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College of Agricultural and Life Sciences

Degrees, Majors, and Certificate Programs

Policy on Admission to Restricted-Enrollment Majors
An Individualized Education Plan
General College and University Requirements
B.S. Degree Requirements
Certificate Programs
Multiple Degrees or Majors
Farm and Industry Short Course
Special Short Courses

The College of Agricultural and Life Sciences provides opportunities for study in a wide variety of department majors and interdisciplinary programs or specializations. In some instances, majors and degrees are offered cooperatively with other schools and colleges at UW–Madison. Students are responsible for knowing academic requirements for graduation and should consult with an advisor regularly

Freshmen are encouraged to declare a degree and major, so that an advisor can be assigned in their area of interest, but students are encouraged to change majors if academic or professional goals change. However, incoming first-year students unsure about which CALS major to declare may opt to remain undeclared while exploring their options. Interested students should contact CALS Transitional Advising and Outreach Services for more information.


Agricultural and Applied Economics
Agricultural Business Management
Animal Sciences
Biological Systems Engineering
Community and Environmental Sociology
Dairy Science
Environmental Sciences
Food Science
Forest Science
Individual Major
Landscape Architecture
Life Sciences Communication
Nutritional Sciences
Plant Pathology
Poultry Science
Soil Science
Wildlife Ecology

Policy on Admission to Restricted-Enrollment Majors

Enrollment is limited in certain major fields because more qualified students apply than staff and facilities in that field can accommodate. Students are cautioned to study the admission policy, criteria, and procedures for minimum admission requirements to certain majors such as Landscape Architecture, Biological Systems Engineering, and Dietetics. Please refer to the respective departments of instruction for details.

An Individualized Education Plan

The college offers five undergraduate degrees: a general bachelor of science (B.S.) degree, under which most of our majors are offered, and four specialized B.S. degrees in:

  • Agricultural Business Management
  • Biological Systems Engineering
  • Dietetics
  • Landscape Architecture

General College and University Requirements

All undergraduate students in CALS must satisfy a set of college and university requirements:

General Requirements

Following are the minimum requirements for a B.S. degree:

  • Four years of university work or the equivalent
  • A total of at least 120 credits (more in biological systems engineering)
  • A 2.0 cumulative grade point average

Specific requirements for all majors in the college and other information on academic matters can be obtained from the Office of Academic Affairs, College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, 116 Agricultural Hall, 1450 Linden Drive, Madison, WI 53706; 608-262-3003. Academic departments and advisors also have information on requirements.

General Education Requirements for All CALS B.S. Degree Programs

First-Year Seminar, 1 credit
Communications Part A,
2–3 credits
Communications Part B,
2–3 credits
Quantitative Reasoning Part A,
3 credits or equivalent
Quantitative Reasoning Part B, 3 credits
Ethnic Studies, 3 credits
Humanities, 6 credits
Social Sciences, 3 credits
International Studies, 3 credits
Physical Science Fundamentals (Chem 103 or 108 or 109), 4–5 credits
Biological Science, 5 credits
Additional Science, 3 credits
Science Breadth, 3 credits

Students are advised to complete introductory and basic course requirements (i.e., biological and physical sciences, chemistry, mathematics, communications, etc.) early in their academic programs. A student satisfying these requirements will have satisfied the university's General Education Requirements. 

Students must also satisfy a minimum of 15 credits in the selected major (these 15 credits may not be double counted with CALS or General Education requirements) and a Capstone course that meets the following criteria (and may be included in the 15 credits toward the major):

CALS Capstone Learning Experience Criteria

A CALS Capstone is a course in which students are required to integrate diverse bodies of knowledge to solve a problem or formulate a policy of societal importance with the intent of facilitating the transition to post-baccalaureate life.

