A new master’s degree option at the University of Arizona is helping working professionals in agriculture further their education even if they are not able to attend on the main campus.

A predominantly online degree program, the Master of Science in agricultural education with a professional agriculture emphasis, will be offered by the UA College of Agriculture and Life Sciences for the first time in the fall.

“We continually get requests from people, especially in the Yuma area, who are working professionals in agriculture or extension who either want to get a master’s degree or they need a master’s degree for their job,” said Ryan Foor, assistant professor and director of graduate studies for the UA's agricultural education department.

Those individuals were steered toward the traditional track program, but for working students who don’t live close to campus that thesis-based degree program was often difficult to complete, Foor said.

Now, students can choose from two options: the traditional research option, which includes the completion a thesis or the professional agriculture option, which provides distance learning options for working professionals and requires them to do a cumulative project instead of a thesis.

Students in the professional agriculture track will complete nine units of required coursework online and can choose their 21 remaining units from courses that best fit with their career ambitions. They will them complete a cumulative project that is meant to more practical and applicable to the work they are doing in their professional lives, Foor said.

“We decided that a Master of Science in agricultural education does not have to be a thesis-based degree. The cumulative project is not a thesis, but it still could be a research project, or it could be an evaluation, or, depending on your job, it could be creating educational units for adults or youth, for example," Foor said.

“Our focus is on people who are working in agriculture who can’t come to Tucson but desire a master’s degree from the UA, as well as our extension agents,” he added.