Do you ever wonder from where the food on your plate comes? Do you enjoy working outdoors with your hands? If so, you may want to investigate a career in agriculture. You can study agricultural science and seek various positions in the agricultural industry, such as farmer, researcher, manager or consultant. Read on to learn more.
Agricultural studies is a broad field that covers the production, distribution, management and research of agricultural goods. There are a variety of careers within agriculture that you could pursue according to your level of education and experience. In order to succeed as an agricultural professional, you'll need a pairing of scientific and practical farming skills with good business acumen.
You could work as a laborer for farms, ranches, greenhouses and nurseries with on-the-job training and little formal educational. If you earn an agriculture bachelor's degree, you'll be qualified for a wider variety of positions. For instance, you might work as a farm manager, agriculture operations inspector, animal breeder, soil scientist, food technologist or agricultural scientist. You might find a job within a private manufacturing industry, or you may work for a federal agency like the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Or, you could be self-employed as a farm or energy consultant. Earning an advanced degree in agricultural studies will provide you with opportunities in research, development and college-level teaching careers as well as for advanced positions within the public and private sectors.
Agricultural workers are more involved in the day-to-day operations of the farming industry. They grow crops, breed animals, manage farms and negotiate the agricultural business world. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in May 2008, physical demands were high and earnings were low for agricultural workers, creating high job turnover (www.bls.gov). Although there are abundant jobs available for agricultural workers, agricultural scientists are in greater demand, and the BLS predicted that job growth would be faster-than-average between 2008 and 2018 for agricultural and food scientists with degrees. In May 2010, the median annual salary for agricultural workers in general was $24,230 and for animal breeders was $31,340, while the median annual wage was $57,340 for soil and plant scientists and $60,180 for food scientists and technologists, also per the BLS.
All individuals working in agriculture, regardless of education, should gain some practical experience working on a farm or similar setting. If you decide to pursue an education in this field, you can enroll in a bachelor's degree program in agricultural science. You'll learn about methods to improve crop yields and ensure the safety of the food we eat. You'll be instructed in all aspects of agribusiness, including food production, distribution methods and management strategies. These programs allow for some flexibility, but courses generally cover topics in sustainable agriculture, plant and animal science, economics, environmental sciences and geographic information systems. Some specialty topics you can study are resource conservation, agricultural technology and biofuel production. You may be able to choose a concentration such as permaculture, agricultural biology and agricultural economics.
Master's degree programs in agriculture usually require an additional two years of study beyond the bachelor's degree, while doctoral degree programs may be completed in 3-4 years. Example degree programs that are available include a master's degree in animal science and a doctorate in agricultural science. Certificate programs and minor programs of study within agricultural departments may also be available to you.
Optional certifications that can enhance your credentials as an agriculture professional are available through professional organizations. For instance, the American Society of Agronomy offers the Certified Crop Adviser (CCA) and Certified Professional Agronomist (CPAg) certification, and the Soil Science Society of America offers the Certified Professional Soil Scientist certification. If you pursue a career as a soil scientist, you may need to be licensed in order to practice, depending on your state's regulations.