Master of Science in Agronomy

Online and Distance Education Program

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Agronomy is the application of plant and soil science to crop production and includes the study of plant genetics, breeding, biotechnology, molecular biology, physiology, biochemistry, weed control, and crop management. The online Master of Science in Agronomy curriculum focuses on industry applications and research. The online program is designed with maximum flexibility for today's working professionals. This flexibility allows students to complete coursework in areas that are specific to career needs and interests. The curriculum stresses the ability to apply course content to related industry work.

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 & 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 & Communication


Option I Thesis

Option I should be chosen by those who are preparing for careers in research and scholarly work or in college or university teaching.

  • Students must earn a minimum of 30 semester hours of credit consisting of 20 - 24 semester hours of regular coursework, and present a thesis equivalent to 6 to 10 semester hours
  • At least one-half of the required work, including thesis, must be taken in one major subject. The remaining work may be in supporting courses or in a minor consisting of at least 9 semester hours
  • Eight credit hours, in addition to the thesis, must be earned in courses open exclusively to graduate students (900 level or 800 level without 400 or lower counterparts)
Option II Non-Thesis

This option encourages a wider range of courses than is permissible under Option I.

  • Students must earn a minimum of 30 semester hours of credit in courses representing a major and either one or two minors
  • Students must complete a master's project of up to 6 hours; the project takes the place of the usual thesis; this brings the degree credit hour total to 36
  • A program of study consisting of a major and one minor must include no fewer than 18 hours in the major and 9 hours in the minorIf two minors are elected, the major must total at least 15 hours and the minors at least 9 hours each


Core Courses
AGRO/HORT 991: Seminar Presentation and Evaluation (2 credits) Various topics in horticulture, agronomy or related subjects. Emphasis on techniques.
Elective Courses
AGRO 809A: Case Studies in Plant Breeding: Disease Resistance Breeding (1 credit) 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.
AGRO 809B: Case Studies in Plant Breeding: Transgenic Strategies (1 credit) 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.).
AGRO 811: Crop Genetic Engineering (2 credits) Basic steps required to produce genetically engineered crops. Genetic engineering procedures used to develop current crops and innovations that will lead to future products. Genetic engineering process and predicting how changes in different steps of the process influence the final crop. Application of genetic engineering technology to plan the development of new genetically engineered crops.
AGRO 812: Crop & Weed Genetics (2 credits) 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. Examples from genetic studies on both crop and weed species are the basis of course.
AGRO 815A: Self-Pollinated Crop Breeding (1 credit) Prereqs: AGRO 315 Self-pollinated plant breeding theory and methods. Pedigree, bulk, single seed descent, back-crossing methods and inbreeding theory.
AGRO 815B: Germplasm & Genes (1 credit) Prereqs:AGRO 315 Obtaining germplasm and genes from cultivated plants, wild relatives of cultivated plants, and the biosphere. Origination of crops, mutation genetics, biotechnology as a source of genes, chromosomal engineering and plant reproduction.
ARO 815D: Cross-Pollinated Crop Breeding (1 credit) Prereqs: AGRO 315 Cross-pollinated breeding theory and methods. Genes in populations, recurrent selection methods, creating populations, hybrid production practices, and population improvement theory.
AGRO 816A: Heterosis in Plant Breeding (1 credit) Classical concepts of heterosis; genetic hypotheses for hybrid vigor; quantitative genetics of heterosis; new tools to study hybrid vigor, structure and function; organization of germplasm into heterotic groups; prediction of heterosis and hybrid performance; mechanisms for making hybrid seed; and breeding methods/concepts for developing hybrids in plants.
AGRO 821: Learning Biotechnology (3 credits) Investigate biotechnology and its application in solving problems and connect biotechnology to basic science concepts in biology and chemistry. Integrate individually-designed biotechnology lessons into learning standards.
AGRO 828: Scientific Illustration (3 credits) 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.
AGRO 831: Spatial Variability in Soils (2 credits) Prereqs: AGRO/SOIL 366 and STAT *801. Offered spring semester of even-numbered years. 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.
AGRO 832: Learning Plant Science (3 credits) The biology of plants grown for food, fiber, fuel and fun. Connect applied plant science to basic science concepts in biology and chemistry. Integrate individually-designed plant science lessons into learning standards.
AGRO 846: Forage Quality (3 credits)
AGRO 851: Grassland Plant Identification (3 credits)
AGRO 851: Grassland Plant Identification (2 credits) 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.
AGRO/HORT 813: Turf & Landscape Weed Management (Tent.) (1 credit) Crosslisted as AGRO 813, TLMT 813 Fundamental terminology associated with turfgrass and landscape weed management. Weed identification and the cultural practices and herbicide strategies to limit weed invasion and persistence.
AGRO/HORT 814: Turfgrass Disease Management (1 credit) Prereqs: BIOS/PLPT 369 or one semester of introductory plant pathology. Pathogens, epidemiology, and control of diseases specific to turfgrass.
AGRO/HORT 822: Integrated Weed Management (1 credit) Prereqs: 12 hrs AGRO and/or closely related HORT and/or BIOS 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.
AGRO/HORT 824: Plant Nutrition & Nutrient Management (3 credits) Prereqs: AGRO 325 or basic course in plant physiology. A course in organic chemistry or biochemistry recommended. Offered spring semesters. Macro and micro nutrient elements and their function in the growth and development of plants. Role of single elements. Interaction and/or balances between elements and nutrient deficiency and/or toxicity symptoms as they affect the physiology of the whole plant. Relationship between crop nutrition and production and/or environmental considerations (e.g. yield, drought, temperature, pests).
Tuition and Fees How to Apply Contact Us

