Master of Professional Studies (MPS)

Advance your career and make an impact in a changing world

This program is ideal for career-focused students interested in the thorough study of issues and advancements in the fields of life, social, and environmental sciences and agriculture.

The MPS degree at Cornell CALS prepares students for the unique challenges of the 21st-century workplace through in-depth exploration of relevant knowledge and skill set refinement. Each MPS program is characterized by specialized course-based instruction led by our world-class faculty. This master’s degree broadens expertise and expands professional versatility to produce the next generation of innovative leaders.

Cornell’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) master of professional studies (MPS) program is an accredited, course-based, one-year master’s degree program that emphasizes professional development and intellectual investigation in the areas of agriculture, life sciences and global development.

Though similar to a master of science (M.S.) degree in its academic rigor, the MPS degree differs from a traditional M.S. degree in its structure and focus. An M.S. is research based, with students building a thesis over the course of two or three years. In contrast, the MPS degree is a one-year, course-based program where students study the intricacies and in-depth questions of their field of study. Instead of a thesis or research project, MPS students complete a capstone project during their final semester. To understand this difference in greater detail, please visit our FAQ page.

At CALS, our MPS program spans multiple fields of study within the realm of agriculture and life sciences, including animal science, food science, global development, horticulture, plant and soil science, biological and environmental engineering and more. Explore our list of subjects to discover the full breadth of our MPS program.

The master of professional studies yearlong program has two main components:

  • Coursework: Students work with a faculty advisor to map out their individualized course of study based on their areas of interest. The majority of courses (20 credits) will be within CALS; however, students have the opportunity to take courses across Cornell.
  • Capstone project: With the guidance of a faculty advisor, students work on solving a real-world problem.
  • Satisfactory completion of a minimum of 30 credit hours related to the candidate's professional interest, as agreed upon with the faculty advisor.
    (a)   Twenty credit hours must be taken within the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, and at least 24 credits must be in courses numbered 4000 or higher.
    (b)   A maximum of 6 of the required 30 credit hours may be earned through the student's problem-solving project (see third bullet).
    (c)   A maximum of 6 credit hours earned outside the program, at Cornell University or elsewhere, may be counted toward these requirements at the discretion of the student's faculty advisor. These credits must be appropriate to the subject of study and completed not more than five years before admission.
  • Completion of a minimum of two semesters. One semester must be earned by carrying a minimum of 12 credit hours. In certain circumstances, the second semester credit may be earned by accumulating the remaining credit hours in the School of Continuing Education and Summer Sessions at Cornell University or through transfer of credit (see item c above).
  • Satisfactory completion of a problem-solving project under the supervision of the faculty advisor. This project may be an action program, the development of a plan to address a pertinent problem, the development of materials or methodology suited to the student's situation, or the development and execution of research appropriate to the profession. A formal project report must be submitted to and approved by the candidate's faculty advisor. 
  • A minimum grade point average of 2.5 (minimum of 18 credit hours with letter grades at Cornell).
  • Completion of the degree within four years of admission. Some fields of study may have special requirements, so students should check with the field's director of graduate studies for specific details.

With the guidance of a faculty advisor, students work on solving a real-world problem, providing valuable insight and skills for their career next steps. A maximum of 6 credit hours are awarded for satisfactory completion of this project paper.

Compare an MPS to an M.S. degree

While both the MPS and M.S. degrees are graduate-level master’s degrees, there are specific differences.

Compare an MPS to an M.S. Degree
  MPS M.S.
Format Course-based Research-based
Final Project Capstone project Thesis
Length Typically one year Typically 2-3 years
Funding Self-funded, usually with federal and/or private loans Funded by the department with  stipends and teaching  assistantships
Ideal for Individuals who want to pursue careers in industry, government or nonprofit agencies; some continue in research Individuals who are interested in pursuing careers in research or academia

Specialization Highlights

MPS enology student Danielle Noce in the Teaching Winery in Stocking Hall

Food Chemistry & Product Development

This specialization focuses on the relationships between the structure and functional properties of food molecules to improve the nutritional, safety and sensorial aspects of food. Take courses covering the general principles that govern the behavior of food materials, and the chemical reactions and changes that take place during processing and storage, as well their effects on the quality and nutritional characteristics of these foods.

Controlled Environment Agriculture

This specialization focuses on the development of specific skills necessary to understand lighting, hydroponic production, pest control and horticultural aspects of production. Courses cover principles such as hydroponic food production and management, nutrient management, biology and management of plant diseases and renewable energy systems.

Environmental Management

This specialization focuses on the skills necessary to be both highly effective and marketable for environmental agencies, organizations and institutions, and environmentally concerned businesses. Courses cover principles such as planning for environmental conservation and sustainability, applied remote sensing and GIS for resource inventory and analysis, introduction to environmental planning, resource management and environment law and decision making in natural resources management.

International Agriculture & Rural Development

One of the grand challenges of the 21st century is how to secure enough food to feed growing world populations in ways that ensure access for all and are environmentally sustainable. Students interested in gaining practical knowledge and skills related to agriculture and food production systems, including agro-ecology, regenerative agriculture and agro-forestry, will find a rich array of relevant courses and opportunities for field-based learning.

Hemp Science

This specialization focuses on the development of specific skills to understand plant breeding and genetics; hydroponic and field crop production; processing; food, fiber and medicinal applications; and product development. Students will also have a broad-based understanding of the industry from seed to sales, exploring the legal and regulatory environment and challenges facing the cannabis industry today and in the future.

Geospatial Applications

Focuses on education in the geospatial application, including GIS, to develop data management and decision-making skills for a wide range of geographical data. Students will also become licensed and experienced in the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV). Courses cover principles such as applied remote sensing in geospatial resource inventory and analysis, remote sensing fundamentals, geographic information systems, spatial modeling and analysis, global navigation satellite systems and digital image processing.

Sustainable Systems

Sustainable systems focuses on the wise use of natural resources, without degrading the environment or undermining the ecological processes that contribute to long-term stability. Offering a multidisciplinary approach to concepts, applications and contemporary techniques involved in ensuring maintenance, stability and long-term health of some of the world’s most critical resources, this specialization covers a breadth of disciplines and a wide variety of possible topics including socio-ecology, management of local and global fisheries, sustainable forestry, water resource management, food security and sustainable marine ecology and policy.

Plant Biotechnology

Plant biotechnology focuses on a set of methods and tools to adapt plants and plant-based products, protecting plants from viruses and pests, improving yield and quality, harnessing plant metabolic diversity for health, and safeguarding the environment and food supply. Gene editing and metabolomics are some of these technologies and are becoming widely used in agribusiness research and development. 

Dairy Business Management

Dairy business management is designed for individuals interested in gaining exposure to dairy business management in order to enhance their career potential in agribusiness. This specialization focuses on the methods and tools necessary to manage a dairy farm as a successful business.

Read Catherine's story

The CALS MPS program granted me the opportunity to experience things outside of the typical master’s degree. I was able to actively partake in networking events and professional development workshops. These experiences truly gave me the confidence to tackle things such as finding the perfect job, negotiating salaries and reaching other career-oriented goals.

student vipul saran standing next to crates.
Read Vipul's story
student carson letot examining dirt.
Read Carson's story