A Capstone Experience should: 

  • Develop problem solving skills
  • Expose student to multidisciplinary approach
  • Develop teamwork and interpersonal skills, including the ability to communicate effectively to multiple audiences
  • Develop skills in accessing and using information resources (e.g., electronic databases, library resources, national repositories)
  • Address societal, economic, ethical, scientific, and professional issues
  • Communicate and extend the capstone experience via written, oral, and/or multimedia reports by each student

The Capstone Experience will normally be completed during the student's final 2 or 3 semesters. The intent is to have the student utilize and integrate their undergraduate learning into a culminating, or capstone, experience. Students should consult with their departmental faculty advisors for specific information regarding this requirement. Where appropriate, students should submit a copy of the final project materials to the campus library (via Minds@UW or similar).

B.S. Degree Requirements

1. B.S. Degree

This degree program provides a broad and general foundation for two dozen majors in the college. It can be tailored to each student's particular interests and post-graduate plans, including graduate or professional school, domestic or international employment, or service opportunities such as the Peace Corps. Students in this program should work closely with their advisors to make the most appropriate course selections.

Majors offered under the B.S. degree include Agricultural and Applied Economics, Agronomy, Animal Science, Biochemistry, Biology, Community and Environmental Sociology, Dairy Science, Entomology, Environmental Sciences, Food Science, Forest Science, Genetics, Horticulture, Landscape Architecture, Life Sciences Communication, Microbiology, Nutritional Sciences, Poultry Science, Plant Pathology, Soil Science, and Wildlife Ecology.

Students completing requirements for this program are awarded the Bachelor of Science degree.

2. B.S.–Agricultural Business Management

Today's businesses and industries in the agricultural and food sectors of the economy are growing rapidly. Agribusiness industries, such as those that supply farm inputs or process and market agricultural products, need staff who are educated in both business and agriculture. Agricultural Business Management students also find employment in companies specializing in biological systems engineering, landscape architecture, biotechnology, food technology, food science, food marketing, and large-scale farm enterprises.

The Bachelor of Science degree program in Agricultural Business Management combines a basic core in agricultural and business management with a major concentration in one of the broad sectors of agricultural business management. The program includes a strong component of courses in business as well as broad-ranged general education and electives. Students working toward this degree should develop their major field course program in consultation with advisors in the Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics. In addition to the general CALS requirements, the basic curriculum includes all of the following:

Mathematics and Statistics, 8–9 credits
A A E 215 or Econ 101
Econ 102
Econ 301 or Econ 311
Econ 302 or 312
15 credits in a Concentration within the Major
Senior Capstone Experience

For additional detail on these requirements, refer to the ABM Curriculum Sheet on the CALS website.

Students completing requirements for this program are awarded the Bachelor of Science–Agricultural Business Management degree.

3. B.S.–Biological Systems Engineering

Biological systems engineers design and implement efficient, environmentally sensitive methods of producing food, fiber, and renewable resources. Graduates work in career fields associated with the growth, harvest, transportation, processing and storage of food, feedstuffs, biomass for energy production and forestry products. This includes, but is not limited to, jobs involving the design, construction and management of: bio-energy production facilities, greenhouses, food processing plants, soil management systems and erosion control structures, irrigation and drainage systems, wastewater and solid waste treatment/recycling operations, animal housing facilities, aquaculture enterprises, systems for improved air quality, and equipment for agricultural production, material handling, processing, and packaging. It is evident that the field of biological systems engineering is challenging, diverse, and practical. It demands an educational background in basic sciences, physics, engineering, biology, and chemistry.

A student may enroll in the "general program option" or may enter one of four specialty areas: Machinery Systems Engineering, Natural Resources and Environmental Engineering, Food and Bioprocess Engineering, and Structural Systems Engineering. The general program option enables students to design their own specialty area (e.g., forestry engineering, aquaculture engineering, renewable energy engineering) within the Biological Systems Engineering program, or to tailor their program for graduate level work in other professions (e.g., medicine, law, business).

Students are admitted to the department either as pre–Biological Systems Engineering students through the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences or as pre-engineering undergraduates through the College of Engineering.

