Plant Sciences


| Share


12 Durum headsPlant Sciences M.S. to Ph.D. Program

Credit Requirements for all Ph.D. students: 90 credits minimum (including 30 from earned M.S. degree)

30 credits 798-899 Master's/Doctoral Research

60 credits 600-800 level courses, of which 30 must be didactic courses (numbered 601-689, 691; 700-789, 791; 800-899 and 891) 15 of those must be 700-800 level didactic courses, and must include:

  • 3 credits of PLSC 724: Field Design I or equivalent (grade of B or better required),
  • 2 credits of PLSC 790: Seminar beyond M.S. degree
  • 2 credits of PLSC 892: Doctoral Teaching Experience

Core Course Requirements for Ph.D. students in plant breeding and genetics:

  • 3 credits of PLSC 611: Genomics
  • 3 credits of PLSC 631: Intermediate Genetics
  • 3 credits of PLSC 718: Genetics and Plant Improvement

Ph.D. Program of Emphasis: Plant Breeding and Genetics:

Student requesting the Plant Breeding and Genetics (PBG) Program of Emphasis (POE) be included on their transcript will list "Plant Breeding and Genetics" in the "option" spaced on the Plan of Study along with the credit requirements and core courses above and those courses listed below:

  • 3 credits of PLSC 731: Plant Molecular Genetics
  • 3 credits of PLSC 751: Advanced Genetics
  • 4 credits of PLSC 776: Advanced Plant Breeding
  • 4 credits of PLSC 782: Population and Quantitative Genetics

These courses require a minimum grade of B or better.

Only 30 (semester) credits (20 coursework and 10 thesis) earned for a M.S. degree from another institution will be accepted by the Graduate School toward the Ph.D. degree at NDSU.

All graduate credits listed on a NDSU M.S. degree Plan of Study apply toward the Master's Degree only. Sixty additional credits must be earned from NDSU of which only 20 may be PLSC 899. Refer to the NDSU Graduate Bulletin for additional information concerning the general requirements for obtaining a Ph.D. degree.

Full-time graduate students should complete the Ph.D. within approximately three years beyond the M.S. degree. If not completed, including approved dissertation, the student and major advisor will provide the Department Head a realistic and attainable date for completion. The Graduate Research Assistantship and tuition waiver may be terminated if the student does not complete the degree as scheduled.

Part-time graduate students must make steady progress and complete the degree within the time limitation of the Graduate School (ten consecutive years).

More information on time limitations and enrollment requirements can be found in the Graduate School Bulletin.


Plant Sciences B.S. to Ph.D. Program

Admission requirements:

In special circumstances, a student with a B.S. degree may be accepted into the Ph.D. program if the student meets the requirements below:

  1. B.S degree with an overall cumulative GPA of 3.00 or better, and a cumulative GPA of 3.25 (B or better) for the discipline courses.
  2. A Graduate Record Examination composite score (Verbal Reasoning/Quantitative Reasoning) of 1200 or better and Analytical Reasoning of 4 or better.

General B.S. to Ph.D. program requirements:

  1. The requirements for courses, including seminars, and total credits will be the same as for all departmental Ph.D. candidates, as are limits for total credits per semester.
  2. The candidate must maintain a cumulative GPA of 3.25 or better.
  3. The Ph.D. written and oral preliminary exams are the same as for all departmental Ph.D. candidates.
  4. An additional requirement is that the candidate must submit a manuscript to a refereed scientific journal no later than the end of the fifth semester of the graduate program. The journal choice must be accepted by the student's graduate supervisory committee. The student must successfully defend the manuscript before their graduate committee before submission to the journal. The review by the graduate committee will serve as the departmental review. This manuscript will be one chapter of the final Ph.D. thesis. "Semester" for purposes of this requirement means the fall and spring semesters and does not include summer sessions.
  5. Students who do not maintain the above requirements may be considered as candidates for the M.S. degree, but they must fulfill all requirements for the M.S. program.



Following the student's acceptance by the Dean of the Graduate School, the graduate student and the Department Head will select a major advisor who will be responsible for directing the student's program of study and thesis research. Selection of the major advisor will be made on the basis of the student's interest, the availability of faculty members with a similar interest, and a desire of the student and advisor to work together on a program which will enable the student to attain the desired degree. If a Graduate Research Assistantship (GRA) is assigned to a specific research project, the project leader will be the major advisor of the student. The student and major advisor will select the research study. Selection will be on the basis of the student's interest and the research interests and needs of the major advisor.



