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International Agriculture & Rural Development Major & Minor

Make an impact in rural communities across the globe

Go beyond the borders of campus to put our knowledge and research to work improving lives across the world. 

Our International Agriculture and Rural Development (IARD) major is designed for students who are interested in tackling the unique and interdisciplinary issues associated with food systems and rural development in emerging nations. You’ll have the opportunity to gain meaningful experience, hands-on by participating in projects and research all over the world. 

Today’s students are acquiring valuable insight and skills while working within rural communities to:

  • Address poverty and hunger through innovations in agriculture
  • Increase food security
  • Advance science and policy related to sustainable development
  • Contribute to the economic development of emerging economies by strengthening private strategies and informing public policies

Major in International Agriculture & Rural Development

Bachelor of Science (B.S.)

The program will not limit you to courses of study in a particular area, but rather stresses the importance of breadth of knowledge and cross-disciplinary study. The program emphasizes flexibility and combines specialized knowledge from individual disciplines with a unique ability to approach problems from divergent perspectives.

This multidisciplinary major leads to a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Agriculture. All our students are exposed to the fundamental issues of international development and are required to choose an area for more intense study from one of three concentrations.

As an International Agriculture and Rural Development major, you will be required to spend at least eight weeks in the field (outside of the United States), preferably during your junior year. Recent destinations have included: Mexico, India and Belize.


  • Economics and development
    Intermediate-level coursework in economics and development sociology serves as a foundation for upper-level study in the social sciences. Students considering future graduate study in economics, development sociology or development studies should consult their advisors concerning more advanced coursework in those and other fields, including mathematics.
  • Agricultural and food systems
    This science-intensive concentration is built around courses in the applied biological and physical sciences relevant to crop, food and animal production, farming systems, protection and improvement, post-harvest food handling and value addition and human nutrition.
  • Environment and ecosystems
    IARD students who elect this concentration examine in greater depth the science, policy and institutions relevant to environmental conservation and management in developing countries.

CALS seeks students who maintain a rigorous high school curriculum and demonstrate an outstanding record of academic achievement.

  • 4 Units of English

  • 4 Units of Mathematics thru  pre-calculus, statistics strongly encouraged

  • 3 Units of Science (biology, chemistry recommended)

  • Foreign language encouraged

  • Agriculture courses are strongly encouraged however, they are not a substitute for rigorous coursework in science, math or English

For a full list of requirements, visit the IARD Degree Requirements page. 

IARD 2020 Perspectives in International Agriculture and Rural Development

This freshman course enables students to gain an understanding of major issues in international agricultural development. It provides an overview of world poverty and hunger and of various approaches to address these and related problems. Students characterize the state of agriculture and rural livelihoods in selected emerging nations and analyze how innovations in agriculture in these countries can contribute to rural development.

IARD 4030 Traditional Agriculture in Developing Countries

Half of the world’s arable land is managed by traditional farmers who have produced food and fiber for millennia with little outside input. Many long-established practices have been lost or forgotten, but some are still used by farmers in developing countries. This course examines the pros and cons of some of these traditional systems through the lens of various Cornell faculty members with experience in the traditional agriculture of developing nations.

IARD 4020/6020 and IARD 4010/6010 Agriculture in Developing Nations and Experience Latin America

Students are introduced to both the major issues in international agriculture and rural development as well as how these problems are being addressed in various countries. The lectures/discussions establish the global and regional contexts for sustainable agricultural development and focus specifically on challenges in Asia and Latin America. A semester of lectures and discussions is followed by a 2 week trip to India (6020) or Mexico (6010), where students have the opportunity to observe the cultures, environments, ecologies, rural and urban communities, agriculture and development issues in these emerging nations.

•     Describe, critique and debate competing global development paradigms, and craft and defend a personal philosophy of development.

•     Demonstrate an ability to apply systems perspectives to analyses of current and future development problems, and to draw upon multiple disciplines for supporting evidence.

•     Exhibit basic skills appropriate to development practice, including group facilitation, team building, multi-stakeholder problem assessment and priority setting, and participatory learning and action.  

•     Demonstrate proficiency in applying at least one research or program evaluation approach (quantitative, qualitative, participatory learning and action, etc.) in a real-world situation.     

•     Propose, plan, secure and carry out an approved summer or semester-long internship or professional practice activity. As part of that experience, demonstrate skill in reflective writing and cross-cultural communication. 

•     Exhibit attitudes of tolerance, humility and respect in interactions with others, including those who hold different perspectives and world views, or who differ along lines of race, ethnicity, nationality, gender, sexual identity, socioeconomic class or political or religious affiliation.

•     Others specific to the concentration.

International Development Studies Minor 

The minor in International Development Studies offered by International Programs in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) can be pursued by undergraduates majoring in any CALS field other than IARD.

This minor is designed to enrich student preparation for leadership and future employment in an increasingly interconnected and dynamic world through design of a suitable complementary set of international development courses to match their own major. The minor combines relevant coursework and overseas experience to enhance employment opportunities overseas.

Learn more about the International Development Studies Minor requirements.

Transfer Requirements

Learn about the challenges and opportunities that exist in less-developed countries, with concentrations in economics and development, agricultural food systems, and environment and ecosystems. Overseas experiences and studies are incorporated into the major.

Academic Record

  • Strong academic record at the college level. In general, competitive applicants have at least a 3.0 (B) average.

  • CALS Required Coursework should be completed or in-progress with a “B” or better before applying.

  • The most competitive applicants are full-time students who have met the GPA and course requirements.

(Or transfers with two full-time college semesters of study (post-high school) completed or in progress at time of application.


Strongly encouraged (but not required):

  • One full academic year of Introductory Biology (labs recommended); preferably one course in Ecology

  • General (Inorganic) Chemistry I or Physics I (labs recommended)

  • Microeconomics

  • Foreign language (Competency in the language of the region in which your international experiences will be undertaken is strongly recommended)

(Or transfers with four full-time college semesters of study (post-high school) completed or in progress at time of application).


  • One full academic year of Introductory Biology (labs recommended)); preferably one course in Ecology

  • Two College Writing/English Composition courses or one writing/composition and Public Speaking

  • Statistics

  • General (Inorganic) Chemistry I or Physics I (labs recommended)

  • Microeconomics

Strongly encouraged (but not required):

  • Foreign language (Competency in the language of the region in which your International Experience will be undertaken is strongly recommended)

  • A quality international experience program working with rural people, food systems, development institutions and practitioners in low-income countries is strongly recommended

  • Courses in agriculture

  • Courses that meet the CALS social science and humanities requirements in Cultural Analysis, Historical Analysis, Knowledge, Cognition and Moral Reasoning, Literature and the Arts, Social and Behavioral Analysis and Foreign Language.

Careers in International Agriculture and Rural Development

Researcher holding plants

Business/Agriculture Business

  • Financial analyst
  • Consulting associate/analyst
  • Import business manager
  • Production technician
  • Order fulfillment manager


  • AgriCorps teacher
  • Peace Corps teacher
  • Chemistry & biology teacher
  • Agriculture economic & workforce development educator


  • Farm apprentice
  • Enologist
  • Vineyard assistant
  • Aquaponics & soil researcher


  • Nutrition educator
  • Grocery business development assistant
  • Hospitality manager
  • Peace Corps crop extension worker
  • Caseworker


Wheat expert calls for global unity to avert future hunger crises

A man and a woman standing in a field of wheat.

Explore your opportunities

A CALS education goes beyond the classroom and gives students frequent opportunities to apply what they learn in real-world settings.