Program Overview

The Master of Professional Studies (MPS) in Agriculture and Life Sciences focus area in Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA), focuses on one of the fastest growing areas of agriculture, is an advanced and intensive form of hydroponically-based agriculture. This innovative method of growing plants focuses on key production benefits, such as:

  • High plant quality
  • Predictable crop timing
  • Consistently available quantity
  • Limited environmental impact

CEA techniques demand sound knowledge of chemistry, horticulture, engineering, plant physiology, plant pathology, computers and entomology. The CEA Focus Area for the MPS degree program is focused on the development of specific skills to understand:

  • Lighting
  • Hydroponic production
  • Pest control
  • Horticultural aspects of production

Focus Area details

With the world population estimated to be at 9 billion by 2050, and estimated annual growth of 31% for the global vertical farming market, there is demand for highly educated and skilled employees who have a deep understanding of the latest technologies in controlled environment agriculture. On a global scale, major investments are being made by start-ups and established corporations in hydroponics, vertical farming, urban agriculture, and technology to optimize plant yield in controlled environments.

Careers in the controlled environment agriculture sector include:

  • 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
  • Pest Management Specialist

Neil Mattson

  • Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA)
  • Greenhouse horticulture
  • Greenhouse lighting and systems engineering
  • CEA/Greenhouse hemp production

William Miller

  • Flower bulbs and floriculture
  • Greenhouse and nursery crops
  • Physiology and post-harvest management
  • CEA/Greenhouse hemp production


View all Integrative Plant Science MPS faculty | Explore all faculty interests and focus area careers

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

Controlled Environment Agriculture Courses (recommended):

  • PLPPM 5010 Biology and Management of Plant Diseases
  • PLHRT 5025 Hydroponic Food Crop Production and Management
  • PLHRT 6020 Plant Propagation
  • PLSCS 6100 Plant Responses to Environmental Stresses
  • PLHRT 6175/4175 Production and Marketing of Greenhouse Crops
  • PLSCS 6420 Mineral Nutrition: From Plants to Humans

The ideal candidate will demonstrate a passion for working with plants, 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.

Next steps

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]

Hydroponic lettuce with roots dangling from support.

Meet some of our CEA faculty

Faculty spotlight

Neil Mattson

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.

CEA expert neil mattson in greenhouse with experimental magenta lights
neil mattson
Neil Mattson


School of Integrative Plant Science

Horticulture Section

Neil Mattson
Greenhouse horticulture
Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA)
Greenhouse lighting and systems engineering
Bill Miller
Bill Miller


School of Integrative Plant Science

Horticulture Section

Bill Miller
Flower bulbs and floriculture
Greenhouse and nursery crops
Physiology and post-harvest management