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Graduate Field of Horticulture

Shaping the food systems and landscapes of today and tomorrow

Our interdisciplinary graduate education programs empower you with communication, leadership and innovative problem-solving skills.

The Field of Horticulture includes the study of fruits, vegetables and landscape plants for the purpose of sustaining the environment, enhancing economic vitality and improving the quality of life of individuals and their communities.

Graduate Field of Horticulture

Although emphasis is on horticultural plants and systems commonly found in areas of temperate climate, graduate study on species and cropping systems of tropical areas is also possible by using our extensive greenhouse and growth chamber facilities and through thesis research in tropical areas.

Students choose one of four concentrations:

  1. Physiology and Ecology of Horticultural Crops
  2. Human-Plant Interactions
  3. Breeding of Horticultural Crops
  4. Horticultural Crop Management Systems

In addition to their major field of study, students will select minor field(s) of study from such areas as plant physiology, pathology, anatomy, ecology, biochemistry, botany, entomology, taxonomy, genetics, education, soils, economics, communication, biological and environmental engineering and landscape architecture. All students are encouraged to gain experience in academic instruction or Cooperative Extension programming.

Students pursue advanced study leading to three different degrees.

  • Master of Science (M.S.)
  • Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
  • Master of Professional Studies (MPS) in Agriculture and Life Sciences - including Public Garden Leadership Fellows and Masters International Program (formerly the Peace Corps option)

Graduate students entering the Field of Horticulture for a Masters or Doctorate degree are expected to have completed the equivalent of an undergraduate degree in biology, horticulture, or agriculture. If they do not have such a background, they are expected to make up any deficiencies with appropriate undergraduate courses, as determined by the student's special committee. Students who are seeking a Masters of Professional Studies (MPS) may be admitted from many undergraduate disciplines. In general, to meet the minimum requirements for admission applicants should:

  • Be within the top 1/3 of their graduating class, or have a grade point average of "B" or the equivalent for the last two years.
  • Secure three (3) letters of recommendation from persons who can appraise the academic potential of the applicant.
  • Have a score of writing: 20, listening: 15, reading: 20, speaking: 22 in the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language), if native language is not English or college or secondary school instruction was not in English. (Institution code: 2098.  Department code: 30.)
  • Submit official GRE scores. (Institution code: 2098.  Department code: 0109.)

Detailed requirements are listed in the Announcement of the Graduate School. See the Application FAQ and the Cornell University Graduate School website for more information and application procedures.

Master of Science (M.S.)


Students for the Master of Science degree majoring in horticulture are expected to demonstrate competence in the three core areas of Horticultural Biology, Horticultural Production and Management and Horticultural Methods. 

  • Students select a special committee composed of one professor representing the major field and at least one professor representing a minor field.
  • The student's special committee determines coursework and credits for the M.S. degree.
  • Committee members advise students in the selection and conduct of research problems for the thesis.
  • Candidates must submit an acceptable hypothesis-driven thesis based on a research project and pass a final oral exam.
  • Teaching experience is required and can be satisfied by assisting a faculty member in teaching a course.
  • Fulfill a minimum of two registration units (two semesters). Candidates are expected to complete degree requirements in two years, but have up to four years to complete requirements.


Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) or M.S./Ph.D.


For a full list of requirements, please visit the Doctor of Philosophy or M.S./Ph.D. page.

Master of Professional Studies (MPS) in Agriculture and Life Sciences

The Master of Professional Studies (MPS) in Agriculture and Life Sciences is a one-year, course-based, master's degree program. The flexible, interdisciplinary program offers customized coursework and experiential projects to advance technical knowledge and career potential. The program is designed for students who wish to acquire greater subject matter expertise in an aspect of horticulture or who are changing their field to horticulture, or people who are entering or already established in a horticulture-related professional career but desire to upgrade their skills and knowledge.

To learn more, please visit the Master of Professional Studies page in our Horticulture Section.

  • 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 3rd 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 2 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.

Possible MPS Specializations

Close up photo of a plant.

Controlled Environment Agriculture

One of the fastest growing areas of agriculture, is an advanced and intensive form of hydroponically-based agriculture. Plants are grown within a controlled environment so that horticultural practices can be optimized. This specialization emphasizes specific skills to understand lighting, hydroponic production, pest control and horticultural aspects of production will be part of the program.

Hemp Science

Focused 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.

Public Garden Leadership

Focused on the management of public gardens and requires a mix of academic training and practical experience. This specialization emphasizes leadership, strategic decision making and business management, preparing students for managerial and leadership roles in the public garden field.


Viticulture is the science, production and study of grapes. This specialization emphasizes knowledge development and hands-on experience. With Cornell’s ideal location in the Finger Lakes region—home to nearly 10,000 acres of vineyards—students will be exposed to every aspect of grape growing and wine making.