Discover a One-Year, Career-Focused Master’s Degree in Natural Resources and the Environment

The Master of Professional Studies (MPS) in Natural Resources and the Environment is a one-year, STEM-designated, course-based master's degree program. Students explore current issues and advancements in environmental management, conservation biology, sustainable systems, water resource management, forest ecology, and more. 

The MPS program is designed to enhance career potential in sustainability and environmental science within international government agencies, non-government organizations, and academic institutions. Ideal for those already employed in an environmentally-related profession or recent graduates seeking further coursework, and whose interests not primarily research-oriented. 

Concentrations

Focused on the latest advancements in social and ecological dimensions of natural resources, the MPS concentrations emphasize improvements that promote human health and well-being, and advance environmental sustainability.

Up close view of tree rings.

Environmental Management

This concentration explores how humans and society impact the environment and how to address, improve, and mitigate the impact.

 

Sample Core Courses: 

  • NTRES 6350 Planning for Environmental Conservation and Sustainability 
  • ALS 5900 MPS Project Development 
  • ALS 5910 MPS Project Completion 
  • BTRY 6010 Statistical Methods I 

 

Sample Concentration Courses:

  • NTRES 6601 Decision Making in Natural Resource Management 
  • NTRES 6240 Sustainable Water Resource Management in the Face of Climate Change 
  • GDEV 5400 Agriculture, Food, Sustainability and Social Justice 
  • PLSCS 5200 Geographic Information Systems (GIS): Concepts and Application 
  • CRP 5440 Resource Management and Environmental Law 

Water Resource Management

Water scarcity is rapidly becoming the most limiting resource globally—due to the complex interactions of an expanding human population, mismanagement, and undervaluing of water—and the predicament is only being exacerbated by climate change. Students will take a common set of courses introducing both the biophysical and social dimensions of water resource management, and then get in-depth exposure to field, laboratory and analytical skills needed to address water problems globally. 

 

Sample Core Courses: 

  • NTRES 6350 Planning for Environmental Conservation and Sustainability 
  • ALS 5900 MPS Project Development 
  • ALS 5910 MPS Project Completion 
  • BTRY 6010 Statistical Methods I 

 

Sample Concentration Courses:

  • NTRES 6240 Sustainable Water Resource Management in the Face of Climate Change 
  • PLSCS 5200 Geographic Information Systems (GIS): Concepts and Application 
  • BEE 5270 Water Measurement and Analysis Methods 
  • LAW 7793 Water Law 
  • BEE 6740 Ecohydrology 

Conservation Social Science and Decision Making

People and the environment are intricately intertwined, and the success or failure of environmental stewardship often depends on understanding and integrating people in environmental decision making. In this focus area, students take a variety of courses across a range of disciplines that will provide them with the skills needed to consider and engage people, agencies, policy makers, and institutions in environmental management. 

 

Sample Core Courses: 

  • NTRES 6350 Planning for Environmental Conservation and Sustainability 
  • ALS 5900 MPS Project Development 
  • ALS 5910 MPS Project Completion 
  • BTRY 6010 Statistical Methods I 

 

Sample Concentration Courses:

  • NTRES 6201 Community, Place, and Environment 
  • NTRES 6310 Environmental Governance 
  • CRP 5460 Introduction to Community and Environment Dispute Resolution 
  • COMM 6210 Advanced Communication and the Environment 
  • ILROB 5275 Leading and Managing Teams 
  • GDEV 6190 Quantitative Research Methods 

Sustainable Systems

Implicit to the concept of sustainability is the wise use of natural resources, without degrading the environment or undermining the ecological processes that contribute to long-term stability. The Sustainability Science focus area offers 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. 

 

Sample Core Courses: 

  • NTRES 6350 Planning for Environmental Conservation and Sustainability 
  • ALS 5900 MPS Project Development 
  • ALS 5910 MPS Project Completion 
  • BTRY 6010 Statistical Methods I 

 

Sample Concentration Courses:

  • NTRES 6240 Sustainable Water Resource Management in the Face of Climate Change 
  • GDEV 5400 Agriculture, Food, Sustainability and Social Justice 
  • EAS 5620 Marine Ecosystem Sustainability 
  • PLHRT 5025 Hydroponic Food Crop Production and Management 
  • NTRES 6250 Forest Management and Maple Syrup Production 
  • LA 6070 Emerging Dimensions in Urban Ecology and Sustainable Practices 

Forest Ecology and Management

Courses will examine mechanisms of sustainable use, resistance and adaptations to disturbance, and policy implementations to simultaneously reduce negative impacts, maintain productive ecosystems and contribute positively to local and global climate systems. Students will have access to professionals and facilities at the Arnot Teaching and Research Forest, Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest, thousands of acres of CALS forestlands throughout New York, extensive maple production forests, and Cornell Botanic Garden’s suite of 42 Natural Areas. 

