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Language Requirements for a Bachelor’s Degree

Admissions Requirement

The mimum foreign language requirement for admission to UW-Madison is two sequential units of a foreign language (other than English) but most successful applicants have three or four (or more) units. A unit of language is defined as:

  • One semester of college OR
  • One year of high school OR
  • Two years of middle school

Graduation Requirement

The foreign language requirement for graduation from UW-Madison varies by School or College:

College of Agricultural & Life Sciences
School of Business
School of Education
College of Engineering
School of Human Ecology
College of Letters & Science
School of Nursing
School of Pharmacy

College of Agricultural & Life Sciences
For all B.S. degrees, no additional language study required beyond the minimum required for admission to UW-Madison.

Learn more: CALS Office of Academic Affairs

School of Business
The Wisconsin School of Business requires students to take three units of the same language before graduation. High school and college units can be combined to meet this requirement.  

Learn more: Wisconsin BBA Advising Center

School of Education
No language requirement for the degree, but language courses may be used to all or part of the Humanities requirement, depending on the student's program/major area.

Students wishing to earn certification to teach in a language must complete additional language coursework which varies depending on the student’s program/major.

Learn more: Education Academic Services

College of Engineering
For all B.S. degrees, no additional language required beyond the minimum required for admission to UW-Madison. Language courses can be used to fulfill the six credits of Humanities required of all Engineering students.

Retroactive credits cannot be used to satisfy liberal elective requirements, except in the following sense: The College requires depth in a particular subject. If a student takes an intermediate foreign language course and receives retroactive credits he or she will be judged to have achieved "depth" in liberal studies electives. 

Learn more: Engineering General Resources

School of Human Ecology

No foreign language requirement for the degree, but foreign language courses can satisfy the additional Humanities requirement for certain majors.

Learn more: Student Academic Affairs and Career Development Office

College of Letters & Science

In meeting the foreign language requirement in the College of Letters & Science, students may combine high school and college work as appropriate. Students who have learned a foreign language in a nonacademic setting may satisfy the foreign language requirement by successfully completing the appropriate language course at the university or by successfully completing an appropriate attainment examination.

Foreign language requirements for the B.S. and B.A. degrees differ.

For the B.S. degree, the foreign language requirement may be met by completion of the third level of a single foreign language. The following are examples that fulfill the language requirement for the B.S.:

  • three years of a single language in high school
  • three college semesters of a single language
  • a combination of high school and college study of a single language (for example, two years of high school plus the third semester in college).

For the B.A. degree, the foreign language requirement may be met in one of two ways: (1) completion of the fourth level in one language, or (2) completion of the third level in one language and completion of the second level in another language. The following are examples that fulfill the language requirement for the B.A.:

  • four years of a single language in high school
  • four semesters of a single language in college
  • a combination of high school and college study of the same language, up to the fourth level (for example, two years of high school plus third- and fourth- semester of college)
  • three years of one language in high school plus two semesters of a different language in college
  • a combination of high school and college study of the same language, up to the third level, plus two semesters of a different language in college

Learn more: L&S Foreign Language Requirement

School of Nursing

No foreign language requirement for the B.S. degree. However, knowledge of another language is considered beneficial when applying to the professional program. Foreign language courses may count toward the Humanities requirement.

For Learn more: School of Nursing StudentNet

School of Pharmacy

BS Pharmacology & Toxicology: No additional foreign language required beyond the minimum required for admission to UW-Madison. Foreign language courses may count toward the BS-Pharmacology & Toxicology humanities graduation requirement.

Learn more: Student & Academic Affairs Office