Master of Professional Studies (MPS) in Integrative Plant Science

Learn about plant- and soil-based solutions for a changing world

Offered through the graduate field of Integrative Plant Science, the Master of Professional Studies in Agriculture and Life Sciences degree program is a specialized, one-year, course-based master's degree program. Areas of study cover a wide range of issues and advancements in plant and soil sciences, including: controlled environment agriculture, geospatial applications, soil health, cannabis science and industry, public garden leadership, and more. Students also have the opportunity to create an interdisciplinary approach that combines distinct areas of study.

A hallmark of the MPS program is the balanced portfolio of technical knowledge, analytical skills and professional development built into the curriculum. The mix of coursework and capstone project equips students with the skill set and knowledge necessary for careers in industry, government, or non-profit agencies.

Focus Areas:

Learn about the latest issues and technological advancements in plant and soil sciences with customized curriculum offered in a wide range of areas. 

Student workiing with forceps and petri dish under hood

Plant Biotechnology features coursework and hands-on laboratory work focused on scientific techniques to develop and improve plants for the benefit of society. It is designed to equip students for careers across corporate, governmental and non-governmental organization (NGOs) sectors.

man stnading in a greenhouse lit with LED lighting

CEA is an advanced and intensive form agriculture where plants are grown in a controlled environment with optimized horticultural practices. This focus area emphasizes skills related to lighting, hydroponic production, pest control, and horticultural aspects of production.

man in field with drone

Geospatial Applications is the use of modern tools to geographically map and analyze the Earth and human societies. This focus area provides education in 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).

Examining flats of small industrial hemp plants

Hemp Science is 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.

Graduate student working with diseased plants in growth chamber

Plant Protection encompasses strategies and tactics for managing insect pests, weeds, and plant pathogens. Students take courses with Integrated Pest Management experts and master the application of applied concepts from allied fields such as economics, ecology, and toxicology. 

student interns examine rhododendron

Public Garden Leadership is the management of public gardens and requires a mix of academic training and practical experience. This focus area emphasizes leadership, strategic decision making, and business management. Because of the importance of hands-on learning, students regularly interact with Cornell Botanic Gardens staff and participate in study tours to public gardens in North America to learn from and network with field professionals.

women in soil pit examining soil profile

Soil science brings together the basic disciplines of biology, physics and chemistry to discover fundamental principles and put them in the service of management solutions. Soil is a foundational resource that sustains all terrestrial life and contributes to food production, climate change and water resources. Soil sustainability is essential to human civilization and soil management decisions cause major changes to our biosphere.

men in grain field with grain bins in background

Agronomy is the interdisciplinary science and applied practice of sustainable field crop production. By nature, agronomy recognizes that productivity, farm profitability, and the essential ecosystem services derived from agriculture require the integrated management of soils, crops, and other part of the farm enterprise – often including animals.

man driving tractor cultivating row crop

Crop Science is the study of crop systems for growing food, feed and fiber crops. Field crops represent the largest sector of plant-based agriculture, therefore, crop scientists can choose from a wide range of professional opportunities that involve identifying traits and environmental factors that need optimization, using latest technology for monitoring and interpreting crop development and performance, and managing crops in a productive and environmentally responsible way.

woman in vineyard

Viticulture emphasizes knowledge development and hands-on experience in the science, production and study of grapes. 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.

four hands picking greens

Not finding what you’re looking for? Plant Systems is our most flexible focus area. It allows you to tailor a Cornell experience that works for you. Focus on anything from management of horticultural crops to human-plant interactions to environmental management to computational biology to garden-based learning and agricultural education.

A river from above.

Harness diverse scientific disciplines -- including global cropping systems, sustainable development, biogeochemistry, soil nutrient and carbon cycling, science policy, remote sensing and ecosystem modeling -- to help solve one the greatest challenges of our times.

technician inspecting grain crop in growth chamber

Change the world by making better plants -- higher-yielding, healthier, better tasting, and more resistant to pests -- using applied breeding tools such as genetic mapping, quantitative genetics, molecular genomics , tissue culture, and other analytical systems

Marvin Pritts with berries

Our world-class faculty will help guide you through your MPS experience. They are recognized leaders in their fields and are ready to be your mentor as you develop new skills and competencies needed to thrive in the workplace.

