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Horticulture: MPSH


The MPSH program is no longer offered. If you are interested in an MS degree with a water conservation emphasis, please contact Susan Buffler for more information.

The Master of Professional Studies in Horticulture (MPSH) is an online, professional graduate degree program with a required internship or capstone project. The program consists of 33 semester credits, with 21 credits of required courses and 4 credits of internship experience or capstone project. The courses are designed to increase skills and expertise in all aspects of landscape water conservation.

With an estimated 60% of drinking water in the western U.S. applied to urban landscapes, water conservation in the landscape is an important issue. Utah State University is the only university with a professional Master’s degree that focuses on urban landscape water conservation. Using landscape water efficiently is a multi-faceted issue involving an understanding of plant science, irrigation technologies, human behaviors, and landscape design, all set within the political and economic contexts of communities challenged to meet the water demands of growing populations. The purpose of this degree is to provide horticulturists with knowledge and skills needed to effectively promote landscape water conservation. As water becomes more precious, the demand for these skills will continue to increase.

Because USU’s MPSH program with a specialization in water-efficient landscaping is designated as a Western Regional Graduate Program, students from participating western states qualify for in-state tuition. For more information, visit


  • Water-Efficient Landscaping:

The primary goal of the MPSH program is to create highly qualified water conservation specialists for various organizations. Graduates can also pursue a variety of careers, including:

  • Water conservation specialists with water districts, cities, counties or federal agencies
  • Directors or Managers of water conservation gardens
  • Cooperative Extension specialists
  • Water-efficient irrigation designers
  • Specialists in water-efficient landscape design, maintenance, or construction
  • Private sector consultants

Admission Requirements

Applicants are not required to have an undergraduate degree in horticulture or plant science, but they must have taken the following prerequisite courses or equivalents:

  • PSC 2600 Annual and Perennial Plant Materials
  • PSC 2620 Woody Plant Materials: Trees and Shrubs for the Landscape
  • PSC 3300 Residential Landscapes
  • PSC 3400 Arboriculture
  • PSC 3810 Turfgrass Management
  • PSC 3000 Fundamentals of Soil Science

Recommended Prerequisites:

  • PSC 4500 Soil Reclamation

Application Requirements

  • Complete the online application
  • Pay the $55 application fee
  • The GRE is no longer required for admission
  • Have a 3.0 or higher GPA on your last 60 semester or 90 quarter credits
  • Provide transcripts of all college/university credits
  • Provide three contacts for letters of recommendation
  • Complete a short essay on your motivation for entering the program. The essay should be sent to Susan Buffler, and can also be used as the statement of interest required in the USU graduate school application.
  • In addition to your essay, please provide a complete description of your background in horticulture or another related field.
  • Complete a telephone or in-person interview with the faculty of the Center for Water Efficient Landscaping who direct the MPSH-WEL program. This interview is to determine student potential for success within the program

International students have additional admissions requirements.

Admission Deadlines

Applications for graduate programs are accepted year-round. However, it is preferred that students being coursework spring semester so they can complete a semester and then continue with an internship over the summer.

Program Requirements

Each student is required to undertake and complete an internship for a minimum of four months with a water management agency such as municipal water districts, water conservancy districts, state water agencies, or others as approved by the faculty. Students may want to consider increasing the duration of the internship to gain additional experience that can be very helpful in applying for professional positions. Timing of the internship is at the student’s discretion, but cannot be prior to completing a minimum of nine credit hours of required graduate courses.

Each student is also required to complete a significant culminating creative and scholarly effort (as determined by the student's graduate committee) that has application in furthering landscape water conservation. Ideally this project will be an extension of the internship and can include research or development and defense of a product such as a manual, videotape, educational multimedia program, or a conservation policy plan related to water conservation. Whatever project is selected, a written scholarly report and oral presentation are required.

Master's Degree Plan Option(s)

Students receiving the MPSH must complete this plan option:

  • The Plan C option, which does not involve a thesis or a defense meeting and is comprised of coursework only.