 

Sample Core Courses: 

  • NTRES 6350 Planning for Environmental Conservation and Sustainability 
  • ALS 5900 MPS Project Development 
  • ALS 5910 MPS Project Completion 
  • BTRY 6010 Statistical Methods I 

 

Sample Concentration Courses:

  • PLSCS 5200 Geographic Information Systems (GIS): Concepts and Application 
  • NTRES 6400 Forest Ecology 
  • NTRES 6140 Seminar on Selected Topics in Applied Ecology and Conservation Biology 
  • NTRES 6120 Wildlife Population Analysis: Techniques and Models 
  • LA 5910 Creating the Urban Eden: Woody Plant Selection, Design, and Landscape Establishment 

Conservation Biology

Conservation biology is an applied discipline with the objective of preserving and protecting the Earth's species and their ecosystems while ensuring long-term biodiversity. 

 

Sample Core Courses: 

  • NTRES 6350 Planning for Environmental Conservation and Sustainability 
  • ALS 5900 MPS Project Development 
  • ALS 5910 MPS Project Completion 
  • BTRY 6010 Statistical Methods I 

 

Sample Concentration Courses:

  • PLSCS 5290 Remote Sensing and Modeling for Ecosystems 
  • NTRES 6240 Sustainable Water Resource Management in the Face of Climate Change 
  • PLSCS 5200 Geographic Information Systems (GIS): Concepts and Application 
  • NTRES 6280 Principles and Practices of Applied Wildlife Science 
  • NTRES 6120 Wildlife Population Analysis: Techniques and Models 

Quantitative Ecology

Sample Core Courses: 

  • NTRES 6350 Planning for Environmental Conservation and Sustainability 
  • ALS 5900 MPS Project Development 
  • ALS 5910 MPS Project Completion 
  • BTRY 6010 Statistical Methods I 

 

Sample Concentration Courses:

  • PLSCS 5290 Remote Sensing and Modeling for Ecosystems 
  • PLSCS 5200 Geographic Information Systems (GIS): Concepts and Application 
  • NTRES 6120 Wildlife Population Analysis: Techniques and Models 
  • NTRES 6160 Seminar on Selected Topics in Ecosystem Science and Biogeochemistry 
  • NTRES 6100 Collaborative and Reproducible Data Science in R 

Community-Based Conservation and Management

Sample Core Courses: 

  • NTRES 6350 Planning for Environmental Conservation and Sustainability 
  • ALS 5900 MPS Project Development 
  • ALS 5910 MPS Project Completion 
  • BTRY 6010 Statistical Methods I 

 

Sample Concentration Courses:

  • NTRES 6601 Decision Making in Natural Resource Management 
  • NTRES 6240 Sustainable Water Resource Management in the Face of Climate Change 
  • NTRES 6260 Applied Conservation Ecology 
  • CRP 5840 Green Cities 
  • VTPMD 6121 Food Systems and Health 

Wildlife Ecology and Management

Sample Core Courses: 

  • NTRES 6350 Planning for Environmental Conservation and Sustainability 
  • ALS 5900 MPS Project Development 
  • ALS 5910 MPS Project Completion 
  • BTRY 6010 Statistical Methods I  

 

Sample Concentration Courses:

  • NTRES 6260 Applied Conservation Ecology 
  • NTRES 6280 Principles and Practices of Applied Wildlife Science 
  • NTRES 6120 Wildlife Population Analysis: Techniques and Models 
  • NTRES 5110 Fish Ecology, Conservation, and Management 
  • BIOEE 7800 Graduate Seminar in Ornithology 

Fishery and Aquatic Science

Sample Core Courses: 

  • NTRES 6350 Planning for Environmental Conservation and Sustainability 
  • ALS 5900 MPS Project Development 
  • ALS 5910 MPS Project Completion 
  • BTRY 6010 Statistical Methods I 

 

Sample Concentration Courses:

  • EAS 5620 Marine Ecosystem Sustainability 
  • NTRES 6280 Principles and Practices of Applied Wildlife Science 
  • NTRES 5110 Fish Ecology, Conservation, and Management 
  • BEE 5270 Water Measurement and Analysis Methods 
  • EAS 6540 Ocean Satellite Remote Sensing Creating the Urban Eden: Woody Plant 

CALS MPS program details

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 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

CALS MPS admission requirements

The ideal candidate will demonstrate a passion for the importance of gathering and analyzing data to make strategic decisions, competency in university-level science coursework, and an interest in applying knowledge gained in a professional career.