Justine Vanden Heuvel holding drone in vineyard

Explore careers each focus area can prepare you for and the interests of the Integrative Plant Science MPS faculty who can mentor you and help you achieve your career goals.

Careers in Integrative Plant Science

Graduates pursue a variety of careers, including specialty crop grower, organic farmer, garden educator, and pest management specialist. See below for more careers based on our focus areas:

Two people pick spinach

Plant Biotechnology

  • Bioinformatics scientist
  • Biotechnology technician
  • Plant tissue culture specialist
  • Plant propagator
  • Plant breeder
  • More

Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA)

  • CEA/greenhouse grower
  • CEA/greenhouse research support specialist
  • CEA/greenhouse pest management specialist
  • CEA/greenhouse facilities manager
  • CEA/greenhouse lighting systems specialist
  • CEA/greenhouse operations manager
  • CEA/greenhouse hemp grower
  • CEA/greenhouse hydroponics specialist
  • More

Geospatial Applications

  • Geospatial analytics scientist
  • Precision agriculture specialist
  • Digital agriculture specialist
  • Environmental management
  • Land use management
  • Wildlife conservation
  • Regional planning
  • Climate change monitoring and analysis
  • Surveying and digital cartography
  • Image processing and analysis
  • More

Hemp Science

  • Hemp production manager
  • Hemp breeder
  • Hemp production consultant
  • Commercial hemp grower
  • Hemp product developer
  • Hemp research support specialist
  • Hemp pest management specialist
  • CEA/greenhouse hemp growerAgricultural Consultant
  • Cultivation Manager
  • Cannabis Laboratory Analyst
  • More

Plant Protection

  • Field crops such as corn, soybean, and alfalfa
  • Fruits and vegetables including both organic and conventional methods
  • Public spaces such as parks and playgrounds
  • Private spaces including lawns and gardens
  • Interior spaces such as homes and offices
  • Interior plant production in greenhouses
  • Plant product inspection at border crossings
  • Government or corporate research and development facilities
  • More

Public Garden Leadership

  • Botanical garden educator
  • Outreach coordinator
  • Volunteer manager
  • Fundraising specialist
  • Plant record manager
  • Marketing and communications specialist
  • Horticulturist
  • Greenhouse grower
  • Conservation manager
  • More

Soil Science

  • Soil scientist
  • Soil conservationist
  • Soil health specialist
  • Soil microbiologist
  • Biochar specialist
  • Urban soil specialist
  • Tropical soil specialist
  • Local, state, federal and international agencies with programs in agriculture and the environment
  • Agronomic services companies
  • More


  • Cropping systems specialist
  • Crop consultant
  • Extension educator
  • Agronomist
  • Natural resources conservation specialist
  • Farm manager
  • Forage specialist
  • Cover crop specialist
  • International cropping specialist
  • Research technician
  • More

Crop Science

  • Crop advisor
  • Crop consultant
  • Extension educator
  • Cropping systems specialist
  • Crop production manager
  • International cropping specialist
  • Fertilizer, water & pest management specialists
  • More


  • Vineyard production advisor
  • Vineyard manager
  • Grape production consultant
  • Extension educator
  • Winemaker
  • Viticulturist
  • Enologist
  • More

Plant Systems

  • Garden educator
  • Urban forester
  • Arborist
  • Landscape designer
  • Landscape technician
  • Plant ecologist
  • Extension educator
  • Specialty crop entrepreneur
  • Ecosystem analyst
  • Food system specialist
  • Orchard manager
  • Paleobotanist
  • Flower bulb specialist
  • Agricultural educator
  • Berry grower
  • Vegetable grower
  • Specialty crop grower/organic farmer
  • Golf and sports turf specialist
  • Urban grassland specialist
  • Computational biologist
  • More

Climate Change and Agriculture

  • Climate/environmental scientist 
  • Biofuels specialist 
  • Climate smart farming specialist 
  • Sustainability consultant 
  • Conservation scientist 
  • More

Plant Breeding

  • Variety trials manager 
  • Plant breeding research associate 
  • Germplasm collection manager 
  • Bioinformatics associate 
  • Breeding software developer 
  • Plant genetics technician 
  • More

Faculty Spotlight

Learn more about our world-class faculty.

