It may be a bad pun, but the message holds true: agriculture is a growing field. The nourishment provided by agriculture is important to every single one of the billions of people on this planet, and agriculture degree programs help prepare students to be a part of the industry that generates a huge percentage of the food we consume.
The tasks required in agricultural jobs can be as diverse as the crops themselves. Here’s a short list of the sort of duties for which agricultural degrees typically prepare their graduates:
- Designing and implementing plans for crop production or livestock management
- Operating farming and ranching equipment in accordance with technical guidelines
- Analyzing market conditions, soil conditions and weather patterns
- Maintaining hoses, fences, irrigation, shelters, drainage and other infrastructure elements
- Keeping financial, production and employee records for organizational and tax purposes
While farmers, ranchers and other agricultural professionals often learn the business while growing up on a family farm, there are numerous segments of the industry that require formal training or academic experience in the sciences. Agronomists, agricultural engineers and food scientists all need the sort of background in scientific and technological fundamentals that agricultural degree programs can provide.
Coursework in Agriculture Degree Programs
The exact curriculum of courses presented to agriculture majors tends to vary to suit the geographical region and/or chosen specialization, but there are some key concepts that apply across the various types of science programs in agriculture:
- Agricultural policy
- Agricultural finance
- Agribusiness management
- Introductory horticulture
- Animal nutrition
- Animal breeding and husbandry
- Agricultural marketing and accounting
Bachelor’s-level agriculture degrees come in multiple specializations depending on the college or university offering the program. Some specializations available include:
- Food animal science
- Natural resource management
- Horticultural management
- Crop production
- Dairy herd management
- Agricultural education
- International agriculture development
Students looking to enter independent research positions typically need agriculture degrees at the master’s or doctoral level.
Career Outlook for Professionals with Agriculture Degrees
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that employment of farmers, ranchers and other agricultural managers will decline by about 19 percent between 2012 and 2022. In contrast, other occupations that employ graduates of agriculture degree programs should show more encouraging numbers.
For example, job opportunities for food scientists and technologists are expected to increase by 9 percent between 2012 and 20122. Three percent job growth is forecast for agricultural and food science technicians in the same period.
According to the BLS, agricultural and food scientists earned a median annual salary of $59,630 in 2013, while agricultural and food science technicians took home median wages of $34,070. Farmers, ranchers and other agricultural managers earned a median of $70,110 in 2013.
With some additional education or diverse job experience, former agriculture majors can qualify for related careers with their own job outlook and salary expectations. Agricultural engineers, who typically study engineering and mathematics along with their agriculture degrees, earned a median salary of $74,450 in 2013 and should see 9 percent job growth by 2022. Agricultural inspectors, who mainly work for state and federal government agencies, earned a 2013 median wage of $42,680.
“Agricultural and Food Scientists,” Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook 2014-15 Edition, www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/agricultural-and-food-scientists.htm
“Food Scientists and Technologists,” Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2013, www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes191012.htm
“Farmers, Ranchers and Other Agricultural Managers,” Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2013, www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes119013.htm
“Agricultural Engineers,” Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2013, www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes172021.htm
“Agricultural Inspectors,” Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2013, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes452011.htm
“Department of Agriculture – Degrees,” Andrews University, http://www.andrews.edu/agriculture/programs/agriculture/degrees/
“Bachelor of Agriculture,” Atlantic International University, http://www.aiu.edu/Bachelor%20of%20Agriculture.htm
“Online Bachelor’s Degree in Agricultural Business,” Colorado State University, http://www.online.colostate.edu/degrees/agricultural-business/curriculum.dot