The Master of Professional Studies (MPS) in Agriculture and Life Sciences focus area in Hemp Science pertains to Industrial Hemp, which holds great promise for its application in food, fiber and medicinal products. The 2014 and 2018 U.S. Farm Bills have progressively legalized hemp (Cannabis sativa) cultivation, generating tremendous interest in food and fiber products. Cornell University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) has assembled a multidisciplinary team of researchers, faculty and extension educators who are building a program to study hemp cultivation, pests and diseases, microbiome, agroecology, biochemistry, tissue culture and transformation, production economics, and to establish a long-term breeding program to produce new cultivars.
The Hemp Science MPS focuses 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 develop 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.
Focus Area details
Hemp-based product sales are expected to surpass $1B in the US in 2019, with significant growth in employment opportunities continuing into the next decade.
The evolving hemp industry will offer employment opportunities ranging from plant breeding and genetics to horticulture, farming, processing, pharmacology, entrepreneurship, product development and supply chain management. Knowledgeable professionals educated in the scientific principles, market trends and the evolving cannabis regulatory environment will enter the workplace with a broad range of skills to succeed in this dynamic industry.
Careers in the industrial hemp sector include:
- 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
- Extraction Laboratory Supervisor
- State Agricultural or Cannabis Regulatory Department Staff
- Policy Analyst or Advisor
- Production and Quality Control Specialist
- Product Development Specialist
- Operations and Supply Chain Manager
- Pest Management Specialist
- Ornamental plant breeding
- Cell and tissue culture
- Greenhouse floriculture
- Diversity, equity and inclusion in the plant sciences
- Plant genetics
- Science communication and digital technologies
- Industrial hemp production and processing
- Plant-insect interactions
- Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA)
- Greenhouse horticulture
- Greenhouse lighting and systems engineering
- CEA/Greenhouse hemp production
- Flower bulbs and floriculture
- Greenhouse and nursery crops
- Physiology and post-harvest management
- CEA/Greenhouse hemp production
- Biology and management of vegetable diseases
- Host-pathogen interactions
- Physiology and post-harvest management
- Breeding and genomics
- Industrial hemp
- Willow bioenergy crops
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
Hemp Science Courses (recommended):
- PLPPM 5010 Biology and Management of Plant Diseases
- ENTOM 5440 Integrated Pest Management
- BTRY 6010 Statistical Methods I
- PLBRG 6080 Methods of Plant Breeding Lab
- COMM 6660 Public Engagement in Science
- PLSCI 5015 Hemp Production Systems
- PLHRT 5025 Hydroponic Food Crop Production and Management
- PLSCI 5030 Hemp Breeding and Genetics
- PLSCI 5045 Chemistry and Pharmacology of Cannabis
- PLSCI 5060 Hemp Processing
- PLSCS 5110 Field Crop Systems
- PLSCI 5190 Cannabis: Biology, Society and Industry
- PLHRT 6020 Plant Propagation
- PLBRG 6030 Genetic Improvement of Crop Plants
- PLHRT 6170 Advanced Analytical Methods for Plant Systems
- PLHRT 6175/4175 Production and Marketing of Greenhouse Crops
Additional courses and project opportunities will cover topics such as: Hemp Production Systems; Hemp Genetics, Breeding and Genomics; Laws, Regulations, Patenting and IP; and Hemp Processing Lecture, Lab and Group Discussion.
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.
School of Integrative Plant Science
Plant Breeding and Genetics Section
Director, Long Island Horticultural Research and Extension Center