Agronomy, MS

Master of Science Degree in Agronomy

University of Nebraska - Lincoln

  • Fully Online
  • 36
  • $446.00
  • $676.00

Program Overview

The  online Master of Science degree in Agronomy program curriculum focuses on the application of plant and soil science to crop production to feed and enrich the lives of a growing global population.

Students choose the Agronomy, MS program because:

  • Flexible course selection allows students to complete coursework in an area that is specific to their career needs and interest.
  • The deep research carried out by more than 70 faculty members in the areas of: landscape ecology and design, ornamental horticulture, plant breeding and genetics, soil and water sciences, turf/range/forage science and weed science.
  • The Department gives students virtual access to well-equipped laboratories, modern greenhouses, growth chambers, and field facilities, including four district research centers spanning several ecoregions, available to graduate students.
  • Curriculum focused on the ability to apply course content to related industry work.

In addition, faculty members conduct research nationally and internationally in the following areas:

  • plant physiology
  • Viticulture
  • molecular biology
  • plant biotechnology
  • plant breeding
  • nutrient cycling and management
  • rangeland ecology and management
  • renewable bioenergy
  • soil and water management
  • environmental impact and sustainability of agriculture

While the program does not require students to have specializations, UNL offers the following specializations for online students:

  • Crop Physiology and Production
  • Plant Breeding and Genetics
  • Range and Forage Sciences

Students are able to complete a thesis or non-thesis option of coursework. If the student does not elect to complete a thesis, they must pursue a minor of at least 9 credit hours as part of their program of study.

Online minor options may include:

  • Agricultural Leadership
  • College STEM Education
  • Entomology
  • Horticulture
  • Natural Resources Sciences
  • Teaching, Learning and Teacher Education

Career Outlook: According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, overall employment of agricultural and food scientists is projected to grow 9 percent from 2020 to 2030, about as fast as the average for all occupations. About 4,400 openings for agricultural and food scientists are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire. 

Graduates work in the following career fields:

  • Seed Industry: Managers, breeders, technicians, sales agronomists
  • Crop Improvement: Consulting agronomists, crop advisers, co-op managers
  • Horticulture: Nursery managers, turf and landscape specialists, golf course superintendents
  • Education: Science and agriculture teachers
  • Extension: Educators and specialists
  • Producers: Farmers and ranchers
  • Government: Specialists in regulatory agencies at all governmental levels and Communication

Admissions and Requirements

To be accepted to this program, you must have:

  1. A Bachelor's degree

    A bachelor's degree, preferably in agronomy or a closely related field.

  2. 3 GPA or above on a 4.0 scale

  3. Taken the TOEFL or IELTS

    (Only required if English is not your native language)

  4. A written personal statement

    In 1-2 pages describe 1) your professional goals and career aspirations and specifically what you plan to do with your degree, 2) background experiences, events and/or education that have influenced your professional goals and 3) how enrolling in this program will assist you in meeting your professional goals.

  5. 3 letters of recommendation

    These must be from professionals who are familiar with your work ethic or scholastic ability. Personal references from friends, relatives, etc. are not acceptable.

  6. Official transcripts from all previous schools

  7. Option I (Thesis): Successfully completed at least a semester of coursework in calculus, chemistry and physics (excluding soil physics), at least two semesters of biological sciences, and an additional semester of either physics or chemistry.

  8. Option II (Non-Thesis): Successfully completed at least a semester of coursework in plant production or plant system management, soil science, biological science, chemistry and algebra.

NOTE: This program is authorized, exempt, or not subject to state regulatory compliance and may enroll students from all 50 states

To apply to this program:

  1. Complete and submit the online application for Graduate Studies
  2. Pay $50 application fees
  3. Complete and submit a separate application the academic department

Courses You’ll Take

Core Courses

Course NumberCourse NameCredits
AGRO/HORT 991Seminar Presentation and Evaluation2
Various topics in horticulture, agronomy or related subjects. Emphasis on techniques.
AGRO 899Master's Thesis1 - 10
Prerequisite: Admission to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Admission to Agronomy and Horticulture M.S. degree program (Option I) and permission of major advisor.
PHAS 790Master's Project4
This course provides the student with a research review and writing experience that demonstrates excellent research interpretation, organization and communication skills in exploring a relevant, focused, clinical or professional topic related to high quality health care delivery. The submission of the Capstone Project in the form of a research paper is a requirement for obtaining the Master’s degree through the Degree Advancement Option (DAO) Program. Prerequisites: PHAS 682

