Cultivating the careers of professionals in the agriculture sector is the focus of a new master’s program at the Ontario Agricultural College (OAC).
Scheduled to start in Fall 2024, the new master of plant agriculture program will address the demands of employers in the private and public sectors who are looking for professionals with advanced expertise in plant breeding, crop production, and plant science.
The hands-on, course-based program – housed in the Department of Plant Agriculture – allows recent graduates and professionals to quickly upgrade their education and training without the need to conduct academic research through a traditional thesis-based program.
The program is expected to attract interest from recent graduates and professionals from across Canada and the world seeking a master’s program that enhances career opportunities in the plant agriculture sector.
The flexibility of the program allows students to study on a full- or part-time basis and to select courses that match specific career goals in breeding and genetics, biochemistry and physiology, or crop production systems for both agronomic and horticultural crops.
Students can complete the program in three or four semesters, allowing international students to be eligible to apply for a post-graduate work permit.
“We are consistently hearing that employers are seeking graduates that have the scientific knowledge as well as the hands-on training in plant and agricultural science,” said Dr. John Cranfield, acting dean of OAC. “This program will fill this gap and provide graduates with valuable skills in collaboration and communication needed for career success.”
World-class faculty, strong agriculture sector connections
“Our department has world-class faculty with very strong connections to the sector and access to a network of research stations and facilities across Ontario,” said Dr. Hugh Earl, chair of the Department of Plant Agriculture. “This will benefit our graduate students as it enhances the opportunities for professional networking and hands-on learning.”
Experiential learning will be a major component of the new program.
“Throughout the program, students gain applied skills and reﬁne their critical thinking, develop collaborative problem-solving skills, and apply their knowledge in plant sciences to complex challenges,” Earl said. “These are critical skills for future leaders in the plant and agricultural sector.”
An advisory council of agriculture and plant science leaders will help guide program development as well as connect students to employment opportunities.
“This program provides an opportunity for students to gain a more comprehensive knowledge in the core subjects of plant agriculture, without focusing on one particular project through a research degree,” said Dr. Eric Shaw, research scientist with Corteva AgriScience. “I can see this being an advantage to those applying to Corteva.”
OAC will continue to offer its thesis-based MSc and PhD in plant agriculture – ideal for students wishing to pursue careers in research in the private or public sector.
The first intake of students to the master of plant agriculture is slated for September 2024, pending approval from the Ontario Universities Council on Quality Assurance.