instruction and the Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Curriculum and Instruction. Each graduate student must concentrate in one of the department's areas of study, listed in the next section.


In accord with interests and professional goals, each admitted graduate student is assigned to an area of study and to an initial faculty advisor in that area. Areas of study are bilingual education, curriculum studies, digital media, early childhood studies, English as a second language, global studies, literacy studies, mathematics education, multicultural education, music education, science education, social studies education, teacher education, and world language education.

The goals of doctoral study in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction are to help students develop abilities for research in the field of curriculum and instruction, imbuing them with a distinctive theoretical and critical edge; develop expertise in one of the department's areas of study, listed previously; acquire greater competence in curriculum evaluation and development; improve understanding of the teaching–learning process; gain depth and breadth of knowledge in related academic fields; and build a broadened professional background in areas related to curriculum and instruction, such as anthropology, history, philosophy, sociology of education, administration, counseling, educational psychology, and supervision.

Ph.D. study in the department is research-oriented. It prepares students for different forms of intellectual leadership in education including research, curriculum analysis and development, teacher education, and other teaching in higher education, and leadership positions in educational agencies. These different forms of leadership are not mutually exclusive, but the relative emphasis given to each varies among students and areas of study.

Details of requirements and procedures pertaining to Ph.D. study in the department are described in the department's Ph.D. Degree Program Handbook. Doctoral students are responsible for learning about and following department requirements and procedures; they should therefore familiarize themselves with this document, a printed copy of which can be picked up at the curriculum and instruction graduate program office. Ph.D. students are also 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.

Fall Deadline December 1
Spring Deadline This program does not admit in the spring.
Summer Deadline This program does not admit in the summer.
GRE (Graduate Record Examinations) Required.
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

Ph.D. Applicants

Ph.D. applicants are required to supplement the application with the items enumerated below.

  1. Official transcripts. Official transcripts from all previous postsecondary study are required for all Ph.D. applicants.
  2. Graduate Record Exam (GRE) general test. Ph.D. applicants should have an official report of their Graduate Record Exam (GRE) general test scores sent electronically from the Educational Testing Service (ETS) to UW–Madison (institution code: 1846).
  3. Evidence of writing ability. Ph.D. applicants are required to provide evidence of their writing ability by submitting a writing sample (master's thesis, academic paper from a graduate course, a journal article, or any other writing which the applicant believes can be used to judge writing ability).  This should be uploaded to the application.
  4. Three letters that include appraisal of academic competence. Ph.D. applicants are required to have three letters of reference assessing their academic and professional competence. Letters of reference written for teachers ordinarily include an evaluation of their professional competence, and the department values that information. In addition, the department needs letters that provide a knowledgeable appraisal of the applicant's academic competence and research capability. A student's former professors are usually best able to provide this, so the department encourages letters from such referees. Letters must be submitted electronically through the online application.
  5. Statement of reasons for doctoral study. Each Ph.D. applicant is required to submit a detailed statement of reasons for doctoral study. The statement should indicate the applicant's primary area of interest, professional objectives, career goals, and why the applicant is interested in pursuing a research 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. The applicant must identify the desired advisor or advisors in the statement of reasons for graduate study.
  6. Resume or curriculum vitae (cv).

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. 

Expected Background in Professional Education

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. The department nominates its most academically competitive Ph.D. candidates for the Social Studies Division Fellowships. 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.

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). 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.

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 No No No No

Mode of Instruction Definitions


Minimum Credit Requirement 51 credits
Minimum Residence Credit Requirement 36 credits beyond the master’s before taking the preliminary examination
Minimum Graduate Coursework Requirement 36 credits out of 51 total credits must be completed in 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 Ph.D. students must earn a B average or above in all coursework.
Assessments and Examinations Doctoral students must pass the preliminary examination within five years of starting the program.
Language Requirements No language requirements other than the English proficiency required for admission.
Doctoral Minor/Breadth Requirements All doctoral students are required to complete a minor. Students completing an external minor must take at least 9 credits. Students completing a distributed minor must take 12 credits from two or more programs forming a coherent topic, and can include coursework from Curriculum & Instruction if the minor is Qualitative Research Methods.

Required Courses

51 credits minimum are needed to graduate. At least 36 of these must be taken after the student enters the Ph.D. program. Within those 36 credits:

  • For students without a UW–Madison Curriculum & Instruction Research M.S., minimum of 18 must be new Curriculum & Instruction credits. For students with a UW–Madison Curriculum & Instruction Research M.S., a minimum of 12 must be new Curriculum & Instruction credits.
  • A minor (9–12 credits).
    • Option A–External—9-12 credits.
    • Option B–Distributed—12 credits.
  • CURRIC 712 Introduction to Curriculum and Instruction: Research and Resources.
  • 3 research method classes (from 2 different traditions as determined by advisor).

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

No prior coursework from other institutions can be counted in the 36 credits required before taking the preliminary examination in Curriculum and Instruction.

UW–Madison Undergraduate

No credits from a UW undergraduate or a completed Master's degree are allowed to count toward the Ph.D. degree in Curriculum and Instruction.

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 doctoral 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 they are making satisfactory progress toward a degree, students should meet with their advisor on a regular basis.

The advisor serves as the dissertator 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

A candidate for a doctoral degree who fails to take the final oral examination and deposit the dissertation within 5 years after passing the preliminary examination may by required to take another preliminary examination and to be admitted to candidacy a second time.

Doctoral degree students who have been absent for ten 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.
  3. (Research Approaches and Epistemological Foundations) Examples of competence may include articulating research problems that build on history, theory, research, and practice within their subfield of Curriculum and Instruction; choosing research methods appropriate to those problems and demonstrating understanding of epistemological foundations underlying those methods.

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.