Financial Assistance

A variety of funding opportunities are available on the graduate school website.

Joanna Endter-Wada, PhD, University of California – Irvine
Area: Natural resource and environmental policy, interdisciplinary social sciences, water management and planning
Office: BNR 270 A
Phone: (435) 797-2487

Paul Johnson, PhD, University of Minnesota
Professor, Department Head
Area: Turfgrass science
Office: AGRS 344A
Phone: (435) 797-7039

Kelly Kopp, PhD, University of Connecticut
Associate Professor
Area: Water Conservation, turfgrass science
Office: AGRS 334
Phone: (435) 797-6650

Youping Sun, PhD, The University of Maine
Assistant Professor
Area: Landscape Horticulture
Office: AGRS 336
Phone: (435) 797-2972

Professional Organizations, Honor Societies, and Clubs

American Society for Horticultural Science: ASHS supports the science for specialty crops, global solutions for nutritious food sources, and healthy, beautiful environments. ASHS members (researchers, faculty, and other educational personnel, Extension agents, federal and state experiment station representatives, and growers and distributors of horticultural products) continue to make significant advances in these areas, and are well-positioned to lead the rapid evolution of horticultural science through the 21st century.

American Water Works Association: AWWA is the authoritative resource on safe water, with more than 60,000 members worldwide sharing knowledge on water resource development, water and wastewater treatment technology, water storage and distribution, and utility management and operations.

Ecological Society of America: ESA is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization of scientists founded in 1915 to improve communication among ecologists, raise public awareness of the importance of ecology, and influence environmental decision making by enhancing communication between the ecological community and policy makers.

Labs, Centers, Research

Center for Integrated BioSystems: The CIB leads a progressive, interdisciplinary effort in research, core services, and education serving agriculture and life sciences. The CIB is where the first hybrid animal, a mule, was cloned, and was named one of “30 Awesome College Labs” by Popular Science magazine. The CIB has a research program with several active projects in diverse areas of life science that encompass plant, animal, and microbe functional genomics.

Center for Water-Efficient Landscaping: CWEL conducts research on effective irrigation techniques, landscape water demand analysis, low-water use landscaping, and plant water needs. The center’s goal is to promote water conservation and quality through research in amenity landscaping irrigation and sustainability and through outreach education of the green industry and water purveyors.

USDA ARS Poisonous Plant Research Laboratory: The Poisonous Plant Research Laboratory identifies toxic plants, and its interdisciplinary teams of chemists, geneticists, pathologists, physiologists, plant and range scientists, toxicologists and veterinarians provide an interdisciplinary approach of applied and basic research to develop solutions to intoxication.

Utah Agricultural Experiment Station: The UAES is part of a network of researchers and facilities at the nation’s land-grant universities and is committed to improving agriculture and managing natural resources for the people of Utah. At research facilities on the USU campus and throughout the state, UAES supports hundreds of research projects that promote agriculture and human nutrition and enhance the quality of rural life.

Utah Botanical Center: The UBC, located in Kaysville, Utah, is home to research and demonstration projects focused on sustainable living in the Intermountain West. Studies of water conservation, horticulture, water quality enhancement, wetland ecology, integrated pest management, urban forestry, agriculture, fish and wildlife, highway enhancement, and storm-water management combine to make the center a living laboratory.

Utah Center for Water Resources Research: The UCWRR facilitates water research, outreach, design, and testing elements within a university environment that supports student education and citizen training.

Water Initiative: Utah State University supports a broad community of students and faculty engaged in water education, research, and outreach. The USU Water Initiative provides an overarching umbrella for the activities of this community aimed at fostering interdisciplinary collaboration and collegial sharing of ideas related to water across the departments and colleges of USU.

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Academic Advising

Susan Buffler
MPSH Program Advising
Office: AGRS 345A
Phone: (435) 797-5529

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