Program overview

The Master of Professional Studies (MPS) in Agriculture and Life Sciences focus area in Soil Science focus on a range of topics such as soil as a medium for crop production; soil, carbon and nutrient interactions; soil ecology; soil contaminants and remediation; soil and water cycles; and overall soil health.

Soil science brings together the basic disciplines of biology, physics and chemistry to discover fundamental principles and put them in the service of management solutions. Soil is a foundational resource that sustains all terrestrial life and contributes to food production, climate change and water resources. Soil sustainability is essential to human civilization and soil management decisions cause major changes to our biosphere.

Students learn about both agricultural and environmental challenges, and their work may include field and laboratory activities, as well as data analytics and digital solutions.

Focus Area details

Soil science knowledge and skills are in demand with a range of governmental, private and NGO organizations. Soil scientists have valuable perspectives on many current and future societal concerns.  Career options include:

  • Local, state, federal and international agencies with programs in agriculture and the environment
  • Agronomic services companies
  • Private consulting firms
  • Environmental advocacy and policy organizations (NGOs, etc.)

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

Soil Science Courses (recommended):

  • PLSCS 5140 Global Cropping Systems and Sustainable Development
  • PLSCS 5210 Soil and Crop Management for Sustainability
  • BTRY 6010 Statistical Methods I
  • PLSCS 6630 Pedology
  • PLSCS 6710 Soil Chemistry
  • PLSCS 6720 Nutrient and Carbon Cycling and Management in Ecosystems

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

soil samples showing range of colors

Faculty spotlight

Jonathan Russell-Anelli

Jonathan studies the spatial distribution and variability of urban soil characteristics including investigations of the scale and distribution of contaminants in relation to soil forming factors and processes.  He works in partnership with the USDA/National Resource Conservation Service’s National Cooperative Soil Survey program in New York State to map and interpret soil properties for multiple uses and users.


Meet some of our Soil Science faculty

Johannes Lehmann
Johannes Lehmann

Liberty Hyde Bailey Professor

School of Integrative Plant Science

Soil and Crop Sciences Section

Liberty Hyde Bailey Professor

Department of Global Development

Johannes Lehmann
Soil biogeochemistry, fertility management, organic matter, and carbon and nutrient cycling from wastes
Soil carbon sequestration and biochar systems
Sustainable agriculture in the tropics
Jonathan Russell-Anelli
Jonathan Russell-Anelli

Senior Lecturer

School of Integrative Plant Science

Soil and Crop Sciences Section

Jonathan Russell-Anelli
Urban soils
Soil surveys
Spatial arrangement and characterization of soil properties, nutrient and contaminant distribution
Janice Thies
Janice Thies

Associate Professor

School of Integrative Plant Science

Soil and Crop Sciences Section

Janice Thies
Soil ecology
Soil biology quality assessment and remediation
International agriculture
Harold van Es
Harold van Es


School of Integrative Plant Science

Soil and Crop Sciences Section

Harold van Es
Soil health
Precision nitrogen management (Adapt-N)
Digital agriculture
Dominic Woolf
Dominic Woolf

Senior Research Associate

School of Integrative Plant Science

Soil and Crop Sciences Section

Dominic Woolf
  • dw433 [at]
Soil carbon sequestration and climate-smart agriculture
Sustainable landscape management, agroforestry reforestration and restoration of degraded land