By earning either a Master of Science or Ph.D. in Plant Pathology, you can become an expert on diseases that affect plants. In these programs, you could study the pathogens that cause diseases in plants as well as what to do to control them. You might also work with breeders to learn how to make plants more resistant to diseases. A master's degree in this field can be either earned on its own or earned in preparation for a Ph.D.
Plant Pathology Graduate Program Admission Requirements
Most plant pathology master's and Ph.D. programs have similar admissions requirements. You will need to have a bachelor's degree or significant coursework in a biological science field; Ph.D. applicants will also need a master's degree. Applicants are often expected to have a strong understanding of chemistry and biology and have completed courses in areas like biochemistry, organic and molecular biology, microbiology, and statistics. Previous coursework in plant physiology or plant pathology would also be beneficial.
Applicants will also need to submit all official college transcripts, as well as letters of recommendations and a letter of intent that explains why they are interested in pursuing plant pathology. Most programs will require you submit GRE scores as well. International students will need to show that they are proficient in English by taking either an International English Language Testing System (IELTS) exam or the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) exam.
Plant Pathology Master's Degree Program Information
The courses you study during your plant pathology graduate program will ensure you have a deep pool of knowledge relating to plant diseases, you will study the causes of plant diseases and what can be done to fight them. Master's programs in this field can be completed in about two years, and programs may offer both thesis and non-thesis options. Some courses you may encounter in this program include:
General Plant Pathology
General plant pathology courses introduce students to plant diseases: how to classify them, what their symptoms are, what causes them, and how to control them. You may learn the correct terminology to use, as well as how to recognize different types of plant pathogens, such as fungi, bacteria, viruses, oomycete, and nematodes. Finally, you may also study impact plant diseases have on the environment.
In virology courses, you can study viruses common in plants. You could learn how to classify viruses, and see how viruses interact with hosts. You might also study vector-virus relationships and viruses common to specific plant populations.
These courses involved the study of fungi and mycology. You could learn about how to classify different types of fungi and fungi-like organisms, as well as study their lifestyles and reproductive cycles. Often in these courses, you could be studying how fungi act as pathogens for plants.
Plant Pathology Ph.D. Degree Program Information
Ph.D.-level plant pathology programs are typically research intensive and require students to complete a doctoral thesis before graduating. Students may specialize in a specific area of plant pathology (such as environmental plant pathology, fungal and oomycete biology, or plant disease epidemiology) while also increasing their understanding of all aspects of plant science. Common courses in these doctoral programs include:
Field Plant Pathology
In this type of course, you can learn about plant diseases, similar to general plant pathology courses. However, in this advanced course, you might have the chance to go out into the field to get first-hand experience and study field techniques. You might be able to observe how farms grow plants and deal with diseases, and speak with people involved in managing plant pathogens.
Plant Disease Epidemiology
In these courses, you will study plant disease epidemics. These advanced courses cover the impacts such epidemics have on our food supply as well as the environmental factors that cause plant disease epidemics and how to manage them. You may also see how to use mathematical models to predict epidemics.
Over the course of your plant pathology graduate program, you will study many different topics to better understand plant diseases. With that information, you could be equipped to help our agricultural system resist pathogens and help our crops remain healthy and plentiful.