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Farming Degrees and Colleges

There are numerous farming degree programs focused on certain aspects of farming, like agriculture, dairy science, fruit science, aquaculture and farm management. Read on for more details about degree programs and suggestions for choosing a college.

What You Need to Know

Farmers work with crops, livestock, and dairy products. When choosing a college, the most important thing to consider is the field of study you would like to focus on. Many undergraduate and graduate degree programs exist in a vast range of fields, from agriculture to aquaculture.

Colleges Students should look for colleges that offer programs in their specialized area of interest, like crop science; students should also look for business-related coursework in program curricula
Degrees Not required but beneficial for making financial decisions and running a business; various associate's, bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees are available
Courses Examples include animal husbandry, food processing, soil management, accounting and wildlife management

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Undergraduate Degrees Are Available for Farmers?

You actually don't need a degree to get started in farming. Most farmers learn the business at a young age growing up on a farm. However, due to the growing complexities of the farming industry, farmers can benefit from earning a college degree when it comes to making financial decisions and running a business. The type of degree you need depends on the kind of farming you want to do. For example, if you want to raise fish, pursue a degree in fishery management, aquaculture or a related field. An associate or bachelor's degree is usually sufficient education for a farming career. Numerous relevant degree programs exist, including the following:

  • Farm management
  • Agriculture
  • Agronomy
  • Animal science
  • Aquaculture
  • Fisheries biology
  • Hydrology

What Graduate Degree Programs Are Available?

Advanced degree programs in these fields also exist, but graduate programs usually prepare you for a career in conservation, research, consulting, agribusiness, government or academia rather than directly running a farm. Just as with undergraduate programs, the options are numerous. For example, some program options include a Master of Science or Doctor of Philosophy in Fisheries; a Master of Agriculture; or a Master of Business Administration in Agribusiness.

What Will I Study?

Your classes depend on the degree you're earning. In an agriculture program, you'll learn about animal husbandry, livestock management, food processing and growing conditions. In an aquaculture program, you could learn about seafood processing and how to manage fish and wildlife resources. A crop science program teaches you about soil management, plant pathology, climate and weather.

Since most farmers own their own farms, a farming program usually includes courses in business, accounting and bookkeeping. Additionally, you'll get hands-on training with various farming tools and equipment. These courses might be covered, as well:

  • Regression and analysis of variance
  • Behavior ecology of fishes
  • Political ecology
  • Agronomy
  • Animal science
  • Horticulture science

Can I Earn a Degree Online?

Farming-related degrees of all types are available online. These programs are usually flexible and let you choose to complete some or all of your courses through the Internet. Depending on the program, you might be required to complete some of your lessons or labs at the school. You also might need to participate in hands-on activities that need to be taken at the campus or another location.

Many of your online classes require you to log in to a course management system, such as Moodle or Desire2Learn. In these course management systems, you'll be able to access class materials and turn in assignments at your own pace and on your own schedule. Some of your classes might include live, interactive teaching, setting specific times you need to connect to the class to participate. Quizzes and exams might also be available online.

What Should I Look For in a College?

Your main consideration when looking for a school should be the fields of study available. Some colleges offer training relevant to the local industry, so you might want to make sure that a program's curricula and teaching is relevant to your field, especially if you're participating in online learning or traveling away from home for school. A fundamental aspect of farming lies in business and finance, making it a good idea for you to enroll in a program that offers sufficient courses in accounting, risk management and industry commerce. These colleges are among the many that offer farming degrees:

  • University of Alaska Fairbanks
  • Clemson University (SC)
  • University of Florida (Gainesville)
  • Oregon State University (Corvallis)
  • Casper College (WY)