A Plan of Study, which lists the courses to be taken by the student during his or her graduate studies, will be prepared by the student with guidance from his or her advisor. The Plan of Study must be submitted to the Department Head prior to the end of the second semester of residence. The Plan of Study lists required and selected academic courses, credits, grades attained in courses already completed, credits for thesis and research, and members of the student’s supervisory committee. Forms are available online at

A student requesting and obtaining significant statistical consultation from a Plant Sciences (PLSC) faculty member should register for 1-2 credits of PLSC 793 with the consultant, as recommended by the consultant and major advisor.

The Plan of Study form contains a provision for transfer of graduate credits earned at another institution. Quarter credits are converted (x 0.67) to semester credits. Thesis credits will be evaluated carefully. See the NDSU Graduate Bulletin for limited credit for special topics.

After the Plan of Study is prepared by you and your advisor, submit one copy to the PLSC Graduate Program Administrator for the Department Head's approval. After the Department Head and the Plant Sciences Graduate Studies Committee accept your Plan of Study and selection of committee members, obtain the necessary approval signatures of your committee members and return it to the PLSC Graduate Program Administrator.

The PLSC Graduate Program Administrator forwards the Plan of Study to the Graduate School Dean via the Academic Dean. If both Deans approve and sign, your program of study is completed. Signed copies are sent to the student, major advisor, and the Department Head. The Graduate School Dean appoints the final member to your thesis committee. A particular professor may be suggested as the Graduate Appointee by you via the Department Head.

If you should need to change your Plan of Study for any reason, a Request for Change must be submitted to the Graduate School. Forms are available online at



During the preparation of a tentative plan of study with your major advisor, discuss the selection of members to serve on your graduate committee. Your committee will help and assist you with the completion of your degree.

The supervisory committee must have a minimum of four members, including the major advisor, a second member who is a full or associate member of the graduate faculty, a third who is a member of the graduate faculty or a qualified off-campus expert approved by the Dean of the Graduate School, and a fourth (appointed by the Dean of the Graduate School) who is a full member of the graduate faculty outside of the student’s program (suggestions as to whom the appointee might be are welcomed by the Dean).



GRAs should not register for more than 10 credits/semester (including 798-899) without permission of the Academic Dean. This restriction may be interpreted as not more than 20 credits in a 2 semester period because of a need to take courses in sequence, offering of some courses in alternate years only, etc.



The following is a list of courses offered by the Plant Sciences Department. Many related courses offered by other departments may be taken toward your degree. You can find a listing of these related courses at Your final program of study will be determined by you, your advisor, and your committe

PLSCCourse TitleCredits/Semester
631 Intermediate Genetics 3   Fall
633 Weed Biology and Ecology 2   Fall (even yr)
653 Advanced Weed Science 2   Fall
655 Cropping systems: An Integrated Approach 3   Spring
665 Advanced Landscape Plants 2   Fall (even yr)
680 Advanced Turfgrass Topics 3   Spr (even yr)
684 Plant Tissue Culture and Micropropagation 2   Fall
685 Arboriculture Science 3   Spr (even yr)
686 Eco-Physiology of Horticultural Crops 2   Fall (even yr)
710 Professional Development I 1   Fall
711 Professional Development II 1   Spring
718 Genetics and Plant Improvement 3   Fall
721 Genomics Techniques 2   Spring
724 Field Design I 3   Fall
727 Crop Breeding Techniques 1   Sum (odd yr)
731 Plant Molecular Genetics 3   Spr (even yr)
734 Field Design II 2   Spr (odd yr)
741 Cytogenetics 4   Fall (even yr)
751 Advanced Plant Genetics 3   Spr (odd yr)
753 Action and Fate of Herbicides 2   Spr (even yr)
755 Advanced Crop Management Decision Making 3   Fall (even yr)
763 Laboratory Methods - Weed Science 2   Spr (odd yr)
776 Advanced Plant Breeding 4   Spr (odd yr)
780 Population Genetics 2   Fall  (odd yr)
781 Quantitative Genetics 2   Spr (even yr)
785 Crop Breeding Programs Management 2   Spr (even yr)
790 Graduate Seminar 1-2
793 Individual Study Variable
792 Master's Teaching Experience 1
696, 796 Special Topics Variable
797 Master’s Paper 1-3
798 Master’s Thesis Variable
892 Doctoral Teaching Experience 1
899 Doctoral Dissertation Variable



Graduate students in the Ph.D. program must present two PLSC 790 seminars (total of two credits). The third and final seminar for Ph.D. candidates is part of the required 899 credits, discusses the dissertation research, and is presented after completion of the final exam. Graduate students are required to attend and evaluate all seminars, whether registered or not. The graduate student also is welcome to attend and participate in PLSC 498, undergraduate seminar.

