Online Agriculture Schools and Colleges: How to Choose

Numerous universities and colleges offer online agriculture programs to accommodate working professionals or those seeking a career change. With certificate, bachelor's degree and master's degree programs available, students can utilize online discussion forums, chat rooms and interactive television to learn.

Because online agriculture certificates and degrees are offered at a variety of levels, students will want to do their research before jumping into a program to make sure the curriculum will help them accomplish their goals. They should also check to see if it's offered in a format that is possible for them to complete, whether that is entirely or partially online.

How to Select an Online Agricultural School

Students interested in a degree or certificate in the agricultural sciences might want to evaluate each school's offerings before choosing a program. How much time are you willing to devote to your education, and what type of credential are you trying to earn? Programs ranging from a certificate to a master's degree exist and offer fully or partially-online formats. Internships may exist that the student has to weigh as well.

Award Level

When students are selecting an online agriculture school, it is important to consider the credential level desired. Online agriculture certificate programs can be completed in as little as one semester but generally take at least one year to finish. Distance learning agriculture bachelor's degree programs can take four years to complete, and students must obtain at least 120 credit hours, including general education courses. Online agriculture master's degree programs typically take 1-2 years to complete, with students earning around 36 credit hours.

Program Delivery

Before enrolling in an online agriculture program, students will want to know if the program offered is fully or partially online, since some agriculture programs may require students to partake in internships. These internships are approved on a school-by-school basis, with students expected to complete a specific number of hours at the business location. A written paper about the internship experience may also be necessary.

List of Online Agriculture Programs

Online Certificate of Completion in Organic Agriculture

An online certificate program in organic agriculture teaches students about agriculture and food systems. Students can participate in coursework on their own time and communicate with other classmates through online discussion forums, chat rooms or message boards. Internet access and multimedia software are required, and lectures and videos may be presented through a course management system. Courses cover areas such as:

  • Organic gardening and farming
  • Nutritional science
  • Fundamentals of micro- and macro-economics
  • Soil fertility

Online Bachelor of Science in Organic Agriculture

A distance learning bachelor's degree program in organic agriculture focuses on natural crop and soil science as well as agriculture business management, also called agribusiness. Students may need to meet prerequisites, such as specific biology classes and labs, before enrolling in the online program. Courses are offered through interactive television, videos, learning modules or independent study. Online agriculture classes include:

  • Sustainable food systems
  • Plant breeding
  • Agroecology
  • Soil as a living system
  • Organic gardening and farming

Online Master of Agriculture

An online master's degree program in agriculture can focus on a specific area within the field, such as education, horticulture, poultry science, agronomy or integrated resource management. Courses are presented through program-based websites or course management systems such as Blackboard. A thesis is usually not required, but a professional paper or an internship with a local agency may be part of the program. Students learn about:

  • Integrated decision making
  • Animal resource management
  • Integrated forage management
  • Products to profit
  • Animal production systems

Schools with Online Programs in Agriculture

Washington State University offers an online undergraduate certificate in organic agriculture, which is made up of five required courses, a professional internship experience and an elective course for a total of 18 credits. Students must maintain at least a 2.0 GPA to successfully complete the program.

The University of Massachusetts Amherst also offers an online sustainable food and farming certificate at the undergraduate level that is designed for professionals who want to change careers or students not yet ready to enroll in a full-time program. This certificate requires 15 hours for completion and students can choose from over 20 course options.

At the bachelor's level, students may be interested in pursuing an online B.S. in Agricultural Sciences from Oregon State University. Students in this program can customize their degree depending on their interests by enrolling in specific courses; they also have the option of selecting an online minor.

Colorado State University also offers an online B.S. in Agricultural Business, which prepares students to run and manage their own businesses by combining agricultural focused courses with standard business ones. This is a degree-completion program, and prospective students must meet minimum credit hour requirements before being admitted.

For prospective graduate students, Colorado State also offers an online Master of Agriculture (M.Agr.) in Agricultural Sciences with an integrated resource management specialization. This program prepares students for careers managing animal production and rangelands. The curriculum includes an internship requirement in addition to 30 credits of online coursework.

Programs in agriculture are available online at the certificate, bachelor's degree and master's degree levels. Students should consider what level of education they wish to obtain, the format of the program and whether it is available entirely online before selecting a program.

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