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Postgraduate agricultural science: entry requirements explained

James Davis

Careers Commentator
Agricultural science is an exceptionally useful discipline, but applying to these courses can be tricky. Fortunately, we’ve got great insights about getting in.

We’ve written before about the virtues of agricultural science and its myriad specialisations, but the process of applying can be daunting. Fortunately, there are just a few things to keep in mind that will aid in your success.

Let’s use the Master of Science in Agriculture from the University of New England as an example. This is a two year full time course or four years part time that allows students to specialise in all the usual disciplines like agronomy, agriculture, animal science, resource economics and animal genetics. As such, units tend to require prior knowledge in mathematics, science or a related discipline. For this course in particular, there are several methods of entry with this in mind:

  • Applicants must hold an AQF level 7 qualification (in other words, a bachelor’s degree in any discipline),
  • An AQF level 7 qualification in a relevant discipline, or
  • An AQF level 8 qualification (honours degree, graduate certificate or diploma) in a relevant discipline.

From this list, there are two natural questions that arise. First of all, what constitutes a ‘relevant discipline?’ You’ll find that all university sites define what these are fairly well, at the very least providing broad categories. In UNE’s case, there’s a list of examples, although this is by no means the full extent:

  • Agribusiness
  • Agriculture
  • Agricultural economics
  • Animal science
  • Botany
  • Rural science
  • Zoology

If you suspect your field of undergraduate study was relevant, it’s possible to contact the faculty and ask if what you’ve done counts. Failing that, you’re sometimes able to argue your case, provided you specify what exactly you did that would be relevant to postgraduate agricultural science. Talking about things like research projects, written assignments or work experience are great ways to demonstrating this. Furthermore, some courses even allow entry on these grounds purely on the back of work experience with no undergraduate study whatsoever, but this is a more difficult option, as upwards of seven years work experience can be required for these options and similar equivalents.

Second, why bother with the latter two options when you can enter this course through the first method? Well, doing so can achieve two important things:

  1. If entering after coming from a relevant undergraduate discipline, the course duration can be reduced from two years to one. This is called ‘advanced standing.’
  2. If entering after coming from an AQF level 8 qualification, GPA requirements can be circumvented.

The UNE course in question doesn’t require any particular GPA to enter, but many other courses do. Another thing to note about AQF level 8 qualifications, particularly the graduate certificates or diplomas, is their content is often part of their equivalent master’s programs to begin with, which can in-turn be counted toward completion of this degree. In other words, there’s no net loss of time in taking one of these qualifications if you aren’t entirely sure agricultural science is for you and later decide to enter a master’s degree.

With these in mind, there are some important lessons to take away before applying for one of these courses:

  • If you’re not coming from a cognate undergraduate discipline, don’t fret. You can get in via graduate certificates or diplomas.
  • If you’re worried about prior grades, you can still get in.
  • If you’re coming from a cognate undergraduate discipline, your advanced standing will reduce the time it takes to complete the course.

Now you’ve got an idea about what you need, why not learn how you can get funded or browse some of the best agricultural science courses available?