To be admitted to the degree-granting designation of ABE (biological systems engineering), a student must have:

  1. A minimum of 24 degree credits
  2. A minimum of 17 credits of calculus, statistics, chemistry, computer science, statics and physics courses required for an engineering degree. These credits must include Math 222.
  3. A grade point average of at least 2.50 for all math courses 217 and above, statistics courses 224 and above, chemistry (all courses), computer science (302 and above), EMA 201, and physics courses 201 and above. For any course that a student repeats, only the most recent grade will be used in the calculation.  Any transfer course from another university that is included in the previous list must be included in the GPA calculation.
  4. A grade point average of at least 2.00 for all courses not included in requirement 3.
  5. Successful completion of introductory chemistry (Chem 103/104 or 109 or equivalent); EMA 201; math through Math 222; and InterEGR 101, 111 or 160 or another first year seminar course from the approved list. (The introduction course may be waived for transfer students).

In addition to the general college requirements, the Biological Systems Engineering degree program requires the following coursework:

Mathematics and Statistics, 19 credits
Chemistry, 5–9 credits
Biology, 6–8 credits
Physics, 8 credits
Additional foundation courses, 9 credits
BSE 249 or CBE 250
BSE 364
BSE 365
BSE 409
Specialization courses
Senior Capstone Experience (BSE 309 and BSE 509)

In addition to these requirements, each student must complete the Fundamentals of Engineering Examination prior to graduation but is not required to pass.

For additional detail on these requirements, refer to the BSE Curriculum Sheet on the CALS website.

Students completing requirements for this ABET-accredited program are awarded the Bachelor of Science–Biological Systems Engineering degree.

4. B.S.–Dietetics

Students concerned with the nutrition and health of individuals and communities should consider pursuing a degree in dietetics. Registered Dietitians (R.D.) provide nutrition expertise for health care facilities, public health agencies, wellness programs, schools and colleges, the food industry, and research labs and clinics. The Didactic Program in Dietetics demands knowledge based in chemistry, physiology, biochemistry, bacteriology, and psychology. These courses supplement professional courses in the dietetics program offered through the Nutritional Science and Food Science departments.

The Department of Nutritional Sciences website contains up-to-date information on admission criteria (including minimum GPA and required courses) and admission procedures for the Dietetics program.

In addition to the general requirements, the Dietetics degree program requires the following:

Mathematics and Statistics, 6–9 credits
Chemistry, 11–15 credits
Biology, 10 credits
Additional foundation courses, 19–20 credits
Food Sci 301
Food Sci 437
Food Sci 438
Food Sci/Nutr Sci 200
Nutr Sci 332
Nutr Sci 431
Biochem/Nutr Sci 510
Nutr Sci 631
Senior Capstone Experience (Nutr Sci 500 and Nutr Sci 520)

For additional detail on these requirements, refer to the Dietetics Curriculum Sheet on the CALS website.

Students wishing to pursue the R.D. credential must complete a post-baccalaureate supervised practice experience. These programs run for 6–12 months (longer for part-time and graduate programs) and include training in clinical and community nutrition, as well as management of food and nutrition services. Admission to supervised practice programs is competitive as spaces are limited. Selection is based on GPA, work experience and references.

The final step to becoming a Registered Dietitian is to successfully complete the Registration Examination, a national examination administered by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics to assure competence of practicing dietitians. 

The Didactic Program is currently granted accreditation status by the Commission on Accreditation for Dietetics Education (CADE), of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 120 South Riverside Plaza, Suite 2000, Chicago, IL 60606-6995; 312-899-4876.

Students completing the requirements for this program are awarded the Bachelor of Science–Dietetics degree with a major in nutritional sciences.

5. B.S.–Landscape Architecture

Students who enjoy art, science, technology, problem-solving, and design should consider a career in landscape architecture. Graduates in landscape architecture influence the design and management of cities, parks, and open spaces. They often advise park managers, citizen groups, landowners, and state agencies. Landscape architects design public and private outdoor spaces, restore and help preserve natural areas, develop and implement regional planning and public policy, and revitalize urban neighborhoods. The Professional Landscape Architecture degree program focuses on form-giving design, design implementation, and professional practice. Emphasis is placed on principles of design theory and process; problem solving in relationship to human needs and aspirations, and environmental awareness and stewardship; and on the development of technical proficiencies required of professional practice. Students learn site analysis, graphic communication, design synthesis, construction technology, and planting design.

