Degree Requirements

The Plant and Environmental Sciences Graduate Program Graduate Student Handbook contains policies toward academic performance, assistantship obligations, research plans and records, and professional development.

View and download the PES Graduate Student Handbook (74K pdf) >>

Doctor of Philosophy

The completion of 18 credit hours of research is required. Comprehensive written and oral examinations are administered when most of the course work has been completed. Successful comprehensive examination allows student’s admission to candidacy for the PHD degree. PHD students should demonstrate leadership and creativity when conducting research that culminates in submission of a dissertation. The final examination is primarily a defense of the dissertation. The candidate is judged based on his/her knowledge in academic area of specialization, quality of research, interpretations and conclusions reached in the dissertation.

Master of Science

Thesis Option: Students must complete 24 credit hours of course work. At least one-half of the student’s courses, as listed on the GS-2 form, must be at the 800 level. A minimum of six credit hours of research is required. The student must present and defend a thesis based on original research.

Non-thesis option: Thirty credit hours of course work are required. Students who plan careers in public gardening, landscape design, extension, consulting or agri-business must undertake a professional development/public service project in lieu of thesis-related research. Studies in plant health and integrated pest management are also available under this option.


Course work

A plan of course work is tailored individually to augment the student’s professional goals and enhance the breadth of knowledge related to the research program. The course plan is guided and approved by the student’s advisory committee. Courses applicable to the PES degree programs are listed in the Clemson University Graduate School Announcements. These courses are offered by several departments, including Biological Sciences, Entomology, Soils and Plant Sciences and Horticulture, the Departments of Chemistry, Experimental Statistics, Genetics and Biochemistry, and various other departments on campus.

It is recommended that a GS-2 Form (a plan of course work) be approved during the first semester of an MS student’s program and before the end of the second semester of a PHD student’s program. Students must earn a minimum course grade of B (3.0) on all courses listed on their GS-2 form, except research credits which are graded as Pass/Fail. University Graduate School policy requires that a grade point average of 3.0 must be maintained in all graduate work. Grades of 'D' or 'F' preclude a student from completing degree requirements, that is, no degree is granted. Students who accumulate a grade point average below 3.0 are placed on probation and may be terminated from the program if improvement of a grade point average to a 3.0 does not occur in the following regular semester.

PESstudents are required to enroll in two semesters of a seminar course. Students may sign up for PES 825, or, with the help of their advisors, choose another departmental seminar course that fits their program and schedule needs.  All graduate students are required to present two seminars during their degree program.


A student's research project is developed and organized with the help of their major advisor and input from their graduate advisory committee. Areas of specialization are allied with those of the major professor. Research projects concentrate on timely issues in basic and applied plant and environmental sciences, and show strong connectedness with public interest to sustain, improve and wisely use biological resources. PES students have won awards for research and teaching in national and international competitions, and are successful in academia and professional assignments in public and private horticultural and agricultural industries.

For additional information see:

PES Admission Information requirements

Clemson University Graduate School