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Field of Study: Plant Pathology


Plant pathology is the study of diseases and the health and defensive systems of plants.



Plant pathology programs include topics such as:

  • Plant anatomy and physiology
  • Plant diseases
  • Plant virology
  • Molecular genetics
  • Disease prevention
  • Impact of sunlight, weather, and nutrition on plants

Community colleges and other 2-year schools offer associate degree programs. An associate degree usually takes two years to complete. After earning an associate degree students can transfer to a college or university for further study.

Very few colleges and universities offer bachelor's degrees in plant pathology. A bachelor's degree usually takes about four years of full-time study.

Several universities offer graduate degrees in plant pathology. A master's degree typically requires two years of study beyond a bachelor's degree. Doctoral (PhD) degree programs usually require two or more years of study beyond the master's degree.


College preparation

You can prepare for this program by taking courses in high school that prepare you for college. This typically includes four years of English, three years of math, three years of social studies, and two years of science. Some colleges also require two years of a second language.

  • Algebra
  • Probability and Statistics
  • Agriculture Science
  • Horticulture
  • Biology
  • Chemistry


Graduate admissions

Admission to graduate programs is competitive. You need a bachelor's degree and good grades. You also need to submit letters of recommendation and a personal statement.

It's helpful to major in plant pathology. A few programs do not require this, especially if you major in a related field such as biology, botany, or horticulture. However, you may have to complete several core courses in plant pathology before you can officially enter the program.

Additional requirements at many schools include:

  • Graduate Record Exam (GRE) General
  • Related work or volunteer experience
  • Sample of related research (published article, abstract, school paper, etc.)

Also, most graduate programs tend to focus on research. Because this program of study can be broad, you may want to point out a particular question about the field that you want to research as a graduate student.


Typical course work

In this undergraduate program, you typically take courses such as the following:

  • Agronomy
  • Bacterial Plant Diseases
  • Biochemistry
  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Clinical Plant Pathology
  • Disease Management of Ornamentals and Turf
  • Environmental Health
  • Forest Tree Disease Management
  • Fungal Plant Pathogens
  • Plant Anatomy
  • Plant Breeding and Cultivation
  • Plant Disease Management
  • Plant Physiology
  • Plant Virology
  • Principles of Plant Pathology
  • Soil Chemistry

Graduate course work tends to vary depending on the program. However, the outline of a typical graduate curriculum looks like the following:

  • Required core courses
  • Elective courses
  • Comprehensive exams
  • Thesis and thesis defense (master's degree only)
  • Dissertation and dissertation defense (doctoral degree only)

In core courses, you typically study similar topics introduced in undergraduate programs but at a much more advanced level. These courses also usually teach you more advanced research methodology such as applied statistics and experimental design.

You choose elective courses based on your specific research interests.

Some master's degree programs give you the option of taking the comprehensive exams or writing a thesis. This generally is not an option in a doctoral degree program. As a graduate student, you typically write the thesis and the dissertation based on both lab- and field-based research.


Things to know

A background in plant pathology prepares you for a wide range of careers. You can specialize in certain kinds of plant diseases, or in the diseases of specific plants. You could work for companies that take care of turfgrass. You could become a research biologist or technician. Or you could work in greenhouses, farms, or government agencies.

After completing this program you may consider taking a national certification exam. The requirements for certification typically include a degree in plant pathology or a closely related field, professional experience, and the completion of continuing education courses.


Similar fields of study

Careers you may qualify for

College Biological Science Teachers
Natural Sciences Managers



American Phytopathological Society

Entomology and Plant Pathology
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Schools that offer program

Click on the school name to see a list of their programs related to this field of study.

University of Minnesota, Twin Cities - Minneapolis, Located in Metro