Elective Courses

Course NumberCourse NameCredits
AGRO 851Grassland Plant Identification2
Prereq: Admission to UNL's Graduate School, and BIOS 101 and 101L and AGRO 240, or their equivalents, recommended. Study of plants that have ecological and/or agricultural importance in the Great Plains. Plant identification, grassland ecosystems and plants' forage value, palatability and utilization by both domestic livestock and wildlife. Cultural and historical uses of grassland. Prerequisite: Admission to UNL's Graduate School, and BIOS 101 and 101L and AGRO 240, or their equivalents, recommended.
AGRO 809BCase Studies in Plant Breeding: Transgenic Strategies1
The application of basic science and technology by plant genetic engineering experts with the goal of teaming with plant breeders to improve disease resistance in crop cultivars. Learning is structured by the genetics discovery story told in published research articles and the thinking process of genetic engineers and plant breeders who will use these discoveries in their work. Prerequisite: Strong background in plant science, genetics and/or biology is recommended.
AGRO 809ACase Studies in Plant Breeding: Disease Resistance Breeding1
The application of fundamental genetics principles in inheritance, gene mapping and DNA analysis to decision making by plant breeders with the goal of improving disease resistance in crop cultivars. Learning is structured by the genetics discovery story told in published research articles and the thinking process of plant breeders who will use these discoveries in their work. Prerequisite: Strong background in plant science, genetics and/or biology is recommended.
AGRO 831Spatial Variability in Soils2
Basic concepts of soil variability, its underlying causes. The impact spatial variability has on soil management, primarily for crop production. Geographic and geo-statistical concepts. Use of spatial information for more profitable crop production. Prerequisites: AGRO/SOIL 366 and STAT 801.
AGRO/HORT 824Plant Nutrition and Nutrient Management3
Macro and micronutrient elements and their function in the growth and development of plants; the role of single elements; interaction/balances between elements and nutrient deficiency/ toxicity symptoms as they affect the physiology of the whole plant; and the relationship between crop nutrition and production/environmental considerations (e.g. yield, drought, temperature, pests). Prerequisite: AGRO 824 or basic course in plant physiology. A course in organic chemistry or biochemistry recommended.
AGRO 832Learning Plant Science3
This course combines the biology of plants grown for food, fiber, fuel, and fun with the practice of teaching plant science in the classroom and beyond. Students will master basic plant biology concepts in biology and chemistry for use in developing individually designed educational applied plant science lesson plans and integrating the plans into science learning standards and curricula. While the course is geared toward science educators, the content will also greatly benefit agribusiness and horticultural professionals who want to improve their skills in presenting and explaining basic plant science concepts. Prerequisites: Successful completion of 12 hours of plant science courses.
AGRO 846Principles of Forage Quality and Evaluation for Grazing Livestock3
This course provides an in-depth study of the chemical characteristics of forage components as well as the interactions with ruminant physiology and digestion that influence forage feeding value and the laboratory procedures used to evaluate forages for grazing livestock. Prerequisites: Admission to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Successful completion of AGRO/RNGE 240 and ASCI 320, or equivalents. Successful completion of 3 credit hours of introductory statistics. Permission of the instructor also required.
AGRO 811Crop Genetic Engineering2
This course is designed to provide upper-level undergraduate and graduate students, as well as agribusiness professionals, with an introduction to genetic engineering, one of the most rapidly integrated and intensively scrutinized technologies applied to crop production in the United States. Students will learn the basic steps required to produce genetically engineered crops with emphasis on procedures used to develop current crops and innovations that will lead to future products. Students will become familiar with the genetic engineering process, predicting how changes in different steps of the process influence the final crop, and apply their knowledge of genetic engineering technology to plan the development of new genetically engineered crops. Admission to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Strong background/prior coursework in plant science, genetics and/or biology is recommended.
AGRO 821Learning Biotechnology3
This course focuses on investigating biotechnology and its application in solving problems and connecting biotechnology to basic science concepts in biology and chemistry. It also integrates individually designed biotechnology lessons into learning standards. Prerequisites: Successful completion of a minimum of 12 hours of plant science courses.
