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Discover a One-Year, Career-Focused Master’s Degree in Food Science

The Master of Food Science (MFS) degree program is a course-based, one year, master's level degree program offered by the Field of Food Science and Technology at Cornell. The MFS is a professional degree designed for people who are already in their career but desire to upgrade their skills and knowledge. The MFS is also suitable for students who possess a non-food science but related bachelor’s degree who want to pursue a career in food science and want to acquire the necessary knowledge base. 

Students who hold a non-science bachelor’s degree (e.g. history, English, business, etc.) and are interested in studying food science at the graduate level can prepare themselves for the MFS degree program by successfully completing approximately 15 credit hours of science-based coursework prior to applying.  Suggested courses include General Biology, Calculus, Chemistry, Organic Chemistry, Physics, and Microbiology (courses with lab preferred).

MFS Focus Areas

The Field of Food Science and Technology offers seven areas of focus for MFS degree candidates. Each focus area cultivates the skillset and develops the theoretical problem-solving capacity required for careers in these fields within food science. Capstone projects and career outcomes from recent graduates are included in the concentration information below.

Food Science

Offers a broader, more generalized approach to food science and technology education. Courses cover a large swath of topics within food science, including food chemistry, food engineering, nutrition, and food marketing. 

Food Chemistry / Product Development

Focuses on the analytical, biochemical, chemical, physical, nutritional, and toxicological aspects of foods and food ingredients. Students in this focus area learn about a wide range of topics. 

Food Microbiology / Food Safety 

Concerned with safety in a wide range of areas of the food industry, including storage, processing, and agriculture. Students gain experience in Cornell University's food processing and development laboratory and state-of-the-art dairy processing plant. 

Food Engineering

Covers topics such as thermodynamics, reaction kinetics, and transport phenomena applied to food processes. Students focus on engineering as it relates to the development of food products, processes, and equipment. 

Food Toxicology

Food toxicology focuses on adverse effects of compounds found in food, and on living organisms. Students focus on endocrine disruptors, natural bioactive compounds, effects of naturally occurring feed toxicants on animal metabolism, neurobehavioral teratology and toxicology, and protein modification and encapsulation platforms.

Dairy Processing

Focused on improving the quality and safety of milk and processed dairy products and developing improved methods for the manufacture of cheese and other dairy products. Prior training in dairy or food science and technology is desirable but not essential. 

Enology

Designed for students who want to enter the wine industry or allied fields, the Enology focus area emphasizes the scientific theory and practical knowledge necessary for understanding both day-to-day aspects of wine production and the greater global wine industry. 

Sensory Evaluation

Uses test methods that provide information on how products are perceived through the senses. The importance of the sensory perception of food quality is widely appreciated in the food industry, providing a demand for such specialists.

CALS MFS program details

Cornell’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) Master of Food Science (MFS) 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 MFS 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 MFS 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, MFS students complete a capstone project during their final semester. To understand this difference in greater detail, please visit the CALS MPS FAQ page.

The Master of Food Science 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 30 credits must be in graduate-level courses (5000-level and 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 graduate-level 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.

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.

Compare a CALS Professional Master's (MPS, MFS) to an M.S. degree

MPS, MFS and M.S. programs lead to graduate-level master’s degrees. Which is right for you? Here's how they compare: 

  MPS, MFS 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

Alumni Spotlights

Alumni

Sophia Elie

"Personally, I thought I knew my limits, but this experience, in addition to working, has smashed those limits to pieces."

Alumni

Vipul Saran

"The MPS program allowed me to explore all the resources Cornell has to offer, even beyond my field area." 

Alumni

Katrina Cariño

"All the experiences and the encounters I’ve had with people from different backgrounds and races really honed me as a person. I’ve become a better person because of them."

sophia elie student working on microscope
Vipul stands in front of a vehicle
Katrina works in a lab

Career Development and Outlook

The Master of Food Science (MFS) program contains a significant career development component focused on developing the necessary interpersonal and communication skills required to advance in any professional field. Offering a range of workshops including resume building, personal narrative development, and mock interviews, to effectively prepare students to transition into their careers after graduation.

The MFS is a versatile degree that can open doors onto a range of professional opportunities. Past graduates from the Food Science and Technology program have found employment in positions such as:

  • Food Scientist
  • R&D Specialist
  • Food and Flavor Technologist
  • Product Development Specialist
  • Enologist
  • Assistant Winemaker