All University of Wisconsin–Madison graduate students must meet the minimum degree requirements of the Graduate School. Additional details, including academic policies, can be found in the Graduate Guide.

Each academic department within the Wisconsin School of Business has a separate set of course and degree requirements that exceed the Graduate School minimums. For more information, see the specific area of study.

Some general PhD requirements vary for students enrolled in the joint degree in finance and economics. Details will be provided by the student's advisor.

Credit Loads


PhD students are required to earn a minimum of 32 credits of coursework in the degree program at the University of Wisconsin–Madison prior to sitting for their preliminary examination and moving to dissertator status.

  • PhD non-dissertators carry a minimum of eight credits per semester.
  • A full-time program is eight to 12 graduate-level credits for a regular semester.
  • Coursework completed at another university may be counted toward the completion of major program course requirements, but may not be used to fulfill the required 32 credits taken at UW–Madison.
  • Students with teaching and project assistantships, fellowships, and scholarships carry a full course load of eight approved graduate credits for the semesters in which they hold the appointment or scholarship.


Students who have achieved dissertator status—after completing all major and minor coursework and passing the preliminary exam—register for three credits of dissertation research each semester. They are still considered full-time students.

Majors and Minors

Each student will have a unique degree plan with a major that is developed with an advisor.

All students must complete a minor program consisting of at least 10 credits. Coursework can be drawn from one department outside the Wisconsin School of Business (departmental minor) or from multiple departments—other than the major department—inside and outside the Wisconsin School of Business (distributed minor). Courses taken as part of the requirements for the major area of study may count toward fulfillment of the minor program.

Satisfactory Progress and GPA Requirements

Departmental requirements and standards for satisfactory progress vary. The Wisconsin School of Business expects students to maintain a grade point average (GPA) of 3.2, with some departments having a higher requirement.

The UW–Madison Graduate School may impose probationary status on a student who falls below the 3.0 GPA level.

Preliminary Exam Requirements

A student is able to sit for the preliminary exam when the following conditions are met:

  • 32 credits of coursework have been completed
  • No incomplete courses are on the record
  • An approved Minor Form is on file and all minor coursework has been completed
  • The grade point average is appropriate for minor and major coursework
  • All required major coursework has or will be completed prior to the exam date

Each department conducts preliminary exams in its own unique way. Information on specific requirements and expectations is available from the student's advisor.

Teaching Requirements

Students usually teach one course in which they are the professor in charge. Teaching appointments are an integral part of the training for academic positions.

Dissertator and Dissertation Defense Requirements

Successful completion of the preliminary examination in the format required by the major department entitles the student to be admitted to dissertator status.

  • A dissertator registers for three credits of dissertation research each semester, works on the completion of the dissertation, and collaborates with departmental faculty on papers and presentations.
  • Dissertators must defend and deposit the dissertation no more than five years from the date of the preliminary examination.

Degree Completion and Graduation

The PhD degree is granted upon completion of a set of requirements of the UW–Madison Graduate School.