The Master of Professional Studies (MPS) in Agriculture and Life Sciences focus area in Agronomy focuses on soil and nutrient management, crop physiology and ecology, cropping systems, and pest management with an emphasis on solving practical problems.
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.
Good agronomy necessitates systems thinking that combines foundational biophysical concepts with economics, risk management, and the challenges of scaling novel production technologies. With rapid advances in digital agriculture open new pathways for precision management coupled with the growing urgency of maintaining crop productivity while protecting natural resources, the demand for highly skilled agronomists has never been higher.
Focus Area details
Knowledge and skills gained in this focus area provide a foundation for a variety of career opportunities including:
- Cropping systems specialist
- Crop consultant
- Extension educator
- Natural resources conservation specialist
- Farm manager
- Forage specialist
- Cover crop specialist
- International cropping specialist
- Research technician
- Farm business manager
- Agronomic sales and management
- Technical specialist with government and non-governmental organizations
This focus area may also be particularly attractive to established professionals seeking to expand their skills in soil and crop sciences.
- Environmental sustainability
- Grass bioenergy
- Profitable management of forage crops
- Biological weed management
- Invasive species
- Weed ecology
- International agriculture
- Tropical cropping systems
- On-farm research
- Precision agriculture
- Site-specific weed management and variable rate nitrogen management
- Agricultural sustainability, food security, water resources and climate
- Cropping systems ecology
- International agriculture, policy, and applied social sciences
- Cover crops and ecological weed management
- Organic production
- Sustainable cropping systems and agroecology
- Drought and environmental stress physiology
- International agriculture
- Maize, wheat and cassava breeding and genomics
- Agricultural and forest ecosystems
- Geospatial modeling, land use and environmental quality
- Greenhouse gas emissions
To learn more about these courses, visit the Courses of Study website.
Coursework is specifically designed to meet the needs of each student. A minimum of 30 credit hours related to the candidate's professional interest is required to graduate. The student and their faculty advisor decide on a plan of study. Here are some of the classes that are available; there are several more from which to choose:
Integrative Plant Science Core:
- PLSCI 5500 Cultivating Community through Self-discovery and Skill Development
- ALS 5900 Master of Professional Studies Project Development
- ALS 5910 Master of Professional Studies Project Completion
- ALS 5211 Career Readiness: Engaged Learning for CALS Professional Master’s Students
Agronomy courses (recommended)
- PLPPM 5010 Biology and Management of Plant Diseases
- PLSCS 5200 Geographic Information Systems
- PLSCS 5210 Soil and Crop Management for Sustainability
- ENTOM 5440 Integrated Pest Management
- PLSCS 5660 Soil Ecology
- PLHRT 6551 Principles of Nutrition and Nutrient Management in Crops and Landscape Plants
- BIOEE 6680 Principles of Biogeochemistry
- PLSCS 5110 Field Crop Systems
- PLSCS 5140 Global Cropping Systems
- PLSCS 5290 Remote Sensing and Modeling for Ecosystems
- PLSCS 6420 Mineral Nutrition: From Plants to Humans
- PLSCS 6630 Pedology
- PLSCS 6660 Applied Plant Microbe Interactions
- PLSCS 6710 Soil Chemistry
- PLSCS 6720 Nutrient Cycling in Natural and Managed Ecosystems
The ideal candidate will demonstrate a passion for working in Agronomy, competency in undergraduate science coursework, and interest in applying knowledge gained in a professional career. Admission requirements include:
- Online application through Cornell Graduate School
- Bachelor’s degree in scientific field
- For non-science background, at least 15 credit hours of introductory college-level science courses, including general chemistry, general biology, and corresponding labs
- Current résumé or CV
- Two letters of recommendation
- TOEFL/IELTS for international applicants, per Graduate School guidelines
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.
School of Integrative Plant Science
Soil and Crop Sciences Section
Department of Global Development
- ajm9 [at] cornell.edu