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Graduate Handbook


The department offers two graduate degree programs leading to a (1) Master of Science in Agribusiness and Applied Economics or (2) Master of Science in International Agribusiness. The Department also plays a major role in the interdisciplinary Master of Science program in Natural Resources Management, and contributes to several interdisciplinary programs leading to Ph.D. degrees, including Transportation and Logistics, Food Safety, Environmental and Conservation Sciences, and Natural Resources Management.

M.S. in Agribusiness and Applied Economics

The Master of Science in Agribusiness and Applied Economics encompasses rigorous study in economic theory, research methods, and quantitative techniques. Two plans of study for the Master of Science degree are available, a thesis option and a comprehensive study option. The thesis option requires completion of 30 credits including a six to ten‐credit thesis. The comprehensive study option requires a minimum of 30 semester credits including a two to four‐credit comprehensive study paper in lieu of a thesis. Both require an oral examination. The M.S. in Agribusiness and Applied Economics degree offers students the opportunity to take course work and conduct thesis research in three focus areas: applied economics, agribusiness, and transportation economics.

Applied Economics focuses on economic theory, research methods, and quantitative techniques and is well‐suited for students interested in careers in applied economics research in the private and public sectors, and for students interested in pursuing a Ph.D.

Agribusiness focuses on agribusiness management, economic analysis, and agricultural sciences including biotechnology, processing, and food and environmental safety. A rigorous background in economic theory and research prepares students for a variety of careers in Agribusiness.

Transportation focuses on logistics, transportation economics, transportation engineering, and transportation planning. The departments of Agribusiness and Applied Economics and Civil Engineering, in conjunction with the Upper Great Plains Transportation Institute, offer thesis funding support and coursework for this focus area.

M.S. in International Agribusiness

The Master of Science in International Agribusiness is an applied program in agribusiness with concentration on the international nature of agricultural and food production, consumption, and trade. Because of the applied nature of the program, students complete a master’s comprehensive study paper in lieu of a research thesis.

M.S. in Natural Resources Management

The Master of Science in Natural Resources Management is an interdisciplinary program that prepares students to work on problems that require assimilation of data, methods, and strategies from many supporting disciplines. The interdisciplinary nature of the program also prepares students to be competitive in jobs where problems and issues reach beyond a single discipline or subject area. Students in Natural Resources Management gain breadth in relevant planning, analysis, and management areas, while developing depth in one of three area specialties (social science, biological resource science, or earth resource science). Students within the Agribusiness and Applied Economics Department are required to choose the Social Science option. The natural resources degree can be completed with either a thesis or comprehensive study paper.


1) M.S. in Agribusiness & Applied Economics

Required Courses

  • AGEC 701 - Research Philosophy
  • AGEC 710 - Advanced Econometrics
  • AGEC 739 - Analytical Methods for Applied Economics
  • AGEC 741 - Advanced Microeconomics
  • AGEC 797/798 - Master's Paper or Thesis

All required courses need to be included in the student’s Plan of Study and passed with a grade of “C” or higher. Required courses cannot be waived nor substituted. All courses on the student’s Plan of Study require a grade of “C” or higher.


These elective courses must be approved by the students’ advisor and supervisory committee members, and specified in the student’s approved Program of Study required by the Graduate School.

Applied Economics

  • 600 level AGEC and economics courses
  • 600 and 700 level business electives
  • 700 level agribusiness courses


  • AGEC 711 ‐ Applied Risk Analysis I
  • AGEC 712 - Applied Risk Analysis II
  • AGEC 744 ‐ Agribusiness I: Agricultural Product Marketing and Agribusiness Strategy


  • AGEC 771 ‐ Economics of Transportation Systems
  • GEOG 655 ‐ Geographic Information Systems

2) M.S. in International Agribusiness  Core Courses  

  • AGEC 701 - Research Philosophy
  • AGEC 741 - Advanced Microeconomics
  • AGEC 744 - Agribusiness I: Agricultural Product Marketing and Agribusiness Strategy
  • AGEC 711 ‐ Applied Risk Analysis I
  • AGEC 712 - Applied Risk Analysis II
  • AGEC 797 - Comprehensive Study (Comprehensive Study Option, 2 to 4 credits)

  Minimum of 6 credits from:  

  • ECON 610 ‐ Econometrics
  • ECON 710 ‐ Advanced Econometrics

Or other approved quantitative coursework   * A minimum of 12 credit hours of graduate level course work must be taken in the Department of Agribusiness and Applied Economics at NDSU.   Approved electives   A minimum of 30 credits is necessary to complete the M.S. in International Agribusiness. Credits beyond those required courses listed above may be met through a combination of internship credits, courses taken during an international study program, or NDSU international courses approved by the student's supervisory committee.  

