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Master of Horticultural Science (MHS) Online

The Master of Horticultural Science (MHS) degree is a non-thesis program designed to provide students with an in-depth understanding of horticulture science and practices. Extending beyond the study of fruits, vegetables, nursery and floriculture crops, this degree encompasses a broad range of cross-commodity areas such as plant breeding, weed science, urban horticulture, sustainable agriculture, postharvest physiology and landscape design. Individuals in many different career paths may benefit from earning their MHS, including: extension agents, community college instructors, industry personnel looking to change jobs or receive advanced training, master gardeners, or other individuals looking for a more in-depth experience in horticulture science. As a non-thesis program, the MHS degree substitutes additional coursework in lieu of the research and thesis required by other programs. Students work with a graduate committee to determine a plan of coursework, which provides additional flexibility and allows students to tailor their degree to their area of interest. This degree is ideal for individuals who do not plan on pursuing a PhD. The coursework required to complete the Master of Horticultural Science degree is blended, meaning students will learn both online and in on-campus environments. Currently, approximately 50% of courses are offered online; in the future, the goal is to offer 100% of our courses online.


To be admitted to the MHS program, you must have an undergraduate degree from an accredited institution. Those interested in the MHS program should ensure they meet the following qualifications:

  • Background courses (calculus, physics, general chemistry, organic chemistry)
  • Biology courses (botany, plant pathology, entomology, soils, genetics, biochemistry, plant physiology)
  • Horticulture Science or Landscape Horticulture courses (in your area of interest)
  • GPA of 3.0 or better
  • For those with non-native English, minimum TOEFL scores of:
    • Internet exam: 80 or better
    • Computer exam: 213 or better
    • Paper exam: 550 or better

A GPA of at least 3.00 for both the degree requirements as well as for all graduate course work at NC State is required for graduation. All degree requirements must be completed within six (6) calendar years, beginning with the date the student takes courses carrying graduate credit applicable to the degree program. Students must be continuously enrolled for the duration of their program.


The total Online Master of Horticultural Science cost estimate (North Carolina residents) for 2018-2019 is $16,303.68 for all 36 hours of coursework. Please note that this estimate is based on Online and Distance Education rates; if you take courses on campus in addition to your online coursework, you may be subject to different rates. Visit NC State’s Tuition and Fees page for detailed information about graduate tuition and fees. Financial aid eligibility is determined by the Financial Aid Office. We encourage you to contact your financial aid advisor in the Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid. A limited amount of grant funding is also available to students enrolled in Online and Distance Education degrees. Criteria for funding is based on academic merit, demonstrated financial need, and enrollment in multiple Online and Distance Education courses per semester. For additional information, please visit NC State’s Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid website, or call 919.515.2421. NC State also offers a monthly payment plan. Students pursuing this degree may be eligible for teaching assistantship funding.


The Master of Horticultural Science Degree requires a minimum of 36 credit hours of approved courses. With the help of an advisor, students form a graduate committee and a plan of coursework. Students must complete a comprehensive project, the subject of which will be determined by the student and his or her advisor. Students will also have the opportunity to complete teaching and outreach experiences. At the end of the program, students must pass an oral examination. Course requirements and recommendations are as follows:

  • A minimum of twenty (20) hours must be at the 500-700 level.
  • At least four (4) but no more than six (6) hours of HS 693 (Master’s Supervised Research) are required.
  • Two (2) credits of HS 601 (Seminar Techniques and Technology) are required.
  • Up to twelve (12) hours of 400-level courses can be taken as part of the MHS program; however, only six (6) hours of Horticultural Science 400-level courses are allowed.
  • Students are encouraged, but not required, to fulfill four (4) credits of the Horticultural Science core course requirement (HS701-707, HS 717).
  • Non-thesis Master’s Examination (HS 690) and Non-thesis Master’s Continuous Registration (HS 688 and HS 689) may NOT be used to satisfy credit hour requirements.

