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Program Overview

The Master of Professional Studies (MPS) in Agriculture and Life Sciences with a specialization in Hemp Science is a one-year, course-based master's degree program designed to develop critical competencies, broaden expertise and expand versatility across the wide-ranging spectrum of scientific, economic and regulatory topics in the hemp industry. Under the guidance of an expert faculty advisor, students undertake graduate-level coursework and refine their problem-solving skills with a capstone MPS project, applying their newly-acquired knowledge.

Offered through the graduate field of Horticulture, the Hemp Science specialization for the MPS degree program is focused 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 also have 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. To complete the graduate-level program requirements with proficiency, students are expected to enter the program with sound knowledge of biology, chemistry, horticulture and plant physiology.

Industrial Hemp 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 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, and Pest Management Specialist. 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.

MPS Program Structure

The Master of Professional Studies is an accredited, one-year, course-based master’s degree program that prepares individuals for the 21st-century workplace through knowledge development and career skillset refinement. The specialized, course-based instruction led by world-class faculty broadens expertise and expands versatility.

The CALS MPS degree program in has two main components:

  1. Coursework: Students work with a faculty advisor to customize their course of study based on their area(s) of interest.  While the majority of the courses (20 of the required 30 credits) will be in CALS, students have the flexibility to take additional coursework across Cornell. The suggested MPS curriculum includes a balance of courses to build both professional and disciplinary competencies.
  2. Capstone project: With the guidance of a faculty advisor, MPS candidates undertake an applied capstone project to fulfill the MPS degree requirements. The MPS project offers the opportunity to apply newly-acquired problem solving tools to real world issues, providing valuable insights as students embark on their post-graduation careers.

MPS students are part of a cohort of CALS professional master’s students specializing in diverse fields of study and have a dedicated support organization, offering career guidance, professional skill development and a network of supportive Cornell alumni.

Read the MPS degree requirements

Hemp Science Sample Curriculum


BTRY 6010 Statistical Methods I    (or other analytical course, such as Accounting, Finance, Small Farm Business Management, Policy Analysis, CIS)                                                                                               
ALS 5211 Career Readiness for CALS Professional Master's Students
LEAD 5100 Leadership Skills for Graduate Students
PLSCI 5940 Skills for Public Engagement
PLSCI 5900 MPS Project

Plant Science Electives

course title
PLSCI 4190 Cannabis: Biology, Society and Industry
PLBIO 3100 Medicinal Botany and Drug Discovery
PLSCS 4440 Integrated Pest Management
PLSCI 4100 Digital Technologies for Research and Communications
PLSCI 6940 Special Topics in Plant Science

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. 

Faculty Spotlight

Dr. Larry Smart is a Professor in the Horticulture Section of the School of Integrative Plant Science at Cornell University and is Associate Director of Cornell AgriTech in Geneva, NY. Larry is a plant geneticist and breeder whose lab uses genomic tools in breeding shrub willow bioenergy crops and to better understand hybrid vigor and pest and disease resistance. More recently, he has been leading Cornell’s hemp research and extension team and has initiated a long-term breeding program to develop new hemp cultivars for New York State. He received his B.S. in Biology at Cornell University, Ph.D. in Genetics at Michigan State University, and was an NSF Postdoctoral Fellow at UC-Davis.

Admissions Requirements

The ideal candidate will demonstrate a passion for the importance of plants in securing a sustainable future for the world’s population, competency in undergraduate science coursework, and interest in applying knowledge gained in a professional career. Admission requirements include:

  • Common undergraduate courses taken: Biology, Botany, Physics, Math, Chemistry, Ecology
  • Graduate Record Exam (GRE) scores are not required but may be submitted to strengthen candidacy
  • Three letters of recommendation
  • TOEFL for non-native English speakers

Connect with us to discuss the admissions process.

Learn more about all the Masters of Professional Studies specializations offered in the School of Integrative Plant Science