3) M.S. in Natural Resource Management (Natural Resources Economics Specialty)*  Course requirements for the NRM degree are specified in the University Catalog.


Online application forms can be found at the Graduate School web site ( Official transcripts must be sent directly to the Graduate School. For further information for international applicants, refer to the section on international students included in this bulletin.  

Admission Status

Applications must be received by March 1 for full consideration of admission and funding consideration for Fall start; and by October 1 for Spring. Applications received after those dates as funding is available.

Applicants are considered for admission on the basis of their perceived potential for completing the program. Students admitted with full standing have completed all entrance requirements for the program. An applicant who is accepted in any category other than full standing must meet conditions specified by the Department and the Graduate School before a change in standing may be requested. Furthermore, the department would not recommend upgrading a student's standing if his or her grade point average (GPA) is below 3.0 (on a 4.0 scale). A student must have full graduate standing to have a plan of study approved, to receive a departmental assistantship, or to be a candidate for graduation.  

Prerequisites for Admission

To be admitted with full standing, students will have a baccalaureate from an education institution of recognized standing, a cumulative grade point average (GPA) of at least 3.0, or equivalent, at the baccalaureate level, an earned a grade of B or higher in intermediate microeconomics and statistics including linear regression, and a grade of C or better in calculus."

Due to the pandemic, the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) and Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) requirements have been waived for Spring 2022. The TOEFL is required from all applicants who did not receive their baccalaureate from a U.S. or Canadian university.

Conditional Standing  

Students in conditional standing do not meet all requirements for admission or have deficiencies in prerequisite course work but show potential for successful graduate study. Evidence must be provided showing that the applicant's potential is not adequately reflected by his or her record. In making this recommendation, the program must specify standards of performance that must be satisfied for a change in status to full graduate standing. Any student admitted in CONDITIONAL status is automatically placed on academic WARNING until the conditions of admission are met. If a student on academic warning fails to achieve a cumulative GPA of at least 3.0 in the subsequent semester of attendance, the student will be placed on academic probation.   The student may not earn more than 12 semester hours of graduate credit while in conditional status.   Students admitted under conditional status may, in consultation with their major adviser, request a change to full graduate standing after demonstration of specified capability in graduate studies using the Change of Admission Status form. This request containing the academic justification for the change is to be made to the Dean of the Graduate School by the major adviser and approved by the program administrator. Eligibility for graduate assistantships will be determined by the program. Students with conditional status cannot become candidates for a degree; they must achieve full graduate standing.  

Transfer Credits  

A student who is accepted to NDSU and who has successfully completed graduate work at another institution should contact the Graduate School to clarify policies regarding transfer of credits. A maximum of eight (thesis option) or nine (comprehensive study option) credits taken at institutions other than NDSU may be applied to the NDSU degree for the thesis option or comprehensive study option, respectively.   Dual Enrollment   An undergraduate student enrolled at NDSU who has been accepted for admission as a non-degree students in the Graduate School may enroll as both an undergraduate and graduate student in his or her final year as a graduating undergraduate student. Credits earned towards the graduate program cannot be counted as fulfilling the undergraduate degree requirements. The student must be accepted as a non-degree graduate student in order to dual enroll.


The Department offers assistantships on a competitive basis. Information about other forms of financial assistance may be obtained from the Office of Student Financial Services in the Memorial Union. URL:   