The Professional Landscape Architecture degree program provides professional education accredited by the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA). Completion of this program is the first step in becoming a licensed landscape architect. The program emphasizes the exploration and understanding of design processes and graphic and verbal communication skills. The program also develops a student's sensitivity to natural, physical, historical, and cultural contexts of landscape design.

All students interested in enrolling in the professional degree program are enrolled as Pre–Landscape Architecture majors. Admission to the professional program is on a competitive basis. All students must first complete six prerequisite courses and must also achieve the necessary grade point average. Students interested in this program should consult the Department of Landscape Architecture about special admission requirements.

In addition to completing the general college requirements, students satisfy requirements of the Landscape Architecture curriculum. For details, see the Landscape Architecture Curriculum Sheet on the CALS website.

Students completing the requirements for this program are granted a Bachelor of Science–Landscape Architecture degree.

Certificate Programs

The College of Agricultural and Life Sciences offers the CALS International Certificate. The CALS International Certificate is designed for those students with an interest in the practice of CALS disciplines in an international context.

Students may also elect to complete one or more certificate programs in addition to their major. See the Certificate Programs Offered—Official List for a complete list.

Multiple Degrees or Majors

Under certain circumstances it may be possible for a student to earn more than one undergraduate major or degree. It is expected that the programs be significantly different from each other and that approval be received prior to the student having earned 86 credits. More information is available below and via Academic Affairs in 116 Agricultural Hall.

Second Bachelor of Science Degree Requirements

Those with a bachelor of science (B.S.) or bachelor of arts (B.A.) degree from the University of Wisconsin–Madison or other accredited institutions may, if eligible, pursue a second bachelor's degree from the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences.

Those who have been out of school for one semester or more must apply for admission (or readmission) with the regular undergraduate application. Continuing UW–Madison students do not need to submit this form. All candidates need a dean's permission from the Office of Academic Affairs to work toward a second bachelor's degree. A minimum of a 2.0 GPA is required. Several college majors require a higher GPA.

The following requirements for the second bachelor's degree must be met:

  • Students must complete a minimum of 30 credits in residence, of which 15 or more must be in the major field as specified by the major department. These credits are in addition to credits earned for the first degree.
  • Candidates must complete all university, college, major, and curricular degree program requirements. Credits earned for the first degree will apply toward appropriate requirements for the second. However, students must take at least 30 additional credits, as noted above. Students with their first B.S. degree from the college must select a new major or degree program.

All second-degree candidates must be accepted by the department offering their program of interest and have their program approved by the college before beginning the program.

Earning Two Undergraduate Degrees Simultaneously

A student who wishes to earn two undergraduate degrees simultaneously (in contrast to earning two undergraduate majors simultaneously) should consult with the Office of Academic Affairs as early as possible in the academic career, regarding feasibility.

If the two degrees to be earned are within the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, at least 30 additional credits and all course and grade point requirements must be completed. Thus, a minimum of 150 credits (for most majors) would be required. Some courses may satisfy requirements for both degrees. A student must have an advisor in both major fields. To work on two degrees simultaneously within the college, a student should seek permission as early as possible to ensure that it is feasible to complete both degrees.

If the two degrees to be earned are from two different colleges (one degree in Agricultural and Life Sciences and one degree in another school or college on this campus), the undergraduate dean in both colleges must approve the student's plan. Note that not all colleges will allow dual degrees. Where allowed, the following academic policies shall be followed (additional policies may exist):

  1. Admission into the other college or school shall be based on that particular college or school admission criteria.
  2. A student may seek two baccalaureate degrees simultaneously (in contrast to two majors), each from a different college, provided that the two degree programs differ sufficiently so that the combined total requirements for the two degrees are at least 150 credits and that the student's program is approved by both colleges before the student has earned 86 credits. The degrees from each college will be awarded simultaneously.

Special applications and additional information pertaining to the earning of two undergraduate degrees simultaneously are available from the Office of Academic Affairs, 116 Agricultural Hall.

