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School of Human Ecology

Consumer Science

Department Majors
General Education Requirements
Requirements for the Personal Finance Major
Requirements for the Retailing Major
Requirements for the Consumer Affairs Major (effective fall 2011, not accepting new majors)
Certificate Programs

4232 Nancy Nicholas Hall, 1300 Linden Drive, Madison, WI 53706; 608-263-5675; csdept@mail.wisc.edu; www.sohe.wisc.edu/cs/

Professors Bartfeld, Douthitt, Hoyt (chair), Jasper, Shim, Wong, Zepeda; Assistant Professors Collins, Samak

The Consumer Science Department is in the midst of a program review, which may result in changes that affect one or more of the majors described in this catalog. For the most current application forms, curriculum checksheets, and program specific information, see Student Academic Affairs Office Forms.

The Department of Consumer Science develops and disseminates information on the ways in which the interactions among consumers, business, and government can enhance the interests and well-being of consumers, families, and communities. The department focuses on various dimensions of well-being including economic/financial security, consumer empowerment, health, food security, housing security, sustainability, and the public policy that affects those dimensions of well-being. Consumer Science programs are interdisciplinary in nature and prepare students for a variety of careers in government, business, the media, and/or education. Research and teaching emphasize both information about the consumer as well as for the consumer.

Admission of on-campus transfers occurs at least once per year (spring or fall). Students must have a minimum cumulative grade point average of 2.6 to be eligible to apply. A 2.6 cumulative grade point average does not guarantee admission, as the program is competitive. The application deadlines are posted on the School of Human Ecology Student Academic Affairs website. The Student Academic Affairs office has information on application procedures. On-campus students interested in learning about Consumer Science program admissions are encouraged to contact the Student Academic Affairs Office at acadaffairs@mail.sohe.wisc.edu or call 608-262-2608 to register for a "Becoming a SoHE Student" session.

Department Majors

The Consumer Science department currently offers two majors: Personal Finance and Retailing. Both courses of study are interdisciplinary and integrative, and focus broadly on the economic well-being of consumers and families. Students take courses in the department as well as related courses in areas such as business, economics, and communication.Students take courses in the department as well as related courses in areas such as business, economics, and communication. The department also has some students in a Consumer Affairs major. That major stopped accepting new students after fall 2011.

The personal finance major prepares students for careers that aim to assist families and individuals in achieving financial goals. Such careers include family/individual financial planning and counseling, credit counseling, securities analysis and sales, insurance, employee benefits, banking, and lending.  It also prepares students for graduate study in such fields as law, business, public administration, banking, consumer behavior and family economics. Graduate study is necessary for positions as Extension specialists in family and consumer economics and for teaching or research positions at the university level. This program leads to a bachelor of science (B.S.) degree in personal finance.

The retailing major prepares students for bringing a consumer-focused orientation to managerial and merchandising careers in a dynamic, technologically advanced, and globally focused industry. Career opportunities, particularly in retail management, offer students rapid advancement with companies experiencing growth via new store formats, category specific concepts, or global expansion. Professional career options include store management, merchandising (buying), information systems, distribution and inventory management, public relations and advertising, consumer credit, personnel management, and direct marketing. Leading department store, discount, and specialty retail companies regularly recruit at UW–Madison, seeking candidates for executive training positions.

The personal finance major and the retailing major are both built upon a general studies background requiring an analytical statistical aptitude. Both majors provide students with a professional orientation that emphasizes consumer and family well-being and social responsibility. The majors incorporate a shared departmental core, which provides all students with a strong grounding in consumer science including basic consumer finance; economics as it pertains to the role of consumers in the market; the role of public policy as it affects consumer well-being; consumer behavior and decision-making; and the way consumer choices reflect and have an impact on broader societal concerns around sustainability and social justice. 

In addition to the shared core, both majors also include additional required and elective departmental courses that provide content and skills particular to the major, as well as selected courses in the business school and other campus departments.In addition to the shared core, both majors also include additional required and elective department courses that provide content and skills particular to the major, as well as selected courses in the business school and other campus departments.

A supervised field experience or competitive placement internship program provides an opportunity to earn degree credit for experiential learning. Students in both majors are strongly encouraged to take advantage of opportunities to gain practical knowledge through the consumer science internship program.

Requirements for the Personal Finance Major
Requirements for the Retailing Major

General Education Requirements (required for all majors)


General education requirements must be met by all students whose first college matriculation date is May 20, 1996, or thereafter.

Math & Communication

Math 112 or higher (Not Math 130 or 141) (unless exempt), 0–3 cr
Speech Communication (Com Arts 100, 105, 181 or L Sc Com 100), 2–3 cr

SoHE Breadth Requirements, 6 credits

6 credits of Human Ecology courses outside major department (HDFS, L Sc Com, Inter-HE, DS, Nutri Sci, Food Sci)

Statistics, 3–4 credits

Choose from Econ 310, Gen Bus 303, Psych 210, Poli Sci 551, Soc 360, Stat 301

Arts & Humanities, 9 credits

Literature (choose any literature course designated "L" in the Course Guide), 3 cr
Additional Humanities (choose from courses designated "H", "L", or "Z" in the Course Guide, or foreign language, music or art to bring total credits to 9)

Social Science, 16–17 credits

Econ 101 (Micro), 4 cr
Econ 102 (Macro), 3 cr
Poli Sci 101, 103, 104, 106, 205, 219, or 404, 3–4 cr
Psych 202, 3 cr
Sociology (any Soc course), 3 cr

Physical, Biological, and Natural Science, 12 credits minimum

Choose at least one course from each category.

Physical Science

Choose any physical science course designated "P" in the Course Guide.

Biological Science 

Choose any biological science course designated "B" in the Course Guide.

Analytic Methods

Stat 333, 349, 411, 3 cr
Math 210, 211 or 221, 3–5 cr
Marketing 310 or Gen Bus 303, 3 cr
Soc 361, 3 cr

Additional Science

Choose from courses designated "P", "B", or "N" in the Course Guide to bring total science credits to 12.

Certificate Programs

Certificate programs are optional and are not required for graduation. The Certificate in Business (CIB) program is a UW–Madison-sponsored program that may be relevant to consumer science students. The CIB provides nonbusiness students the opportunity to earn a concentration in a clearly defined academic program in business. Additional information is available at the CIB website.