Agriculture Majors: Salary and Career Facts

Find out about the types of jobs you could pursue in agriculture. Read on to learn more about career options along with education and salary information. Schools offering Landscape Design degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Can an Agricultural Degree Get You?

Since the days of the first Industrial Revolution, agriculture has gone from men toiling in the soil to men and women studying the soil to make growing crops easier, yields more abundant, and crops more nutritional. Agriculture studies are now not just for a farmer's child but big business as food companies work with farmers to improve crops and raise profits. Students may study everything from soil conservation, to poultry and cattle. Farmers today are as worried about the ecosystem as they are water conservation.

Earning a degree in agriculture can give you the scientific and business skills to successfully manage agricultural resources and farmland, both in the private sector and in business and government. The following chart outlines the education requirements, job outlook and salary projections for some common agricultural career opportunities.

Farmers, Ranchers, Agricultural Managers Agricultural Engineers Soil Scientists
Degree Required None required Bachelor's Bachelor's
Education Field of Study N/A Agricultural or Biological Engineering Agricultural Science, Biological Engineering
Licensure and Certification Optional certifications available Professional Engineering license needed for some positions Professional certifications available
_Job Growth (2014-2024) -2%* 4% * 5% (soil and plant scientists)*
_Median Salary (2015) $64,170* $75,090* $60,050 (soil and plant scientists)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Kinds of Jobs Could I Apply For With an Agriculture Degree?

Depending on your background and interests, you may pursue a position in a particular area or sector of agriculture, such as agricultural technology, agribusiness, animal science, horticulture, soil science, forestry or poultry science. An agriculture degree can also be applied to other related fields, such as conservation, consulting, rural economic development, food technology and environmental science.

The federal government is a large employer of agricultural scientists. For instance, you may work for the United States Department of Agriculture doing research, development or operational work. You may also choose self-employment and work as a farmer, rancher or agricultural manager. Consultants in this field may also work independently, as well as with larger firms or organizations. Other positions that can be held by individuals with agriculture degrees include water quality specialist, feedlot manager, soil scientist, greenhouse manager, arboriculturalist, pest manager, wildlife manager and turf manager.

What Will My Job Duties Be?

Specific job duties vary according to industry and position. If you become a self-employed farmer or rancher you may perform a variety of tasks related to the daily upkeep of a farm or ranch. This may involve planting, cultivating, rotating and harvesting crops, feeding livestock and managing operating expenses. If you work on a large commercial farm, you will most likely operate farm machinery to distribute seeds, fertilizers and pesticides.

As an agronomist you are generally responsible for producing crops for specific purposes, such as for food, fuels, pharmaceuticals or animal feed. If you work in the forestry and logging sector you may manage forested lands for business, recreation or conservation purposes. If you work for the government, part of your time could be spent in the field collecting water and soil samples to test for quality. As a consultant, you may advise businesses and farm owners on the best agricultural practices given certain conditions.

What Is the Outlook For Jobs in This Industry?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), jobs in the agriculture, forestry and fishing sectors are expected to experience little to no change over the 2014-2024 period (www.bls.gov). However, self-employed farmers may experience a decline in employment of three percent over this same period due to technology advances and the consolidation of farmland. Agricultural managers may see a decline of about 19 percent. Two areas that may provide the best opportunities for growth are organic farming and biofuel development.

What Advancement Opportunities Would I Have?

The American Society of Agronomy and the Soil Science Society of America offer certification programs for working professionals. These voluntary certifications can help to enhance your qualifications and advance in your profession. You can choose among three certifications according to your career path, including Certified Crop Adviser, Certified Professional Agronomist and Certified Professional Soil Scientist or Classifier.

If you're interested in agribusiness, agricultural management or another related area, you may benefit by earning accreditation from the American Society of Farm Managers and Rural Appraisers. The organization offers four professional credentials, including Accredited Farm Manager, Accredited Rural Appraiser, Real Property Review Appraiser and Accredited Agricultural Consultant. To be eligible for accreditation, candidates must complete required coursework, gain practical experience in the field and pass a comprehensive examination.

What Could I Earn?

The median annual salary for all agriculture, forestry and fishing workers was $29,830 in 2014. The BLS also reported annual wages for several individual agricultural careers in 2014. The median annual salary of agricultural inspectors was $43,380. Conservation scientists earned a median annual salary of $61,110, while the median salary for foresters was $58,230 (www.bls.gov). This demonstrates the variation in earnings by industry.

Salaries of farmers and ranchers can vary considerably from year to year as a result of factors like weather conditions that affect crop yields and economic fluctuations that change the demand and price of an agricultural product. Some farmers may supplement their income with government subsidies or with a second job.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Related careers will include environmental work within the agricultural field. Many of the areas above could lead to other fields of study or jobs. Forestry work could start with the Forestry Service or with the National Parks. There are jobs at fisheries and hatcheries which supply rivers and lakes with fingerlings that will resupply any seasonal losses. Conservation scientists and environmental specialists will work remotely by travelling to take samples, research climate trends, and read data to make crop decisions or predict trends affecting plants. All of these professions will need bachelor's degrees to start with and some specialized training in certain areas.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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