Soil Science Graduate Degree Program

Position title: Julie Garvin, Graduate Coordinator


Website: Soil Science Graduate Degree Program's website

Phone: 608-262-2239

Department of Soil Science
1525 Observatory Drive


The UW–Madison Department of Soil Science is one of the oldest, largest, and most prominent soil science departments in the United States. It is globally renowned for its excellence in soil research and education. The department’s mission is to provide instruction, research, and extension leadership in soil chemistry, physics, biology, and pedology to economic and sustainable land use. Programs are designed to improve basic understanding and practical management of soil resources in natural, agricultural, and urban ecosystems, and to serve local, state, national, and global interests. The department implements the Wisconsin Idea to the extended community and provides all generations with an appreciation of soil as a key natural resource and thorough understanding of the scientific basis of the environment and agriculture.

Soil science entails understanding soils and applying the principles of physics, chemistry, mathematics, and biology to the sustainable management of soil and the environment. Soil science deals with the effects of climate change and its interaction with the soil, with scarcity of water resources, and the increase of food production to feed 9 billion people. The link between soils and biodiversity as well as the effects of soils on biofuel production is widely researched in the Department of Soil Science.

The department is committed to integrated programs of instruction, research, extension, and outreach that address societal goals of responsible stewardship of soil and water resources.

The importance of soils in crop production, environmental issues, turf and grounds management, soil conservation, global climate change, carbon sequestration, rural and urban planning, and waste disposal are integrated into the department’s course offerings and research programs. Graduate study in soil science provides the basic and applied scientific training needed for teaching, research, and other professional work in the agricultural, earth, and environmental sciences.


Financial support is usually available to qualified students in the form of research assistantships, mostly funded from research grants; final decision for granting a research assistantship rests with the professor(s) supervising the research. Any assistantship for at least one-third time qualifies a student for remission of tuition (though students may be responsible for other administrative fees). The department does not offer teaching assistantships. A number of Graduate School fellowships are available to new students with outstanding records. The deadline for application for these competitive fellowships is early January of each year. The department selects the most qualified applicants and forwards their dossiers to a campus-wide selection committee. Support for graduate assistantships is available through two Wisconsin Distinguished Fellowships (the W.R. Kussow/Wisconsin Turfgrass Association and the Leo M. Walsh/Wisconsin Fertilizer and Chemical Association), the C.B. Tanner Agricultural Physics Award Fund, and the Charles and Alice Ream Soil and Water Protection Research Fund. In addition, there are two awards given annually to outstanding incoming graduate students, the O.N. Allen Graduate Fellowship for Agriculture and the Kelling Soil Fertility Award.


Students in our department are admitted directly into a faculty member’s research group. This faculty member will serve as their advisor during the course of study for their degree program. All faculty recruiting new students for Research Assistant (RA) appointments for upcoming terms will be listed on our Employment and Funding Opportunities page. We recommend that prospective students reach out to potential faculty advisors within the department before submitting their applications to the program to learn more about available research opportunities in the faculty member’s research group.

All incoming graduate students should have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution. Additionally, a foundation in the basic sciences is essential for graduate study in soil science. The program requires all students to have successfully completed the pre-requisite or equivalent coursework (MATH 221 (Calculus & Analytic Geometry I), STAT 301 (Introduction to Statistical Methods), CHEM 103/104 (General Chemistry with Lab), PHYSICS 103 (General Physics), and BIOLOGY/BOTANY/ZOOLOGY 151 (Introduction to Biology)). Admission with deficiencies is possible but is likely to delay completion of graduate studies. All students must have a minimum undergraduate grade-point average (GPA) of 3.00 (on a 4.0 scale) on the equivalent of the last 60 semester hours (approximately two years of work) from the most recent bachelor’s degree institution OR with a master’s degree with a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.00. Under some circumstances, applicants with lower GPAs are admitted on probation, but this is not common. GRE scores are optional and may be submitted using the institutional code 1846. There is no department code needed.