The Graduate Assistantship provides monthly stipends plus tuition waivers. Although tuition is waived, students must pay a minimal activity fee each semester. An assistantship normally will not begin until the first semester of full graduate standing during which courses are taken that will apply towards the Master of Science degree.   Most assistantships are half‐time (20 hours per week) or one‐quarter‐time (10 hours per week). Students on assistantship are expected to perform research or teaching duties in the department in return for their stipend. All one‐half time assistants are expected to be available for performing services related to research or teaching for an average of 20 hours per week. Time expended on the student's research project is recognized as partial fulfillment of this requirement.   Students with a 16 month, 50% Departmental Graduate Research Assistantship may at the end of 8 months petition to extend their period of assistantship to 20 months by changing their last 6 months of 50% assistantship to 10 months of 30% assistantship. This petition will be approved subject to research requirements, the availability of funding, and student progress.   Graduate assistants are considered full time students if registered for six or more graduate credits per semester. Graduate assistants wishing to register for more than 10 credits per semester must obtain approval from the graduate dean before registering.   Graduate research assistantship stipends represent a significant commitment of public dollars to conduct applied research. Assistantships provide an opportunity for students to work with faculty members and gain exposure to various aspects of research. The research program of the department has an applied, problem solving orientation. While we have a very strong commitment to addressing the issues of importance to North Dakotans, our research also has national and international dimensions.   A limited number of teaching assistantships may be available. Duties performed by TAs are extremely important to meet the teaching goals of the department. A teaching assistantship is an excellent option if a student is interested in pursuing a career in education, including university‐level teaching, or would like to strengthen their general understanding of economics.   Applicants to the Graduate School who are accepted in less than full standing will not be eligible for an assistantship until their status changes to full standing. Granting assistantships depends on academic performance, departmental needs, and availability of assistantships. All accepted graduate students who submitted their official GRE or GMAT score will be considered for funding unless the student specifies he or she would not like to be considered. The Department cannot make any decisions or provide information about the likelihood of particular students receiving assistantships until their completed application has been forwarded to the Graduate Program Committee by the Graduate School.  

Expectations and Time Limits for Assistantship 

It is the goal of the NDSU Department of Agribusiness and Applied Economics to offer a graduate program leading to the M.S. degree which, for students having the proper undergraduate background, can be earned in three semesters and one summer of productive effort by the student.   It is the policy of the Department to limit the duration of any student's graduate assistantship to three semesters and one summer (16 months). Additional time may be approved, on a case‐by‐case basis, if the work being accomplished by the student warrants it and sufficient extramural funds are available. Request for such extensions should be made, in writing, by the student to the department chair, who will confer with the adviser and those on the student's supervisory committee regarding the request. It is the student's responsibility to work with the adviser to monitor his/her timely completion of the program.   The assistantship may be interrupted at either the request of the student or at the initiative of the department. Requests for leave from the position as a Research or Teaching Assistant are considered on a case‐by‐case basis. Unless specified in writing, there is no guarantee that an assistantship will be available after a leave period. The department may allow interruption of the student's assistantship for indefinite periods to employ the student on projects other than the student's research project. In such cases, students can expect to be reinstated on assistantship when their duties on other efforts are completed. In either case of assistantship interruption, the time period(s) not on assistantship does not count against the 16‐month time limit.  


There are many opportunities for M.S. students to undertake internships. In general, the department encourages these and will accommodate them to the extent possible. It would be incumbent on the student, working with his/her advisor to identify and make the appropriate arrangements. In so doing, the time limit would be extended to accommodate time spent on the internship (essentially, the student would take a leave from his/her assistantship during the period of the internship). Finally, the internship must be compatible with the funding mechanism used to support the student. Some may have restrictions/requirements that preclude pursuing an internship, while others would readily accommodate an internship.  

Loss of Assistantship  

A student may lose an assistantship due to (1) substandard academic performance, (2) lack of progress in completing degree requirements, (3) unsatisfactory performance of research or teaching responsibilities or other assigned duties, or (4) financial exigencies of the department. A cumulative GPA of less than 3.0 in graduate courses is considered to be substandard academic performance. Failure to maintain a GPA of 3.0 or higher for two consecutive semesters is automatic grounds for loss of an assistantship. At the end of any semester, falling below a 3.0 cumulative GPA, but above a 2.8 results in a warning to the student. Students falling within a 2.5 to 2.79 GPA are automatically reduced to a quarter‐time assistantship (reduction in monthly stipend of one‐half, yet still earn a tuition waiver). Falling below a cumulative 2.5 GPA is automatic grounds for loss of an assistantship.   For additional information on assistantship policies see the NDSU Graduate Bulletin. URL:

Suggested Time Frame for Student Achievements   

To guide students and advisors on program progress, the Graduate Program Committee has identified milestones for specific tasks essential to the timely completion of their M.S. degree. These include:  

By the End of the First Semester:  

  • Select an advisor and form a thesis committee
  • Submit a draft thesis proposal to the thesis committee
  • Submit a plan of study to both the Department and the Graduate School
  • Receive a recommendation for assistantship continuation from his/her advisor
  • Maintain at least a 3.0 average in graduate coursework
  • Maintain the minimum number of credits required to complete coursework requirements for the degree within three semesters (subject to course availability)

  By the End of the Second Semester:  