  • Strong statement of purpose from the prospective student clearly expressing the rationale for pursuing a professional degree, including an outline of their desired professional trajectory, an articulation of their learning objectives, how they would achieve these objectives through the program, and how they would benefit by an MPS degree.
  • Three strong letters of recommendation reflecting both academic and professional potential
  • Curriculum vitae (CV) or résumé
  • Admitted applicants generally meet one of the two following criteria:
    • GPA ≥3.5 with evidence of strong foundational coursework and a demonstrated ability to succeed in Cornell courses
    • ≥ 3 years of continuous professional experience in a related professional field with evidence of strong potential to succeed in a natural-resources-oriented field
  • International student requirements:
    • Students must meet either TOEFL or IELTS requirements. TOEFL requirements: 22 Speaking, 20 Reading, 20 Writing, 15 Listening. IELTS:  Overall band score ≥ 7.0. Required TOEFL scores are assigned and reviewed by the Cornell Graduate School. Our field follows Cornell Graduate School requirements.

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, MFSM.S.
FormatCourse-basedResearch-based
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

Deadline to apply: March 15*

*For regular Fall Semester start. Late applications may be accepted under exceptional circumstances.  Contact for more information: NREgrad [at] cornell.edu

Alumni Spotlight

Vanvay Chitpaseuth MPS '22

After I graduated from the MPS program in NRE at Cornell,  WCS-Laos offered me a leadership position as the Program Director for Bolikhamxay Landscape, and the program in Bolikhamxay province is the biggest program under WCS-Laos' umbrella. 

For my experiences as an MPS student in Natural Resources and the Environment, I could say that studying at Cornell is the greatest experience in my life, even it was only a one-year study. I learned a lot in classes,  and the courses helped me learn new things and improve my skills, including thinking critically about possible techniques for supporting sustainable conservation and employing new techniques for biodiversity assessment by using many interesting technologies such as camera traps, sound recorders, GIS and mapping.

During my study at Cornell, the most interesting class for me was Applied Conservation Ecology. The class offered me a great opportunity to learn how to use many interesting devices and tools, especially the field practice involving finding salamanders—it was so great, even though it was so cold.

For my career goal, I will try to support and provide opportunities for capacity building for young conservationists in Laos as much as I can. I believe that these conservationists could have positive impacts on conservation work in the future and they are capable of tackling all challenges as they become a new generation dedicated to conservation in Laos. 

Alumni Spotlight

Ian Winick MPS '22

Ian completed his MPS in Natural Resources and the Environment in 2022. Inspired by the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, the focus of his capstone project was the conservation biology and restoration ecology of a rare perennial plant in the Finger Lakes region of New York. He began his MPS with the goal of securing a job in natural resources management, but found a passion for research and decided to continue into academia. Determined to maximize his professional development while at Cornell, he also volunteered as a botanist for the Finger Lakes National Forest in a grassland enhancement project, authored a white-paper section on mangrove restoration for IUCN Thailand, and presented his capstone project at the Midwest-Great Lakes Chapter of the Society for Ecological Restoration. After graduating, Ian received a research associateship in the Department of Natural Resources and the Environment at the University of Arizona, where he is now working on his PhD. Working in the field of plant ecology, he studies the effects of converging climate change and high-severity wildfire on plant communities in western conifer forests with the goal of informing thoughtful, research-driven land stewardship. 

Alumni Spotlight

Kate Riley MPS '21

Kate began a MPS in Natural Resources in the fall of 2021 to explore the intersection of agriculture and conservation. She was unsure of what opportunities might be on the other side of her time at Cornell, but was excited to have the freedom to explore courses from across the University. After graduating in May, the contacts she made while developing her capstone project helped her secure a position as the Land Conservation Specialist with the Finger Lakes Land Trust. As part of her job she assists in acquiring land for a growing network of nature preserves and watershed protection projects. As a New Yorker, she feels lucky to have the opportunity to give back by protecting the future of unique wild and working lands close to home.

Alumni Spotlight

Andrew Zepp, MPS '89

"In my case, the MPS project resulted in the creation of the organization that now employs me so that was clearly the most helpful in terms of my career goals."

Men near tree
Ian Winick
dog and woman by stream
Andrew Zepp stands in front of a tree and speaks to a crowd