Students are allowed, even encouraged, to take courses from departments other than Horticultural Science. Horticulture is one area of a broad range of interconnected fields including soil science, plant biology, crop science, entomology, plant pathology, statistics, agricultural economics, agricultural engineering, and agricultural education. When possible, we encourage MHS Online and Distance Education students to take courses on-campus for one semester, ideally during the Fall semester, when they can take HS 601 along with other incoming graduate students. The on-campus experience enables Online and Distance Education students to get to know their faculty advisors and committee members, interact with other graduate students and faculty in the department, and enhance the overall graduate experience. Students pursuing the Master of Horticultural Science (MHS) degree may choose a minor, but this is not required. The thesis Research credit is not permitted in this program unless approved by an Associate Dean of the Graduate School in cases where the student was initially enrolled in a thesis program but later transferred to a non-thesis program. Students who are enrolled in or have completed the Graduate Certificate in Horticultural Science may wish to count their earned credits toward an MHS degree. To transfer credits from the Certificate program to the Master’s degree, the following conditions must be met:

  • The course number must be at the 500 level or higher
  • The course must be letter graded
  • The student must have earned a B or better in the course

Completing the Master of Horticultural Science (MHS) Online and Distance Education Program When all requirements (except completion of the coursework in the final semester) are satisfied, the Director of Graduate Programs submits to the Graduate School the Request for a Permit to Schedule the Master’s Oral Examination. If Graduate School requirements are met, the request will be approved by the Graduate School within ten working days of receipt of the request. The final examination is then scheduled and conducted, either in-person or via video conferencing programs. After the final examination, the Horticultural Science graduate administrative assistant will submit a final examination report to the Graduate School within five working days of the examination. The deadline date for unconditionally passing the final examination in order for the student to graduate in a given semester or summer session appears in the Graduate School Calendar.

Plan of Work

The Master of Horticultural Science student’s program of study must be reported on the Plan of Graduate Work. This plan must be developed with input from the advisory committee and be submitted to the Director of Graduate Programs’ office for approval and proper transmittal. This must be done before the end of the student’s second semester. The Plan of Graduate Work, once approved, becomes the student’s official requirements for graduation. Any alteration in this program must be documented in writing and receive approval of the Director of Graduate Programs. It is not necessary to file a new plan. Changes, upon official approval, become a part of the Plan of Graduate Work. There is no foreign language requirement in our Department.

Graduate Advisory Committee

The advisory committee is made up of a minimum of three members of the Graduate Faculty, and must be chosen during the Master of Horticultural Science student’s first semester. The student may elect to have a committee composed of more than the minimum number of members. The major professor is always chair of the advisory committee. Students and their major professors share joint responsibility to set up and hold meetings of the student’s advisory committee at least once each year and to report the current status of the candidate to the Director of Graduate Programs’ office on the Student Progress Report. While studying at NC State, the student should consider his or her major professor as the first source for policy information, advisory guidance and access to resources of the Department and University needed to complete all research, teaching and outreach experiences required for graduation. A minor is not required by the Graduate School or the Department, but each student has the option of choosing one if he or she wishes. If a minor is chosen, at least one committee member must represent the minor area. If a minor is not chosen, one committee member must still be chosen from outside the Department. A faculty member from another university or a professional from industry or government (with credentials comparable to those required for membership on the Graduate Faculty) may serve as an external member, with full voting rights, along with the required committee composed of members of the NC State Graduate Faculty. It will be necessary to provide credentials to the Graduate School. In addition, a person from industry, a governmental agency, or a university may, upon recommendation of the committee and the Department or program, serve as a technical consultant, without voting rights, along with the required committee composed of members of the NC State Graduate Faculty. A statement describing the consultant’s potential contribution to the student’s research or project should be provided to the Graduate School.

Final Project

The project is a comprehensive project focusing on an area of interest to both the student and the faculty member. The project is not intended to provide basic horticultural training but to provide in-depth experience in a specific area of horticulture. The nature of the project is cooperatively agreed upon by the student and their advisor. Projects vary greatly in the scope and depth.

  • A typical research project might include three components of variable depth, resulting in one research publication, one trade journal publication and one popular press article. Projects must be original work leading to publication in a scholarly journal. On-line resources could be appropriate for one of the publications.
  • A landscape horticulture project might include either a research project or library search summary combined with landscape plans showing the information being incorporated into one or more designs.