Clicking "How to Apply" takes you to the Graduate Studies website for additional program and application information.

I like that it's diversified and I can take classes that interest me. It's also easier to get a minor in whatever I want without having to invest additional time in college.

Applied Science Student in Central City, Nebraska

Service you expect from a leading University

  • Access the same student services available to on-campus students
  • An academic adviser will guide you along your journey
  • Career services are available when you are ready to take your next step


  • Combine a number of disciplines to create a unique degree
  • Choose more than 50% of the courses you take as electives
  • Complete coursework during the time of day that works best for you within a select timeframe

Quality learning experience

  • The University of Nebraska has offered distance education courses for more than 100 years
  • Interact with faculty and students through e-mail, discussion forums and chat groups
  • Direct access to world-class faculty – researchers who are experts in their fields or practitioners with real-world experience

To be accepted to this program

  1. A bachelor's degree
    A bachelor's degree preferably in agronomy or a closely related field.
  2. 3.00 GPA or above on a 4.0 scale
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Taken the TOEFL or IELTS. Only required if English is not your native language. Minimum score of 79 on Internet-based TOEFL, 600 on paper-based TOEFL or 6.5 on IELTS required for admission.
  6. 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.
  7. A personal statement. In 1-2 pages, describe
    1. your professional goals and career aspirations and specifically what you plan to do with your certificate
    2. background experiences, events, and/or education that have influenced your professional goals
    3. how enrolling in this certificate program will assist you in meeting your professional goals.
NOTE: This program is authorized, exempt, or not subject to state regulatory compliance and may enroll students from all 50 states

Application Deadlines

Fall Semester: May 15
Spring Semester: October 1
Summer Semester: February 15
Leah Sandall

Education Coordinator

Leah Sandall

Associate Professor of Practice, Distance

Leah Sandall is the Distance Education Coordinator for the Department of Agronomy and Horticulture and works with faculty and staff to develop online courses and educational materials. These courses and materials are developed for academic and nonacademic/Extension learners. She teaches online courses and has research interests in the assessment of educational materials and teaching methods in the online classroom to promote active student learning.


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