University of Wisconsin–Madison

Graduate Studies

The Biological Systems Engineering Department offers graduate programs leading to the master of science and the doctor of philosophy degrees.

Graduate training prepares students for academic and industry positions, specializing in power and machinery, process engineering, structures and environment, soil and water engineering, waste management, food engineering, biological and agricultural materials’ properties, or instrumentation and controls.

Master of Science

Two options are available for the Master’s degree in BSE: a thesis option and a non-thesis option (i.e., an independent study) program. If your objective is to pursue a Ph.D. degree and/or research-oriented career, you are strongly encouraged to select the thesis option. Graduate research assistantships are generally not awarded to students pursuing the non-thesis option. Students should select course work in consultation with and approval of the major professor.

Doctor of Philosophy

Students in the doctor of philosophy degree program are concerned with advancement of knowledge through “cutting edge research” and scholarly activity. The doctor of philosophy degree normally required a minimum of 42-54 course credits beyond the bachelors degree and the completion of an acceptable dissertation. The doctoral dissertation is expected to be an original and significant contribution to the biological and agricultural engineering profession.

Graduate Program Requirements

Graduate students are required to complete a minimum of 18 credits of course work and 6 credits of thesis work for an M.S. degree. A Ph.D. requires a minimum of 42-54 credits of course work and 24 credits of thesis work for a minimum of 72 credits beyond a B.S. degree in Biological Systems Engineering.

Students with B.S. degrees in non-engineering fields may pursue graduate work in Biological Systems Engineering provided they take any necessary prerequisites.

Every applicant 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), International English Language Testing System (IELTS), or the Michigan English Language Assessment Battery (MELAB). An admitted applicant whose:

  • TOEFL (paper-based) test score is below 580
  • TOEFL computer-based test (CBT) score is below 237
  • TOEFL internet based (iBT) test score is below 92
  • IELTS score is below 7
  • MELAB score is below 82

must take an English assessment test upon arrival. You must then register for any recommended English as a Second Language (ESL) course(s) in the first semester you are enrolled. Visit the TOEFL web site for sample exam questions, free test preparation materials, and testing locations.

Please contact Betsy Wood, Student Services Coordinator, at 608-262-3310 or via email at to answer any questions you might have about BSE’s graduate program.

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