Building careers and knowledge via the online master’s program
by Zeke Barlow
Chad Benton was always interested in two things: science and helping people.
After earning an undergraduate degree in biological sciences and microbiology, Benton, of Morrisville, N.C., got a job at BASF, where he is now a senior associate scientist on the crop physiology team. His group is dedicated to finding ways for farmers to increase their yields.
Still, Benton wanted to boost his knowledge of plant science — and to advance his career — so he enrolled in the Online Master of Agricultural and Life Sciences Program offered by the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Virginia Tech.
“This was an outstanding experience all around for me,” said Benton, who graduated in 2012 after three years in the program.
More than 65 students enroll in the online master’s program every year. Concentration areas include biosecurity, bioregulations, and public health; education; environmental science; leadership studies; food safety; and plant science and pest management.
“The concentrations are designed to incorporate new technologies in the dynamic industries of agriculture and life sciences in an accessible delivery format,” said James Anderson, the program’s director. “A major benefit of the program is that students have the flexibility to design an individualized plan constructed around their academic interests and professional needs.”
In addition to the classes, videoconferences, and group discussions that he participated in online, Benton also toured Agricultural Research and Extension Centers near him and presented his research to his advisory committee in person.
Most students in the program are like Benton, juggling family life and work while earning their degree online at their own pace.
“The best part is the flexibility of the program that is built to allow working professionals the opportunity to further their education from a proven university such as Virginia Tech while continuing their careers at the same time,” Benton said.