Faculty spotlight

Larry Smart, hemp breeder

Dr. Larry Smart is a Professor in the Horticulture Section of the School of Integrative Plant Science at Cornell University and is Associate Director of Cornell AgriTech in Geneva, NY. Larry is a plant geneticist and breeder whose lab uses genomic tools in breeding shrub willow bioenergy crops and to better understand hybrid vigor and pest and disease resistance. More recently, he has been leading Cornell’s hemp research and extension team and has initiated a long-term breeding program to develop new hemp cultivars for New York State. 

Faculty spotlight

Neil Mattson, CEA expert

One of the nation’s leaders in CEA, Neil's research focuses on how environmental factors and cultural practices affect physiology, development, and biochemical characteristics of greenhouse crops, lighting systems, and energy efficiency. He is particularly interested in how water quality, nutrient availability, temperature, light, and abiotic stress conditions affect crop physiology. This fits well with Neil’s goal of providing producers with relevant, research-based information for the production of high quality CEA crops.

Faculty spotlight

Justine Vanden Heuvel, aka @thegrapeprof

One of the nation’s leaders in viticulture, Justine's research focuses on optimizing wine grape production using computational tools, determining how ecophysiological factors affect grape flavors and aromas, and enhancing economic and environmental sustainability of winegrape production. Her holistic approach to viticulture provides students with a hands-on, immersive experience.

Faculty spotlight

Ying Sun, geospatial applications expert

Ying's research focuses on understanding fundamental processes governing interactions between agroecosystems and climate at various scales. She is working with a team of researchers using NASA’s Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2) to more accurately measure photosynthesis – with implications for creating more reliable estimation of crop productivity and global carbon uptake in the face of increasing climate change. “Our population and food demand growing. But we only have limited land and water resources. My goal is to provide sustainable solutions to increase food productivity while reducing negative impacts on the environment. Using this novel data set and state-of-the-art modeling tools, I feel confident about being able to help solve these systemic agricultural problems.”

Faculty spotlight

Don Rakow, wrote the book on public gardens

A global authority in public garden leadership, Don literally wrote the books on the subject, including Public Garden Management. A Complete Guide to the Planning and Administration of Botanical Gardens and Arboreta and Public Gardens and Livable Cities Partnerships Connecting People, Plants, and Place. He also directs the Nature Rx@Cornell program and the nationwide Campus Nature Rx Network, and is the author of Nature Rx: Improving College-Student Mental Health.

Faculty spotlight

Antonio DiTommaso, weed scientist

Toni's research focuses on gaining a more in-depth understanding of the basic biological/ecological principles governing agricultural and environmental weed population dynamics that ultimately lead to the development and implementation of safe, effective, sustainable and economically viable weed management strategies.  He is also Section Chair and Director of Graduate Studies in Soil and Crop Sciences.

Faculty spotlight

Mark Bridgen, plant breeder

Bridgen is an ornamental plant breeder, leader in the floriculture industry and director of the Long Island Horticultural Research and Extension Center. His approach involves a balance of basic and applied research. He has expertise in new plant development and breeding, plant cell and tissue culture, and in vitro plant breeding, including somaclonal and gametoclonal variation, embryo culture, somatic embryogenesis, mutation breeding, meristem culture for the production of pathogen free plants, and micropropagation. 

Faculty spotlight

Carlyn Buckler, hemp science lead

Dr. Carlyn Buckler is an Associate Professor of Practice in the Horticulture Section of the School of Integrative Plant Science, and is the faculty lead for the Hemp Science Focus Area. She teaches courses on digital technologies in agriculture and skills for public engagement, as well as the overview course for the focus area, Cannabis: Biology, Society and Industry (PLSCI 4190). Carlyn chairs the college’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee and serves on the SIPS Diversity and Inclusion Council. She is a member of the Cornell Institute for Digital Agriculture (CIDA) and is also the Advisor and Faculty Mentor for the Cornell SMART group (Student Marijuana Alliance for Research and Transparency).

larry smart with hemp seedlings in greenhouse
neil mattson in greenhouse with specialized lighting and hyrdoponic system
Justine Vanden Heuvel holding drone in vinyard
portrait of ying sun
don rakow with rhododendrons in the background
Antonio DiTommaso in front of bradfield hall
mark bridgen with flowering plant in greenhouse
Carlyn Buckler

Alumni Spotlight

Learn more about the exciting directions our graduates take.

