FAQ's about Graduate Studies in Horticulture

How long does it take to get a graduate degree in Horticulture?

How do I get financial assistance to attend graduate school?

Can I get a graduate degree online?

What’s the difference between a M.S. degree and the online Master’s of Agriculture?

If I don’t want to be a researcher is graduate school right for me?

Do I have to have an advisor before I apply to graduate school?

Can I study with an off-campus advisor?

Is there a deadline for applying to graduate school?

Do you have any interdisciplinary graduate programs?

I am from outside the United States, how do I find out about what I need to do to come to Virginia Tech?


How long does it take to get a graduate degree in Horticulture?

Students typically complete Master’s degrees in two or sometimes three years. Ph.D. students should expect to spend three years at a minimum to complete their degree. The “direct-to-PhD” option is also available for students with advanced education or research experience (for example, significant undergraduate research experience and excellent academic credentials). These students enroll directly in the Ph.D. program without having completed a Master’s. Under this system, students should expect to spend 4 to 5 years to complete their Ph.D.

How do I get financial assistance to attend graduate school?

The majority of M.S. and Ph.D. students in horticulture are funded by stipends provided by faculty grants. In addition, teaching assistantships are sometimes available. Students with outstanding academic qualifications may also be eligible for University fellowships. Blacksburg is a highly desirable place to live with a relatively low cost of living, making your stipend more valuable. When you submit your graduate application, you are automatically considered for funding.

Students may also seek their own funding through fellowships, nonprofit organizations, or competitive grants programs such as the EPA’s STAR Fellowship, the WPI, or NSF. For more information on seeking independent funding visit the Graduate School.

Can I get a graduate degree online?

Yes, but the only completely online degree for graduate studies is the Master’s of Agricultural and Life Sciences degree. Horticulture faculty are available to serve as advisors for students in this terminal professional degree program.  Even on-campus students have opportunities to take online classes to add flexibility to their degree programs.

What’s the difference between a M.S. degree and the online Master’s of Agriculture?

The M.S. and Ph.D. degrees are research degrees where students perform original research to advance the body of knowledge in their area of study. The MALS degree is a professional degree designed to offer students advanced and specialized study to further their professional careers. This degree does not necessarily train students to conduct original research, but may give students broader opportunities for coursework and professional development. Students who expect to eventually pursue a Ph.D. should enroll in the Master’s of Science program instead.

If I don’t want to be a researcher is graduate school right for me?

Just because you don’t want to be a researcher doesn’t mean graduate school isn’t right for you. Graduate school requires intellectual curiosity and self motivation. Graduate students get the most out of their studies when they have the drive to understand how things work, the “why” of professional practice. By conducting original research, graduate students gain insight to the fundamental foundations of horticultural science. This in-depth understanding creates a basis for a life time of professional decisions.

Do I have to have an advisor before I apply to graduate school?

No. You can apply directly to the graduate school and declare you would like to study in the Horticulture Department. Your application will be considered just like any other. However, it is almost always in your best interests to contact the graduate coordinator before submission. The very nature of research is that it is constantly changing and moving forward. Calling us is the best way to learn about the opportunities that might be right for you.

Can I study with an off-campus advisor?

Yes. Horticulture has faculty located at several of the Agriculture Research & Extension Centers around the state. Students working with these faculty generally spend a year or two on campus in Blacksburg taking classes during the academic year and then summers and the remainder of their graduate studies at the facility where their advisor is located. This allows students to meet residency requirements, enjoy student life in Blacksburg, take classes, AND enjoy research work at their off-campus research facility.

Is there a deadline for applying to graduate school?

You can apply any time. However you should generally plan to apply 8-12 months before you plan to start to improve your chances of finding financial assistance.

Do you have any interdisciplinary graduate programs?

Horticulture participates in several interdisciplinary centers and graduate programs such as  the Molecular Plant Sciences Ph.D. program. However, remember that each graduate program is tailored for a specific student. Students choose graduate committee members from both inside and outside the department—whatever expertise will best advance their thesis or dissertation. Faculty have close relationships with Crop & Soil Environmental Sciences, Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation, Biology, Plant Pathology & Weed Science, Civil Engineering, Landscape Architecture, Virginia Bioinformatics Institute, Biological Systems Engineering, Food Science & Technology, and many other departments and centers. Opportunities for interdisciplinary work are a part of graduate life.

I am from outside the United States, how do I find out about what I need to do to come to Virginia Tech?

Virginia Tech has large numbers of graduate students from around the world, so you will not be alone. We have excellent resources to help you learn what is required and find your way. The advocacy organization for international students is the Cranwell International Center. Staff at the Cranwell Center can help you navigate confusing regulations and advocate for you in all areas, including bringing your family to Blacksburg. They have a 24-hour emergency service so you will always have a contact in Blacksburg. The Graduate School also has information tailored for international students. If English is not your first language, you MUST take the TOEFL exam and meet minimum score required for admission as established by the Graduate School.

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