The seminar is the responsibility of the student, but the seminar coordinator and the student's assigned topic advisor will be very helpful. Please refer to the PLSC 790 syllabus and guidelines for the specific requirements and policies.



The Department of Plant Sciences provides teaching opportunities for several graduate students each semester. Ph.D. students are required to complete 2 credits (different course for each credit) of Doctoral Teaching Experience, PLSC 892 (letter grade). Details of this required teaching experience can be found in the Teaching Requirement for Ph.D. Students section of the PLSC Graduate Student Handbook.



Ten credits of Master's Thesis (PLSC 798) are required for a M.S. and an additional 20 credits of Doctoral Dissertation (PLSC 899) are required for a Ph.D. The initial credits for 899 should deal with dissertation planning, related literature review, preparation of the research proposal, and plan of study. The later credits should deal with dissertation research progress and dissertation writing and completion. An incomplete or unsatisfactory grade may be given if satisfactory progress is not made and deadlines are not met. The final seminar is also completed as part of the PLSC 899 credits.



Each graduate student will be required to prepare a proposal of the research which the graduate student and his/her major advisor have discussed in detail. All students will use the same format for this proposal and that format is presented in PLSC 710, Professional Development I. If you are not required to enroll in this course or if you do not take the course during your first or second semester, please see the instructor for the proposal format.

No later than during your second semester, a Request to Schedule Research Proposal Meeting form should be completed and submitted to the PLSC Graduate Program Administrator. Following the research proposal meeting with the supervisory committee, the Report of Research Proposal Meeting form should be completed and submitted to the PLSC Graduate Program Administrator. (Both forms are available at Once the research proposal is approved by your supervisory committee members, submit one copy to the PLSC Graduate Program Administrator. Periodic meetings with your graduate committee will help keep your committee aware of progress and changes in your plan of study and/or dissertation research; this will help avoid problems later.



Students on a one-half time GRA position in Plant Sciences are expected to be on campus every working day except those on approved annual leave, holidays, or weekends. Although participation in the project of the major advisor is often full time in June, July, and August, and less during the academic year, variations are common. The participation time may vary among projects, or among students within a project, depending on the size and complexity of dissertation or other factors. Graduate students not on a GRA also are expected to participate extensively in project activities unrelated to their dissertation.



Academic Standards in Plant Sciences

  1. The NDSU Graduate School requires each student to maintain a 3.0 (A=4) accumulated grade point average to remain in good standing. The Department of Plant Sciences has the same standards.
  2. If the academic average of the graduate student falls below 3.0, they are placed on academic WARNING and the major advisor and the student's advisory committee should evaluate the situation and make suggestions or take appropriate action. The student should improve the GPA to 3.0 or better in the next semester of course work or they are placed on academic PROBATION. A student on academic PROBATION is not eligible for a graduate assistantship or tuition waiver. A third semester of academic deficiency will result in termination of graduate candidacy.
  3. A grade of B or better is required in PLSC 724: Field Design.
  4. Students on the B.S. to Ph.D. track who do not maintain a cumulative GPA of 3.25 or better may be considered as candidates for the M.S. degree, but they must fulfill all requirements for the M.S. program.

The assistantship or fellowship may be terminated earlier than the graduate candidacy. Assistantships may be terminated for lack of adequate progress in dissertation and research, or non-participation in project activities.



The preliminary examination consists of both a written exam and an oral exam.

THE WRITTEN EXAMINATION will be given approximately April 15-16 and October 15-16. If either of the two test days are on a weekend, the chair will designate days near these. Details of the written examination can be found in the Process for Written Preliminary Exams and Student Guidelines for Written Preliminary Exams sections of the PLSC Graduate Student Handbook. Brief information follows:

  1. A Ph.D. student must take the written preliminary exam by the offering following the semester that 2/3 of Ph.D. didactic course credits (excluding Master's degree credits) are completed. Exceptions to this time-line will be considered by the Graduate Studies committee when provided with written justification signed by the student and student’s advisor.
  2. A student will be given five questions at 8:00 a.m. the first day. These would be collected at 5:00 p.m. the end of the first day. A student will be given five questions at 8:00 a.m. the second day. These will be collected at 5:00 p.m. the second day.
  3. A student who passes a minimum of eight questions over the two days has passed the exam. If a student fails a written preliminary exam, the student can take a second written examination at the next scheduled examination date.

