Sustainable Food Systems Master's Programs

Jan 02, 2019

There are a number of different master's degree programs in sustainable food systems that students may want to consider. We will discuss a few of these programs in greater detail and focus on curriculum and admission requirements.

Master's degree programs in sustainable food systems prepare students for a variety of different careers in fields like environmental science, public health, nutrition, and culinary arts, among other options. These programs are relatively easy to find as traditional on-campus programs around the country. Below, we will explore these programs in greater detail by focusing on common coursework and admission requirements.

Master's Degree Programs in Sustainable Food Systems

Students who enroll in master's degree programs in sustainable food systems can expect to spend around four semesters completing their degree. These degrees are typically offered as Master of Science degrees, though they may also be offered as a specialization or concentration in a Master of the Environment program. Generally, students must complete a core curriculum of required courses and then are able to select elective courses that interest them. In addition to completing coursework, these programs often require students to complete a master's thesis or a project that is relevant to their studies. Below, we will look at five courses that are commonly found in sustainable food systems programs.

Sustainable Food Systems

A course in sustainable food systems is generally offered towards the beginning of the program, as it exposes students to a wide variety of topics and issues in the agricultural, nutritional, and food industries. Students will learn how all of these industries are connected to form a food system and will study how to make systems more sustainable. This course will discuss food systems both on a national and global scale.

Global Food Systems

In this course, students will focus more specifically on different food systems around the world and the various food and nutrition-related challenges that population groups face internationally. Topics that may be discussed in this course include the displacement of communities from their land, greenhouse gases, malnutrition, pollution, and genetically modified crops and food. In addition, the course will highlight various case studies and point out differences in food systems in America versus those around the world.


Students are typically required to take a course in statistics as it relates to the environment and conducting research on food systems and sustainability. In this course, students will learn how to properly analyze and interpret sets of data, which is of key importance in this field. Some topics that this course will likely cover include probability, random variables, statistical power, and correlation.

Community Entrepreneurship and Leadership

Programs in sustainable food systems will often include a course that focuses on how to be an effective leader within a community or organization. Students will discuss the meaning of community and the traits of an effective leader, as well as the steps leaders can take to begin successful programs, start new initiatives in the area of sustainable food, and solve community-specific problems. This course may also focus on traditional business concepts like management and business strategy.

Ethics and Policy in Food

In a course related to food ethics and policy, students will focus on the role that both private and governmental actors play in the food industry. Topics that may be covered in this course include food aid, food safety, the use of biotechnology for food production, and general rights to food. In addition, students will study the actions of organizations and governments from an ethical perspective and discuss how different ethical, social, and political values may affect food policy and law.

General Admission Requirements for Master's Degree Programs in Sustainable Food Systems

To gain admission into a master's degree program in sustainable food systems, students will need to possess a bachelor's degree from an accredited undergraduate institution. Some programs may specify that your undergraduate degree must be in an area related to nutrition, agricultural or environmental science, or food studies, while other programs will consider any degree for admission. It is wise to check with each program to determine if you fit their eligibility standards. When submitting an application, you will need to provide a completed application form, a resume, a personal statement, and transcripts. Most programs require that you also submit GRE results, though this is sometimes optional, and may also require letters of recommendation.

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