AGRO 812Crop & Weed Genetics2
Provides students with an understanding of the genetic basis for variation observed among crop varieties and weed populations as well as insights into the development of new traits in crop varieties. Application of classical and molecular genetic principles to the explanation of variation observed in plant families and populations. Interpretation of information gathered from whole plant trait observation and from molecular analysis. Relationships between crops and weeds are discussed. Examples from genetic studies on both crop and weed species are presented for student evaluation and relations and are the basis of the course. Prerequisite: Strong background in plant science, genetics and/or biology is recommended.
AGRO 828Scientific Illustration3
This course provides an introduction to scientific illustration and will hone your skills in both art and observation. Students will explore the history of scientific illustration, copyright, typography, resolution and scanning principles and the creation, publication and presentation of scientific artwork. Students completing this course will have the knowledge and skills to prepare scientifically accurate, high-quality illustrations using a variety of traditional techniques for teaching, presentation and publication of scientific information. Students will also learn how to prepare graphs for scientific publication. Prerequisite: Successful completion of 12 hours of agricultural and/or biological sciences courses or permission from instructor; drawing background optional.
AGRO/HORT 822Integrated Weed Management1
Principles and application of (IWM). Noxious and invasive weed species. Crops and weed control. Plant population shifts. Use of herbicides and the biologically effective dose. Critical period of weed control and weed threshold. Herbicide tolerant crops. Prerequisites: Successful completion of a minimum of 12 hours of agronomy or closely related biological sciences courses.
HORT/AGRO 817Plant Pathology: Principles and Applications3
This course is an introduction to pathogen biology, pathogen-host interactions, and environmental influences on plant diseases. It includes implementation of cultural, resistance and chemical strategies for disease management.
AGRO 820Bioinformatics Applications in Agriculture3
Introduction to applied computational methods to analyze biological data, efficiently manipulate large data sets, and automate workflows. Learn strategies for assembling and analyzing data generated by modern high throughput sequencing platforms. Prerequisites: AGRO 215 or equivalent. Undergraduate students must be at the senior class level standing.
AGRO 825Cover Crops in Agroecosystems3
Explore the management, environmental, economic, and social considerations of integrating cover crops across a diversity of agricultural production systems. Grow cover crops, measure benefits and tradeoffs, and apply knowledge to make management and policy recommendations. This course will include a weekly mix of pre-recorded lectures, live meetings of faculty and students across multiple states through virtual exchange, and experimental lab- and field-based studies. Join faculty and students from across the country to learn how cover crops perform differently and serve different niches in contrasting climates and agroecosystems! All Zoom lectures will be recorded so students can participate asynchronously. However, students will be mailed some seed for a hands-on learning experiment. Prerequisites: AGRO 131 or AGRO 278; AGRO 153 (Soil Resources) or equivalent.
AGRO 835Agroecology3
Integration of principles of ecology, plant and animal sciences, crop protection, and rural landscape planning and management for sustainable agriculture. Includes natural and cultivated ecosystems, population and community ecology, nutrient cycling, pest management, hydrologic cycles, cropping and grazing systems, landscape ecology, biodiversity, and socioeconomic evaluation of systems. Prerequisites: Successful completion of a minimum of 12 hours of biological or agricultural science courses.
AGRO 439Organic Farming and Food Systems3
History of organic farming and horticultural systems, organic certification, nutrient and pest management in organic systems, planning organic enterprises including production and marketing, resilience of organic systems in ecological, economic, and social terms; future issues and potentials of organic food systems.
AGRO 862Cannabis Growth, Production and Breeding Basics2
marijuana and hemp for fiber use when grown using a growth room, greenhouse, high tunnel and/or field. Clarification between scientific evidence and casual information. Prerequisites: AGRO/HORT 131 or LIFE 121; AGRO 215 or BIOS 206, HORT 221 recommended.
HORT 880Modified Rootzones1