Teaching Experience

All Master of Horticultural Science students must participate in the teaching program in the Department of Horticultural Science for one semester during each graduate degree program. This requirement can only be waived for students who are not on an assistantship for any portion of their degree. Students participating in the teaching experience are required to attend the NCSU New Teaching Assistants Orientation offered just prior to the Fall semester. The purpose of this program is to give students a personal experience with teaching and a chance to develop teaching and communication skill. It is important that students have a meaningful assignment equivalent to what is expected of a 1/2 time teaching assistant (10-20 hrs per week). An assignment involving only the grading of tests, taking of attendance, and cleaning up of labs is contrary to the purpose of this experience. These items logically fit into the assignment since they are part of the task of teaching, but more should be involved. A student should have direct teaching experience. This can be carried out exclusively during laboratory sessions or, if the abilities of the student permit, a few lectures may be included in the experience. Foreign students having an English language deficiency great enough to impair successful delivery of a lecture or laboratory will not be placed in such a position. However, such students should have academic input. They can be assigned to assist with grading tests, setting up labs, etc. It should be possible to have a program in which the graduate student develops teaching expertise while not compromising the course content. Teaching assignments are made annually by the Director of Graduate Programs in concert with the Undergraduate Teaching Coordinator. Teaching assignments are typically made up at the end of the Spring semester or the beginning of the summer for the subsequent academic year. Prior to assignments being made, current students will be asked to provide a list of courses that they would like to assist in if possible. The Director of Graduate Programs cannot guarantee that such assignments will be made but will try to match as many students with their desired courses as possible. New graduate students are typically not asked to serve as a teaching assistant their first semester but may be asked to assist in their second semester.

Outreach/Extension Experience

In addition to courses and the final project, students are required to complete two Outreach Experiences. These experiences, in combination with informal activities, are intended to broaden the knowledge and range of learning opportunities for each student. An outreach experience has the same educational value to a graduate student as teaching and research experiences. It gives the student exposure to another area of potential employment and an opportunity to assess this type of work. It also adds to the student’s expertise in Horticulture. Equally important is the empathy gained for the industry and public we serve. Each Master of Horticultural Science student must participate in the outreach experience during their graduate degree program. Students must participate in two of the three general categories listed below. The student may undertake an extension activity not described herein subject to approval by his or her major advisor and Director of Graduate Programs.

Developing and Communicating Information

  • Present research-generated information in a form and in a medium designed to reach either the general public or industry.
  • Prepare and present a talk on a horticultural topic to an audience of non-scientists. Examples are garden clubs, commodity groups, and extension meetings.
  • Use an alternative or creative medium to deliver information. Examples are web sites, mass media (e.g. television or radio), on-farm or other demonstrations or materials that can be delivered electronically.

Interacting with the Public

  • Assist in developing and conducting a commodity or other meeting designed to attract a large and diverse audience. Assisting only with clerical duties, lights or audiovisuals during a session will not fulfill this requirement.
  • Participate in the planning and execution of a tour. This could involve a facility tour (Arboretum or greenhouse) or it could involve scheduling visits for a group of horticulturists. Tours for international groups are especially encouraged.
  • Travel with an extension specialist on assignment for at least 3 days. The 3 days need not be consecutive.
  • Assist in responding to requests for horticultural information from extension agents.

Public Service

  • Presenting horticultural programs or developing materials for public or private schools — including preschools. This could be through established programs such as the Science and Mathematics Alliance or through contacts made personally by the graduate student, mentor or other faculty.
  • Presenting horticultural programs or developing materials for other educational institutions or groups. Examples are: museums, state historical sites, the NC State Fair, and 4-H.
  • Conducting horticultural programs at institutions where the objective of the activity is therapeutic as well as educational. Examples are: prisons, hospitals, retirement communities, and public housing.
  • Assist in planning or judging in the 4-H program. Contact Liz Driscoll to get involved in this activity.

After completion of the extension experience, the activities conducted by the Master of Horticultural Science student must be briefly described and documented by the student in a memo addressed to the Director of Graduate Programs. Waiver of this experience must be requested at the time the Plan of Graduate Work is submitted and will be approved only for students with extensive backgrounds in extension or other similar outreach programs. Waiver requests submitted near the completion of a student’s degree will not be considered.


Director of Graduate Programs

Dr. Gina Fernandez
Professor and Director of Graduate Programs
John D. and Nell R. Leazar Distinguished Professor
Department of Horticultural Science
260 Kilgore Hall, Campus Box 7609
Raleigh, NC  27695-7609

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