Earning Two Undergraduate Majors Simultaneously

CALS permits undergraduates to pursue two CALS majors simultaneously.  The following policies and procedures have been established for this program:

a.  The student must have approval in advance from their CALS major advisor, the advisor of their desired second major, and the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs in the Office of Academic Affairs in CALS.  This approval must be granted before the student has earned 86 credits.

b.  The student must satisfy all requirements of both majors.  The student must meet all CALS general course requirements and the degree program requirements, as well as all major field requirements.

The diploma awarded will be based on the certification of completion of the degree. The transcript of grades will note the completion of requirements for two or more majors.

Earning a Letters and Science Major while Completing a Degree Program in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences

The College of Letters & Science (L&S) permits undergraduates currently enrolled in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences to complete an additional undergraduate major offered by L&S and have this fact noted on the transcript.

The following policies and procedures have been established for this program:

  1. The student must have advance approval from their CALS major advisor, their L&S major advisor, and the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs in the Office of Academic Affairs in CALS. This approval must be granted before the student has earned 86 credits.
  2. The L&S major is not to substitute for any major in CALS.
  3. The student must satisfy all requirements of the L&S major, both the requirements established by the department (i.e., certain courses) and those established by L&S (e.g., 15 credits of advanced work in the major in residence at UW–Madison). The student must meet all CALS general course requirements and the degree program requirements, as well as all major field requirements.
  4. Requests for substitutions or other modifications of the requirements of a given L&S major must be acted on by an L&S dean, in consultation with the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs in CALS, before enrollment in the course.

Farm and Industry Short Course

Farm and Industry Short Course (FISC) is a nondegree course of instruction at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, especially intended for students who expect to farm or who may be interested in positions in the agribusiness field. The 15-week session is offered once each year, starting in November and ending in March. There are two 6-week terms and one 3-week term in each session. Students may attend any one or any combination of the terms, although most students attend all 15 weeks.

Many of the instructors are CALS professors, and instructors teach the FISC students on campus in a wide variety of agricultural offerings. More than 50 courses are offered each year. Students typically take five courses per term.  Many students return for an additional 15-week session and earn advanced certificates. Even though this is a nondegree course, all students are graded and permanent records are filed. Students pay the same proportionate fees as do undergraduates and they have the same privileges on campus.

Students in the program need not choose a specialty area within the curriculum. Instead, students may simply choose those courses that they feel will benefit them the most for the kind of farming or kind of agribusiness position in which they are most interested. However, six specialties are available. To earn a specialty certificate, a student must complete a stated number of required courses with a total of 20-25 credits. The specialty areas are: (1) crop and soil management; (2) dairy farm management; (3) farm mechanics; (4) farm service and supply; (5) meat animals; and (6) pasture-based dairy and livestock. A list of courses is available at http://fisc.cals.wisc.edu/courses/ or  in 116 Agricultural Hall.

Students who have graduated from or attended the Short Course and who decide to continue their work toward a B.S. Degree in Agricultural and Life Sciences may transfer up to 15 credits to UW-Madison.  Students must have earned a grade of B or above in each course. Many students in Short Course find this transition to the degree course a natural one. Consult the Short Course director or the Office of Academic Affairs for detailed rules and procedures.

Graduates of the Short Course may find that there are agricultural job opportunities available to them both on the farm and in nonfarm jobs. CALS Career Services provides information about job opportunities to FISC students through BuckyNet, and a weekly email from the FISC Office offers many additional opportunities to current students. Students may also obtain summer internships if they plan to attend Short Course for two years.

Many scholarships are available to students of the Farm and Industry Short Course, with more than 100 individual scholarships given annually. Most of these scholarships range from $200 to $1500 per session. Information on all aspects of the Short Course program is available from the Director of Short Course, 116 Agricultural Hall, 608-263-3918.

Special Short Courses

The College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, largely through University of Wisconsin-Extension, sponsors and conducts many special short courses for specific training or retraining in various phases of agriculture and agribusiness. There are institutes, conferences, and workshops that vary in length from one day to two weeks. Many are held on campus; others are held at various locations around the state.

The CALS Conference Services Office, 620 Babcock Drive, 608-263-1672, has information about many of these special sessions.