The major in plant sciences, offered by the Department of Plant Sciences and Entomology, prepares undergraduates for professional careers in the many public and private sectors of horticulture. There are three tracks in the major: environmental horticulture, sustainable agriculture, and turf grass management. Graduates of this program pursue careers ranging from landscape contractor, golf course superintendent, director of parks, botanical gardens or arboreta, garden center or floral shop proprietor, plant propagator, nursery production manager, vegetable or fruit grower, lawn service manager, horticultural therapist, or technical representative for seed, equipment, and chemical companies, to name just a few of the opportunities available. Other graduates enter graduate school and pursue careers in research and education at public and private institutions. This program has as its unifying theme the sustainable culture and use of plants for amenity or food. The sustainable agriculture track draws on courses in sustainable vegetable and fruit production, animal science and soil management, and prepares students for careers supporting sustainable farming and food systems.
Graduates can meet the standards of several certification organizations. Students in the environmental horticulture track qualify for certification with the Rhode Island Nursery and Landscape Association and the International Society for Arboriculture. Graduates of the turfgrass management track qualify for certification as turfgrass managers or turfgrass specialists with the American Registry of Certified Professionals in Agronomy, Crops, and Soils, Ltd. of the American Society of Agronomy. These same graduates also meet the requirements for registration with the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America.
The major requires a total of 120 credits: 24 credits of pre-professional natural sciences; 30 credits in concentration courses; and 15 credits of supporting electives selected from an approved course list. Many students also minor in business management.
The department manages over 50 acres of turfgrass, horticulture, and agronomy farms for teaching, research, and outreach. The C. Richard Skogley Turfgrass Center is the oldest turfgrass research/teaching program in the U.S. The department also maintains a 15,000 square foot controlled environment greenhouse complex for hands-on learning and research. These facilities are closely allied with the URI Botanical Gardens and E.P. Christopher Arboretum.