  • Prepare and submit a draft literature review to the supervisory committee
  • Identify methods and data for the thesis and prepare a draft methods and procedures thesis chapter for review by the thesis committee
  • Submit a thesis proposal to the thesis committee
  • Receive a recommendation for assistantship continuation from his/her advisor
  • Maintain at least a 3.0 average in graduate coursework
  • Maintain the minimum number of credits required to complete coursework requirements for the degree within three semesters (subject to course availability)

  By the End of the Summer:  

  • Complete international internship requirement or study abroad program (International Agribusiness students only)
  • Finalize and submit a draft literature review to the supervisory committee
  • Using data and methods approved by the supervisory committee, conduct preliminary data analysis and report draft results for review by the supervisory committee
  • Receive a recommendation for assistantship continuation from his/her advisor
  • Maintain at least a 3.0 average in graduate coursework
  • Maintain the minimum number of credits required to complete coursework requirements for the degree within three semesters (subject to course availability)

  By the End of the Third Semester:  

  • Using data and methods approved by the supervisory committee, conduct final data analysis and report results for review by the supervisory committee
  • Prepare results and conclusion sections for thesis
  • In cooperation with supervisory committee, schedule thesis defense
  • Conduct defense
  • In cooperation with the Graduate School, prepare and deposit final draft of thesis
  • Maintain at least a 3.0 average in graduate coursework


Enrollment in AGEC701  

All starting graduate students in Agribusiness and Applied Economics enroll in AGEC 701 during the fall semester. This serves to acquaint students with the graduate program, the research process, and the department.  


Students will be given a list of research projects proposed by Department faculty in the first week of class. During AGEC 701, faculty will make presentations to students about their research, and students will visit with individual faculty about projects. By the end of September, students will rank their top three choices. The Graduate Program Committee will then make recommendations on allocating students.   Exceptions to the assignment of advisors may occur if faculty have identified and made offers to individual students to collaborate on grant-funded research.  

Supervisory Committee  

The student and adviser should select a supervisory (program) committee to advise them on a plan of study and research objectives and methods. The committee may initially operate without formal recognition by the Graduate School. The supervisory committee will consist of four or more people (including the adviser and a member from outside of the Department approved by the Graduate School). At least two members of the supervisory committee must be tenure track faculty of the Department.  

Plan of Study  

The supervisory committee is officially approved by the Graduate School after it receives the "Master's Degree Plan of Study and Supervisory Committee" proposal from the student. The plan of study must include all required courses and be filed in the Graduate School no later than the semester prior to graduation. However, it is recommended that, as soon as an adviser has been assigned, the student and the adviser agree on the composition of the full committee and that the student confirms potential members are willing to serve.   The Plan of Study should indicate any transfer credits that the student wishes to include in his or her plan of study. Changes in the plan of study (addition/deletion of course work) or in the composition of the Advisory/Supervisory Committee after the plan has been filed must be formally requested using the Request for Change form.   The supervisory committee will work closely with the student to review drafts of the thesis or comprehensive study paper. The adviser will decide when review drafts of the thesis or comprehensive study paper are ready to distribute to the supervisory committee.  

Selection of Courses  

Students should enroll in courses consistent with their programs of study. Input from the student's major advisor is encouraged to ensure timing of course offerings allows the student to graduate within the time prescribed in their program of study.  

Residency Requirements  

The Graduate School’s residency requirement can be found at


The thesis and comprehensive study paper should each represent a scholarly endeavor, consistent with the standards of disciplined inquiry and creative activity in the student's field of study. The following is a guide to differentiate the levels and degree of effort required for each.  


The purpose of the thesis should be clear, the development logical and coherent, and the conclusions convincing. The thesis should reflect a rigorous research effort that makes a contribution to the discipline.  

Comprehensive Study Paper  

The purpose of the paper should be clear, the development logical and coherent, and conclusions convincing. The paper should reflect an analysis that is insightful, enlightening for the reader, relevant, and intellectually stimulating.   The following table indicates the differences between theses and comprehensive study papers. Completed theses and comprehensive study papers are on file in the Department for student review. Recent theses and papers can be viewed online from the Department's website.  


Theses and comprehensive study papers must conform to Graduate School guidelines. Writing formats are specified in the NDSU Graduate Guidelines for the Preparation of Dissertations, Theses, and Papers available at the Graduate School’s website . For further information about appropriate writing formats, students are encouraged to review theses available at the Department’s website or visit staff in the NDSU Center for Writers (