Conservation Agriculture Specialization

The Conservation Agriculture (CA) specialization is an interdisciplinary-based major available for students pursuing a Master of Applied Science (MAS) degree at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL). The CA specialization is a 30-credit, non-thesis, graduate-level program that is designed to provide flexible, impactful, and uniquely-tailored educational experiences for current and future agricultural professionals.  

The CA specialization aims to help students advance in the workforce and grow on a personal level by improving knowledge of agriculture sciences, food system dynamics, and agroecosystem resilience, as well as developing familiarity with complex societal issues, enhancing critical thinking skills, and formulating tangible solutions to real-world issues affecting food security.

As a college-wide degree program, MAS students have the flexibility to create a personalized program. Students collaborate with a faculty advisor to develop and achieve a program of study that aligns with individual workforce ambitions and personal goals. During the last semester of the MAS program, students will work with their faculty advisor, and a faculty examination committee, to complete a unique degree project that is specifically intended to gain immediate value for students to apply at their workplace or for career advancement.

The CA specialization can be completed 100% online. Core classes to complete the CA specialization are taught online in a well-engaged, but  asynchronous, format. Some of the approved electives for the program are only instructed in-person, on the UNL campus, so select classes are currently only available to residential students. Residential students have the option of choosing to complete the MAS degree online or using a combination of online and on-campus classes. Online availability of each course is listed in the Course Requirements section.

Learning Objectives for the MAS Conservation Agriculture Specialization

  1. Develop a comprehensive understanding of agriculture system dynamics using a blend of scientific, engineering, historical, and social contexts.
  2. Enhance systems-based reasoning and critical thinking skills by enriching scholarly knowledge and functional awareness of modern-day agriculture production concerns.
  3. Demonstrate an in-depth awareness of the environmental influences of agroecosystems, domestic and global food system dynamics, and the socioeconomic, civil, and legal influences on food production and consumption.
  4. Investigate agriculture and landscape management techniques by exploring science-based applications of agroecosystem design that are centered on soil conservation, water management, increased biodiversity, and long-term system resilience.
  5. Design multiscale improvement plans and decision-making frameworks to implement and support integrated conservation strategies within agriculture systems.

Why choose the MAS program?

The Master of Applied Science (MAS) degree program offers:

  • A professional degree in agriculture science and natural resources at the master’s level from a well-known, Big 10 university
  • Flexibility to design an area of study that addresses your individual educational goals and career aims
  • The opportunity to develop and navigate a plan of study in collaboration with advisors that are UNL professorsy
  • Online courses enable you to earn the MAS degree remotely and at a pace that works for you
  • Personized advising from a UNL faculty member aimed at providing student participants with continuous and familiar program support

Admission and Requirements

Student applicants must follow and meet all of the Master of Applied Science (MAS) admission requirements as defined by UNL Office of Graduate Studies. Once accepted into the MAS program, students are required to complete all required and elective coursework, which includes completing an advisor-approved degree project, to be awarded a MAS degree within the Conservation Agriculture (CA) specialization.

Degree Requirements:

  • 30 credit hours required for the MAS degree from UNL
    • 15 credit hours - Fulfilled through required CA specialization coursework
    • 15 credits hours - Fulfilled through elective graduate-level coursework
  • Elective graduate-level coursework may be selected from approved elective courses for the CA specialization, an identified secondary emphasis, and/or through approved graduate-level coursework transferred into the program.
  • MAS program requirements for comprehensive exams and final examination over the Degree Project apply to this specialization.
  • Course Requirements:

    Core Courses (15 credits):

    1. Agroecology (AGRO 835; 3 credits) online section
    2. Conservation Agriculture Systems (AGRI/NRES 930; 3 credits) online section
    3. Resilience Design in Agriculture (AGRI/NRES 945; 3 credits) online section
    4. International Applications of Conservation Agriculture (AGRI/NRES 950; 3 credits) online section
    5. Master of Applied Science Degree Project (AGRI/NRES/AGRI/AGRO 897; 3 credits) online section

    **Substitutions for any coursework must be approved by the student’s advisor and the MAS program director.

    Suggested Elective Courses: (15 credits)

    1. AGEN/BSEN 841: Animal Waste Management
    2. AGRO 825: Cover Crops in Agroecosystems
    3. AGRO 840: Great Plains Ecosystem
    4. AGRO 849: Watershed Management in Grasslands
    5. AGRO 852: Grazing Ecology and Management online section
    6. AGRO 860: Soil Microbial Ecology
    7. AGRO 875: Water Quality Strategy
    8. AGRO 889: Urbanization of Rural Landscapes
    9. BSEN 822: Pollution Prevention: Principles and Practices
    10. BSEN/NRES 868: Wetlands
    11. ENTO 813: Biological Control of Pests
    12. ENTO 837: Integrated Pest Management in Sensitive Environments online section
    13. NRES 810: Landscape Ecology
    14. NRES 813: Environmental Leadership online section
    15. NRES 814: Natural Resource Systems online section
    16. NRES 817: Agroforestry Systems in Sustainable Agriculture
    17. NRES 826: Invasive Plants
    18. NRES 829: Human Dimensions of Natural Resource Management
    19. NRES 832: Human Dimensions of Climate Change online section
    20. NRES 833: Wildlife Management Techniques
    21. NRES 837: Adaptive Natural Resource Management
    22. NRES 838: Grassland Conservation: Planning and Management
    23. NRES 857: Green Space and Urban Forest Management
    24. NRES 862: Conservation Biology
    25. NRES 870: Lake and Reservoir Restoration
    26. NRES 965: Managed Aquatic Systems
    27. SOIL 985: Soil Carbon and Nitrogen Dynamics
    28. GPIDEA: Community and Natural Resource Management online section
    29. GPIDEA: Rangeland Resources Watershed Management online section
    30. *Other graduate-level courses: As approved by student’s advisor and the MAS program director – in alignment with individual students

    For more information or questions contact:

    Primary Contact:

    Departmental Contacts:

    Service you expect from a leading University

    • Access the same student services available to on-campus students
    • An academic adviser will guide you along your journey
    • Career services are available when you are ready to take your next step


    • Combine a number of disciplines to create a unique degree
    • Choose more than 50% of the courses you take as electives
    • Complete coursework during the time of day that works best for you within a select timeframe

    Quality learning experience

    • The University of Nebraska has offered distance education courses for more than 100 years
    • Interact with faculty and students through e-mail, discussion forums and chat groups
    • Direct access to world-class faculty – researchers who are experts in their fields or practitioners with real-world experience

    To be accepted to this program

    1. A bachelor's degree
      Degree should be in the life sciences, education or an undergraduate degree (or higher) in a related area.
    2. Taken the TOEFL or IELTS
      (Only required if English is not your native language)
    3. A written personal statement
      Submit a letter of intent outlining the following: Explain why you want to pursue a Master of Applied Science degree. Elucidate how obtaining this degree will help your personal, career, and/or professional goals. Describe what you are you doing now that relates to this degree. Describe your level of commitment to successful completion of the degree.
    4. 3 letters of recommendation
    5. Official/Unofficial transcripts from all previous schools
    NOTE: If you reside in state(s) KY, please contact a program adviser before applying.

    Application Deadlines

    Rolling admissions. Application review will begin upon receipt of all required application materials.

    Questions? Please Contact

    Matthew Douglass

    Assistant Professor of Practice / Chair, Master of Applied Science Graduate Committee

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