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Master of Professional Studies (MPS)

Advance your career and make an impact in a changing world

Ideal for career-focused students, the Cornell CALS MPS degree program expands professional versatility and prepares students for today's workplace through in-depth exploration of relevant knowledge and skill set refinement.

Characterized by specialized, course-based instruction led by Cornell's world-class faculty, the MPS degree program broadens expertise in the fields of agriculture, life, social, and environmental sciences.


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.

MPS students are part of a community of diverse students and faculty who share common goals, connecting research and practice to solve complex problems. 

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, and complete a minimum of 30 credit hours related to their concentration of study. While 20 credit hours must be taken within CALS, there is flexibility to take courses across Cornell.
  • Capstone project: 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. 

Students work with top-ranked faculty who are leaders in their field on an experiential project that fosters professional skill development through the creation of solutions to real-world problems.

Browse recent projects here

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
Final ProjectCapstone projectThesis
Length1 yearTypically 2-3 years
FundingSelf-funded, usually with federal and/or private loansFunded by the department with  stipends and teaching  assistantships
Ideal forIndividuals who want to pursue careers in industry, government or nonprofit agencies; some continue in researchIndividuals who are interested in pursuing careers in research or academia

Focus Area Highlights

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

Food Chemistry & Product Development

Food Chemistry & Product Development 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

Controlled Environment Agriculture 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

Environmental Management 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

Hemp Science 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,Sustainable Systems 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

This focus area is designed for individuals interested in gaining exposure to dairy business management in order to enhance their career potential in agribusiness. Dairy Business Mmanagement 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.