Meet recent alumni

Bailee Hopkins | MPS '19 | Public Garden Leadership

Bailee took her love of gardening to Oak Spring Garden Foundation in Upperville, VA as a Horticulturist in the Biocultural Conservation Farm onsite.

Meet recent alumni

Ryan Ronzoni | MPS '20 | Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA)

“I enjoyed the ability to craft a program based on my interests and needs.”

Meet recent alumni

Charles Gagne | MPS '19 | Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA)

“I think controlled environmental agriculture is amazing because it has the ability to create small oases in otherwise inhospitable areas. My goal is to use my MPS degree to make farming more sustainable and to shift our perception of how food can be grown to feed our changing world."

Meet recent alumni

Taylor Mattus | MPS '16 | Viticulture

"The CALS MPS program allowed me to customize a program to meet my unique goals."

Meet recent Alumni

Carson Letot | MPS '17 | Horticulture

"I am passionate about education first and foremost because I believe it leads to a society that is more informed and more responsible to the environment and fellow humans."

Meet recent alumni

John Wellhofer | MPS '20 | Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA)

“I have been able to tune my project and schedule to courses that will help me in my career goals, and I value that flexibility."

Meet recent alumni

Barbara Conolly | MPS | Public Garden Leadership

Barbara was over 50 when she got her BS and then MPS.  Then she went on to start her own sustainable landscape design business.

Meet recent alumni

Stephanie Freeman | MPS | Horticulture

The Cornell MPS program helped Stephanie laser focus on her next endeavor: to pursue another master's and doctorate to empower disadvantaged communities in rural and urban areas.

Meet recent alumni

Erin Marteal | MPS | Public Garden Leadership

Erin's MPS degree led to her hire as executive director of Ithaca Children’s Garden.

Bailee Hopkins
Ryan Ronzoni
Charles Gagne
Taylor Mattus
Carson Letot
John Wellhofer
Barbara Conolly
 Stephanie Freeman
Erin Marteal by turtle island sculpture at Ithaca Childrens Garden

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. 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 semester 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: 

Final ProjectCapstone projectThesis
LengthTypically one 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: February 15*

*For regular Fall Semester start. Late applications may be accepted under exceptional circumstances.  Contact Tara Reed for more information: tln2 [at] cornell.educlass="spamspan".

Questions about Plant Science MPS? Contact us:

Dan Buckley
Director of Graduate Studies, Integrative Plant Science
Phone: (607) 255-1716
Email: dhb28 [at]

Tara Reed
Plant Science MPS Program Coordinator
Phone: (607) 255-2131
Email: tln2 [at]

Marvin Pritts
Plant Science MPS Student Experience Coordinator
Phone: (607) 255-1778
Email: mpp3 [at]

In the news

Hike with Cornell naturalists at Connecticut Hill State Forest

Twenty-five undergraduate and graduate students made the most of a fine spring day April 30 by participating in a three-mile nature hike led by Cornell naturalists. Despite the cold weather and high elevation which made for a late spring, students were treated to flowers of red and white trillium, hepatica, blue cohosh, bloodroot, trout lily, American honeysuckle as well as a millipede and garter snake. More than 150 students registered for the 25 available seats on the bus. One of the lucky ones said, ““It was so great to get outside and explore around Ithaca!”

In the news

9 universities creating the agricultural workforce of tomorrow

Agritecture highlights top university degrees and programs teaching urban agriculture or CEA-related skills. "With a focus area in CEA, Cornell’s specialized, one-year, course-based Master of Professional Studies (MPS) in Integrative Plant Science trains greenhouse growers, research specialists, pest management professionals, facilities managers, lighting systems specialists, hydroponics specialists, and more. This education can be supported with other focus areas across the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, like Plant Breeding, Soil Science, Plant Biology, Environmental Science and Climate Change, Food Systems and Garden-Based Education."

nature hike group
student moving tray of hydroponic basil