THE ORAL EXAMINATION is scheduled through the Graduate School by the student’s advisor soon after the student has passed the written examination. The oral examination also covers course work taken at NDSU and elsewhere, as well as basic principles of plant sciences. The examination is scheduled for approximately three hours. The examining committee consists of the candidate's Advisory Committee, but the Dean of Agriculture, the Chair of Crop and Weed Sciences, and any member of the Graduate faculty may be in attendance. Copies of the student’s written preliminary exam answers and program of study will be provided to the Supervisory Committee prior to the oral preliminary examination. If you fail the oral examination, a second one may not be rescheduled for at least one month. The Department Head often participates in second oral examinations. If the second oral examination is failed, the student is dismissed from graduate school.



Candidates for the Ph.D. degree will prepare a dissertation approved by the major advisor and Department Head, and acceptable to the oral examining committee. Style should follow guidelines of the appropriate national organization.

Students should refer to the NDSU Graduate School's "Guidelines for the Preparation of Disquisitions" prior to preparing their dissertation, which is available online at To avoid problems with style and general dissertation format, make sure all Graduate School requirements are met. A dissertation is a document including the results of research or advanced scholarship which is submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the master’s and doctoral degrees, respectively. The dissertation copy submitted to the candidate's advisory committee is subject to changes required by the advisory committee. After the required changes are made, the dissertation should be signed by the major advisor and Department Head, and one copy submitted to the Graduate School. Students should be aware that the process of getting the dissertation approved by the Graduate School may be time consuming.

The student and major advisor usually will be senior and junior author, respectively. A paper may be written by the major advisor upon failure of the graduate student to submit a paper. Acknowledgment should be given for major aid or counsel on research or analysis of data, provision of facilities, and financial assistance.



A final examination is required.  The final exam is oral and lasts approximately two to three hours. Questions are based on course work and your research project.  Forms needed for the final exam can be obtained online at

The final examination process is as follows:

  1. The student must prepare the “Request to Schedule Examination” form and submit it to the PLSC Graduate Program Administrator, who will submit it to the Graduate School.  This must be done at least two weeks before the exam date.
  2. The thesis must be in the hands of the Supervisory Committee at least seven days before the final examination.
  3. The student must prepare the “Report of Final Examination” form and take it to the exam to obtain signatures from committee members.
  4. A copy of the signed “Report of Final Examination” form and “IRB/IACUC/IBC Compliance Notification” form must be submitted to the PLSC Graduate Program Administrator, and then the forms must be taken by the student to the Graduate School within seven days after the examination is completed.
  5. To participate in commencement, the student must have passed the final examination seven days prior to the commencement ceremony and all course work must be completed.

Below is a list of suggestions which may help you prepare for the examinations.

  • Questions are not always clear, so be sure you understand the question and its intent. Request restatement or clarification if in doubt. The student may consult the person asking the question.
  • If you know the answer, think a moment to formulate a good beginning, then answer as briefly and accurately as possible.
  • Indicate that you cannot answer a question if you cannot, but of course "I don't know" cannot be your answer to many questions!
  • Know the plants with which you worked, including something of their morphology, taxonomy and close relatives, life history, etc.
  • Know basic procedures. • Know the chemicals used in your research and how they reacted.
  • Know the design details of your experiment and reasons for choosing that design.
  • Know about the calculation and interpretation of your data, and the aspects of any conflicting data.
  • Know something about agriculture in North Dakota, the United States, and the world.
  • Know equipment and instruments you need -- and possible substitutes.
  • Think about and know some applications of results of your dissertation and other research.
  • In your answers, do not use words or concepts you do not understand, or could not discuss in some detail.
  • Avoid adding uncertain or incorrect statements to an already correct answer to a question.
  • If you are sure of a correct answer or viewpoint, defend it calmly and logically.
  • Knowledge of both details and overarching principles are important -- know as much of each as possible.
  • Be broader than just your special interest – you are being examined for a Ph.D. in Plant Sciences.



After the final exam, each student will be emailed a Graduate Student Checkout List. This form lays out the steps for fulfilling department degree requirements, including: Resigning your position as a GRA, Exit Seminar, Exit Meeting, and Exit Photo scheduling; completion of survey and forwarding address information; and check-in of work space, computing equipment, and NDSU keys.

After all steps are completed, the form may be signed by any member of the Academic Support Staff and the exiting student. The form will be filed in the student’s Department of Plant Sciences student file.

Creative Commons License
Feel free to use and share this content, but please do so under the conditions of our Creative Commons license and our Rules for Use. Thanks.