Program overview

The Master of Professional Studies (MPS) in Agriculture and Life Sciences focus area in Plant Systems allows for maximum flexibility in curriculum design and project work. With nearly fifty MPS faculty advisors who offer diverse areas of expertise, you can customize a curriculum that is relevant to individual passions, interests, and career goals.

Explore facets of sustainable agriculture, food security issues, international agriculture, environmental information systems, climate change, biodiversity conservation, human-plant interactions and more. The options are limited only by your imagination. 

Focus Area details

With an MPS in Plant Systems, you will be exceptionally well qualified for plant scientist positions in the public, private and academic sectors.  Depending on how you configure  your major, you might find work or create your own job as:

  • An Extension educator
  • A private crop consultant
  • A lab or field scientist
  • A specialty crop entrepreneur
  • An urban forester
  • An ecosystem analyst
  • A food system specialist
  • A non-profit agriculture organization leader

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

Plant Systems Courses (recommended):

  • BTRY 6010 Statistical Methods I
  • PLBIO 5430 Molecular Biology and Genetic Engineering of Plants
  • PLSCS 5210 Soil and Crop Management for Sustainability
  • PLSCS 6440 Integrated Pest Management
  • PLBRG 6030 Genetic Improvement of Crop Plants
  • PLHRT 6020 Principles of Plant Propagation
  • PLHRT 6170 Advanced Analytical Methods for Plant Systems

The ideal candidate will demonstrate a passion for working in Soil Science, 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 deadline: February 1 (priority), March 15 (general)

two students working with hemp in greenhouse

Faculty spotlight

Yu Jiang

Yu Jiang’s research focuses on systems engineering and data analytics for specialty crops and involves interdisciplinary innovation among engineering, computer science, and plant science. His interests include agricultural robotics and artificial intelligence, image processing and high throughput plant phenotyping.

A man stands by a sunny window

Meet some of our Plant Systems faculty

Nina Bassuk
Nina Bassuk

Professor

School of Integrative Plant Science

Horticulture Section

Nina Bassuk
Urban horticulture
Woody plants, landscape management and propagation,
Cornell Structural Soil
Mark Bridgen
Mark Bridgen

Professor

School of Integrative Plant Science

Horticulture Section

Plant Breeding and Genetics Section

Director, Long Island Horticultural Research and Extension Center

School of Integrative Plant Science

Mark Bridgen
Ornamental plant breeding
Cell and tissue culture
Greenhouse floriculture
Carlyn Buckler
Carlyn Buckler

Associate Professor of Practice

School of Integrative Plant Science

Horticulture Section

Carlyn Buckler
  • csb36 [at] cornell.edu
Science communication and digital technologies
Plant genetics
Diversity, equity and inclusion
William Crepet
William Crepet

Professor

School of Integrative Plant Science

Plant Biology Section

William Crepet
Plant systematics and phylogeny
Flowering plants
Paleobotany
Marcia Eames-Sheavly
Marcia Eames-Sheavly

Senior Extension Associate and Senior Lecturer

School of Integrative Plant Science

Horticulture Section

Marcia Eames-Sheavly
Garden-based learning
Engaged learning and child and youth development
Art of horticulture
Michelle Heck
Michelle Heck

Adjunct Associate Professor

School of Integrative Plant Science

Plant Pathology and Plant-Microbe Biology Section

Michelle Heck
  • mlc68 [at] cornell.edu
Molecular interactions among plant pathogens, insect vectors, and plant hosts
Yu Jiang
Yu Jiang

Assistant Research Professor

School of Integrative Plant Science

Horticulture Section

Cornell AgriTech

Yu Jiang
Agricultural robotics and artificial Intelligence ,
Image processing
High throughput plant phenotyping
jason londo
Jason Londo

Adjunct associate professor

School of Integrative Plant Science

Horticulture Section

Cornell AgriTech

Jason Londo
Grape stress physiology, genetics and genomics
Bill Miller
Bill Miller

Professor

School of Integrative Plant Science

Horticulture Section

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

Senior Lecturer

Department of Global Development

Jeffrey Perry
Extension Education
Teaching Methods
Youth Leadership Development
Marvin Pritts
Marvin Pritts

Professor and Director of Undergraduate Studies, Plant Sciences Major

School of Integrative Plant Science

Horticulture Section

Professor

Department of Global Development

Marvin Pritts
Berry crops
Season extension
Sustainable production practices
Anu Rangarajan
Anusuya Rangarajan

Senior Extension Associate and Director, Cornell Small Farm Program

School of Integrative Plant Science

Horticulture Section

Anusuya Rangarajan
Fresh market vegetable production
Small farms and sustainable agriculture
Organic and reduced tillage vegetable production
Steve Reiners
Steve Reiners

Professor

School of Integrative Plant Science

Horticulture Section

Cornell AgriTech

Steve Reiners
Processing vegetables (peas, beans, sweet corn)
Vegetable production systems
Organic gardening
sonja skelly
Sonja Skelly

Director of Education, Cornell Botanic Gardens and Adjunct Associate Professor

School of Integrative Plant Science

Horticulture Section

Sonja Skelly
  • sms92 [at] cornell.edu
Public garden management
School & youth gardening, adult education
Plants and human well being
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