This online course provides a comprehensive, in-depth study of modified root zones and their applications in the turfgrass and landscape management industries, including correct applications and construction techniques. Emphasis on "created" soils for specialized situations, such as golf greens, sports fields, container plants and green roofs. Prerequisites: Successful completion of a minimum of 12 hours in agronomy or closely related biological sciences courses.
AGRO 888Entrepreneurship and Enterprise Development3
This course covers the process of starting your own enterprise, including competitive environment, risk management, finance for business startups, funding, and business plan writing. Students will research a specific agricultural enterprise, then develop and present a business plan using materials from the primary area of interest. Requires completion of a shadowing assignment and analyses of case studies.
AGRO 889Urbanization of Rural Landscapes3
Development converts rural landscapes into housing, roads, malls, parks, and commercial uses. This process fragments landscapes and changes ecosystem functions, drives up land prices, and pushes agriculture into more marginal areas. This multi-disciplinary, experiential course guides students in learning about the urbanization process, the impacts on landscapes, people, and the community, and the choices that are available to informed citizens. Prerequisites: Senior standing or graduate standing.
AGRO 896Applied Field Research: Design, Data Management, Analysis & Reporting2
The course is an introduction to balanced and unbalanced experimental designs, as used in field crop research, and the use of mixed model methodologies for analysis and summarization of data. AGRO 896: Field Research is designed to provide graduate students with working and practical understanding of current statistical methodologies used for purposes of designing agricultural field experiments, data management and organization, and for the subsequent analysis, summarization, and reporting of data generated in such experiments. Prerequisites: Minimum 1 semester of statistics (e.g. STAT 801 or equivalent) is a firm requirement. This course is not intended to be a replacement or substitute for STAT 801. Offered in the spring.
AGRO 896Production Systems1
Graduate level course in problem solving for various plant management situations through understanding the role of and interaction between soil, water, pests, genetics, and more. Through reading assignments and discussion activities, this course will focus on thinking about the interplay of various aspects of production systems as well as how external factors (e.g. wet spring, new insect pest) can affect various system components and management decisions. Offered in the Fall.
AGRO 906Crop Growth and Yield Modeling3
Crop growth simulation modeling is a systematic approach and powerful tool for gaining quantitative and mechanistic understanding of crop-weather-soil-management relationship and interactions, as well as for helping improve and optimize crop management based on growing season characteristics and management options. In the course, understanding and use of crop simulation models and the ability to build crop models will be emphasized. Theoretical principles of and quantitative descriptions of crop production ecology will be explained using state-of-the-art crop simulation models. Structure of crop models and simulation techniques will be illustrated. Applications of crop simulation models will also be demonstrated using practical examples. Students will have the opportunity to gain first-hand experience of running simulations of wide range of scenarios for corn and soybean growth and yield, and interpreting simulation results to serve various purposes. Prerequisites: Admission to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Successful completion of AGRO/HORT 325 or equivalent. AGRO/HORT/NRES 406/806 or equivalent recommended.
agro 855Soil Chemistry and Mineralogy3
This online class is designed for upper-level undergraduate and graduate students. The class deals with chemical and mineralogical properties of soil components, the inorganic colloidal fraction, structures of soil minerals as means of understanding properties such as ion exchange and equilibria, release and supply of nutrient and toxic materials, and soil acidity and alkalinity, and with forms and functions of organic matter in soil. Prerequisites: Admission to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. AGRO/HORT/SOIL 153 or GEOL 101, CHEM 109 and 110, CHEM 221 or 251 or equivalent.

Tuition & Fees

Nebraska Residents

Per Credit Hour


3 Credit Hours


Out of State Residents

Per Credit Hour


3 Credit Hours

Don Lee, Ph.D.

Don Lee teaches courses focused on plant genetics. His research interests are focused on the detection and assessment of molecular genetic variation in crops, weeds and native plants and the development of Internet resources for teaching genetics to a wide variety of learners. Understanding new and traditional genetic technologies and their role in the development of our food and feed are his primary Extension interests.

Application Deadlines
  • Fall SemesterMay 15
  • Spring SemesterOct 01
  • Summer SemesterFeb 15