Master’s Program

LSC offers two M.S. degree options, the thesis-track M.S. and the professional studies track M.S. Both tracks provide students with a foundation in communication theory and research methods in addition to the flexibility to create a customized curriculum based on the student’s interests and career goals. Students in LSC take courses within our department and select elective courses from across campus based on their academic and career goals such as environmental studies, statistics, political science, educational psychology, etc.

The thesis-based Master’s degree requires 24 course credits plus a thesis based on original research (6 credits). The professional studies M.S. is a course-based master’s degree (30 credits total) designed to prepare students for professional careers in life sciences communication and related fields. Students in this track will usually not pursue a Ph.D. program in the future. In fact, many graduate programs (including LSC) do not accept a non-thesis master’s as a criterion for admission to their Ph.D. program.

Contact Us:

Interested students are encouraged to contact Student Services Coordinator, Tera Holtz Wagner, or the Director of Academic Programs, Dietram Scheufele for more information.

Application deadlines:

Fall admission: May 15
Spring admission: October 15

Please note that we encourage early applications to allow more time to secure financial support.

Application requirements:

  • Online application
  • Personal statement
  • Three letters of recommendation
  • Transcripts
  • CV/Resume
  • Official GRE scores**

The online application is available here.

** Important Note: The Department of Life Sciences Communication understands that Covid-19 restrictions are making it challenging for some applicants to take the GRE. Therefore, applicants to the LSC M.S. program and Mass Comm-Life Sciences Communication Ph.D. program can request a GRE waiver for the spring 2021 and fall 2021 application cycles. Those requesting a waiver are required to address why they did not submit GRE scores in the personal statement. The absence of GRE scores will not be held against applicants for the spring 2021 and fall 2021 application cycles. Contact Tera at tholtz@wisc.edu with any additional questions.

Thesis Track:

Students are required to take a communication theory course, a research methodology course, a graduate level statistics course, and the LSC colloquium in life sciences communication. The degree also requires a thesis based on original research.

The student meets with their advisor during the first semester of the program to outline a course trajectory for the next two years. In consultation with their advisor, the student assembles a committee of three faculty members. The student defends their master’s thesis in front of the committee at the end of their program.

Course work can include classes in substantive areas other than communication. For example, a student wishing to become an environmental reporter might take courses in environmental studies. A student interested in health communication might take a nutrition or preventive medicine course. However, the complete program must have coherence and focus, and students should discuss all courses with their advisor prior to enrollment.

Professional Studies:

The Professional Studies M.S. is a course-based master’s degree (30 credits total) designed to prepare students for professional careers in life sciences communication and related fields. Students in this track will usually not pursue a Ph.D. program in the future. Many graduate programs (including LSC) do not accept a non-thesis master’s as a criterion for admission to their Ph.D. program.

The student meets with their advisor during the first semester of the program to outline a course trajectory for the next two years. In consultation with their advisor, the student assembles a committee of three faculty members. The student present a course narrative to the committee and the end of their program, and the committee meets to approve the completed coursework.

Professional track master’s students must take a communication theory course, a research methodology course, a graduate level statistics course, and the LSC colloquium in life sciences communication. Students fill their remaining credits with courses of interest after consulting with their advisor.

The department funds students through a wide variety of teaching, project and research assistantships. Assistantship support of one-third time (33%) or more also provides full tuition remission, health insurance, and other benefits. In addition, the department nominates students with outstanding records for fellowships provided by the Graduate School. For more information on funding, click here.

What is the difference between the professional and thesis tracks?

Both tracks require a total of 30 credits. Professional track students complete 30 credits of coursework and the program concludes with a written course narrative and oral presentation to the student’s advisory committee. Thesis track students complete 24 credits of coursework and 6 credits for research and concludes with a written thesis based on original research and an oral defense to their advisory committee.

Do I need to secure an advisor prior to applying to the program?

No. When a student is admitted to our program, they are assigned an orientation advisor who will help them prepare for their first year in the program. In many cases, students work with this advisor throughout their time in the program. We also have a process for switching advisors if a student later decides that a different faculty advisor would be a more appropriate fit.

What can I do with this degree?

Students with a master’s degree in LSC go on to a variety of careers in industry and others continue their education and pursue a doctorate. Check out this page for a list of first jobs secured after graduation by our master’s degree students.

Is the program offered in an online modality?

No, we do not offer an online M.S. in LSC.

Plan a Visit to the Department of Life Sciences Communication
We encourage all potential graduate student applicants to visit the Department of Life Sciences Communication (LSC) at Hiram Smith Hall. The best time to visit is when most faculty and students are on campus, September through May.

We encourage applicants to contact specific faculty members to explore mutual interests.

Before scheduling a visit, please contact our Student Services Coordinator, Tera Holtz Wagner, or the Director of Academic Programs, Dietram Scheufele.

While visiting LSC, sit in on a class or a SCIMEP research group meeting, or tour campus facilities and attractions, such as the student unions, or the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery.

Finding LSC
LSC is located in Hiram Smith Hall, 1545 Observatory Drive.  Use the campus map to find us.

Getting Around Campus
The University of Wisconsin-Madison campus is located in downtown Madison. Public transportation is an easy way to travel on campus and buses frequently stop close to Hiram Smith Hall. Information about bus routes can be found on the Madison Metro website and also at the bus stops themselves.

  • Madison Metro Route 80 is a free campus shuttle that covers most of campus with a stop close to Hiram Smith Hall.
  • All City/UW bus routes can be found at Madison Metro
  • For more information about getting around campus, use the Transportation Services link and the official map of UW-Madison Campus

Parking
The closest public parking ramp to Hiram Smith Hall is Lot 36. There is also free after hours and weekend parking on campus. View the online campus maps with parking locations.

More Information
UW Visitor & Information Programs has information about the entire campus as well as the beautiful city of Madison.