Program overview

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:

  • Extension professional
  • Technical specialist with government and non-governmental organizations
  • Crop consultant
  • Natural resources conservation specialist
  • Farm manager
  • Research technician

This focus area may also be particularly attractive to established professionals seeking to expand their skills in soil and crop sciences. 

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:

Required:

  • PLSCI 5500 Let Your Life Speak: Selfhood, Community, Change
  • ALS 5900 Master of Professional Studies Project Development
  • ALS 5910 Master of Professional Studies Project Completion

Recommended:

  • ALS 5211 Career Readiness: Engaged Learning for CALS Professional Master’s Students
  • LEAD 5100 Leadership Skills for Graduate Students

Agronomy courses (recommended)

  • PLSCS 5110 Field Crop Systems
  • PLSCS 5140 Global Cropping Systems and Sustainable Development
  • BTRY 6010 Statistical Methods I
  • PLSCS 6140 Weed Ecology and Management
  • PLSCS 6440 Integrated Pest Management
  • PLSCS 6720 Nutrient and Carbon Cycling and Management in 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 24 credits must be in courses numbered 5000 or 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 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 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.

Next steps

Fall application deadlines: February 1 (priority), March 15 (general)

two women and man looking at young corn in the field

Faculty spotlight

Toni DiTommaso

Toni is the chair of the Soil and Crop Sciences Section and studies the basic biological/ecological principles governing agricultural and environmental weed population dynamics. He investigates the development and implementation of safe, effective, sustainable and economically viable weed management strategies, and coaches Cornell's student weed science team.

toni ditomasso

Meet some of our Agronomy faculty

Antonio DiTommaso
Toni DiTommaso

Professor and Chair

School of Integrative Plant Science

Soil and Crop Sciences Section

Toni DiTommaso
Weed ecology
Invasive species
Biological weed management
Peter Hobbs
Peter Hobbs

Adjunct Professor

School of Integrative Plant Science

Soil and Crop Sciences Section

Peter Hobbs
International agriculture
Tropical cropping systems
Agroforestry
Louis Longchamps
Louis Longchamps

Assistant Professor

Soil and Crop Sciences Section

School of Integrative Plant Science

Louis Longchamps
  • ll928 [at] cornell.edu
Precision agriculture
Site-specific weed management and variable rate nitrogen management
On-farm research
Andy McDonald
Andrew McDonald

Associate Professor

School of Integrative Plant Science

Soil and Crop Sciences Section

Associate Professor

Department of Global Development

Andrew McDonald
  • ajm9 [at] cornell.edu
Cropping systems ecology
Agricultural sustainability, food security, water resources and climate
International agriculture, policy, and applied social sciences
man in field
Matt Ryan

Associate Professor

School of Integrative Plant Science

Soil and Crop Sciences Section

Matt Ryan
Sustainable cropping systems and agroecology
Cover crops and ecological weed management
Organic production
Tim Setter
Tim Setter

Professor

School of Integrative Plant Science

Soil and Crop Sciences Section

Plant Breeding and Genetics Section

Tim Setter
Maize, wheat and cassava breeding and genomics
Drought and environmental stress physiology
International agriculture
Peter Woodbury
Peter Woodbury

Senior Research Associate

School of Integrative Plant Science

Soil and Crop Sciences Section

Peter Woodbury
Agricultural and forest ecosystems
Greenhouse gas emissions
Geospatial modeling, land use and environmental quality