Studies in agricultural production operations can provide you with the business and technical knowledge you'll need to manage a farm or ranch. Read on to learn more about formal education options for agricultural, farm and ranch workers, along with what to expect in terms of job growth and income.
Agricultural production operations focus on the technical and environmental factors that affect the development of plant and animal crops. Agricultural production operators understand the methods of managing a farm, the benefits of labor and equipment, technological improvements in agricultural machinery and costs of operations. Their work may entail operating farm equipment, planting and harvesting crops, managing an agricultural facility and updating agricultural systems. If you want to work in one of the largest industries helping to ensure an abundant, consistent and safe supply of food and plant commodities, you may be well suited to a career in agricultural production operations.
Agricultural production operators typically find employment on large corporate farms or within private family farms. Other jobs associated with the agricultural production field can be found in range management, greenhouse operations and forestry. Federal, state and local government agencies often hire workers for agricultural operations and research. You may also qualify for a position in agribusiness and agricultural consulting for businesses invested in food production or processing.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), opportunities for agricultural managers, farmers and ranchers were expected to decrease by 19% nationwide between 2012 and 2022. A 3% decline in jobs was projected for agricultural workers overall, with a 4% growth in employment expected for agricultural equipment operators during the same period.
As of May 2013, the BLS reported that the median annual salary for agricultural managers, farmers and ranchers was $70,110, while agricultural equipment operators earned $26,170 a year. In the same month, individuals who were employed as crop growers, farmworkers and laborers, as well as those who worked in greenhouses and nurseries, had median annual incomes of $18,710 (www.bls.gov).
While many agricultural workers receive on-the-job training, formal education is becoming more popular, due to the increasing complexity of the agricultural industry. Most programs in agricultural production operations are offered at the certificate and associate degree levels; bachelor's degree programs are available in agricultural technology, agribusiness, animal sciences and other closely related fields. Individual programs may allow for concentrations in production and management. At the advanced level, you may also find master's and doctoral programs in agricultural sciences, with some schools offering specializations in production, agricultural economics or agribusiness.
Studies in agricultural production operations typically combine topics in animal and crop sciences with practical business skills relevant to the agricultural industry. Programs often focus on how to produce and cultivate crops and livestock, operate farm machinery and manage agricultural operations to ensure a profitable business. Specific courses found in certificate and degree programs typically include topics in plant and animal science, agricultural economics, farm management and pest control. You'll also receive training in accounting and record keeping. You may further customize your program to focus in a particular area, such as aquaculture, crop science or livestock; specializations in the use of farm machinery or fertilization procedures might also be offered.