Program Overview

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:

  • Agricultural Consultant
  • Commercial Grower
  • Production and Quality Control Specialist
  • Product Development Specialist
  • Inventory Controller
  • Operations and Supply Chain Manager
  • Research Support Analyst
  • Pest Management Specialist

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 Let Your Life Speak: Selfhood, Community, Change
  • 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
  • LEAD 5100 Leadership Skills for Graduate Students

Hemp Science Courses (recommended):

  • PLSCI 5015 Hemp Production Systems
  • PLHRT 5025 Hydroponic Food Production and Management
  • PLSCI 5030 Hemp Breeding and Genetics
  • PLSCI 5045 Chemistry and Pharmacology of Cannabis
  • PLSCI 5060 Hemp Processing
  • PLSCI 5190 Cannabis Biology, Society and Industry
  • BTRY 6010 Statistical Methods I
  • PLHRT 6551 Principles of Nutrition and Nutrient Management in Crops and Landscape Plants
  • PLSCI 5940 Skills for Public Engagement
  • ENTOM 5440 Integrated Pest Management

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.

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]

working with hemp seedlings in greenhouse

Faculty spotlight

Carlyn Buckler

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).

Carlyn Buckler

Meet some of our Hemp Science Focus Area faculty

Carlyn Buckler
Carlyn Buckler

Associate Professor of Practice

School of Integrative Plant Science

Horticulture Section

Carlyn Buckler
  • csb36 [at]
Science communication and digital technologies
Plant genetics
Diversity, equity and inclusion
heather grab
Heather Grab

Senior Lecturer

School of Integrative Plant Science

Heather Grab
  • hlc66 [at]
Industrial hemp production and processing
Plant-insect interactions.
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
Chris Smart
Christine Smart


School of Integrative Plant Science


School of Integrative Plant Science

Plant Pathology and Plant-Microbe Biology Section

Christine Smart
Biology and management of vegetable diseases
Host-pathogen interactions
Lawrence Smart
Larry Smart


School of Integrative Plant Science

Horticulture Section

Plant Breeding and Genetics Section

Larry Smart
Breeding and genomics
Industrial hemp
Willow bioenergy crops