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MS in Agricultural Economics Degree Program

Many who are interested in careers in research or in economics and want to focus on agricultural industries choose a Master of Science in Agricultural Economics. Read on to learn about courses and some potential careers after graduation.

Admission Requirements for a Master of Science in Agricultural Economics Program

The first requirement for these programs is a bachelor's degree in a related field. Most programs require that students submit the results of their Graduate Record Examination exam. Students may also be asked to submit documents that include a statement of purpose, multiple letters of recommendation, and a resume or curriculum vitae.

How to Earn a Master of Science in Agricultural Economics

Applicants for a Master of Science in Agricultural Economics will likely be required to have a grade point average of 3.0 or better in their undergraduate studies, and have completed courses like Introduction to Statistics, Intermediate Macroeconomics, and Intermediate Microeconomics during their undergraduate studies. Calculus is often a requirement too. In the thesis track programs, students will likely have to complete 32 credit hours; non-thesis programs typically require 36 credit hours. Courses that are common to Master of Science in Agricultural Economics programs include:

Microeconomic Theory

Although microeconomics is often required at the undergraduate level, students in graduate-level agricultural economics degree programs must take microeconomic theory. These courses in microeconomic theory ask students to analyze how pricing affects the markets. You can expect to analyze decision-making, emphasizing things like consumer demand, production, market structure, and information.

Econometrics

This course introduces the combination of quantitative and statistical research methods for management in economics and business. Students explore how these statistical methods can be applied to the agribusiness field. Understanding how to apply these statistical methods to the agribusiness field can help students to quantify what happens in the agricultural economy and create models to explain those happenings.

Orientation to Research

For thesis-track students, an introduction to agricultural economics research is often required. Students in this type of course learn to evaluate literature about agricultural economics and present a review in an area of research on their own. This course may not be required if a student is in a non-thesis track.

Production Economics

Students learn about the theories that make up the basis of production economics. They gain experience in classes as they apply microeconomic theory to the decisions of agricultural firms. Students may learn more about the theory of the firm. They also gain an understanding of how and why decisions are made in food and agricultural firms.

Macroeconomic Theory

In a macroeconomic theory course, students look at how pricing works in markets that focus on goods and factors. Students gain an understanding of how to use theoretical tools and apply them to general situations.

Careers in Agricultural Science

Economics Analysis Consultant

An economic analysis consultant is tasked with researching and analyzing the economic impacts of proposals (financial and food security impacts, for example) in a region, often for nonprofit organizations or government organizations. In this position, it's not unusual to see a master's degree in economics or agriculture as a requirement. For positions that focus on concepts like food insecurity, a degree in agricultural economics may provide a better understanding of the information one is working with.

Lecturer, Agricultural and Applied Economics

In this position, an individual teaches college-level students, often undergraduates, in the field of agriculture and applied economics. They may be asked to advise students, or act as a mentor to undergraduate students as they work toward obtaining a bachelor's degree in agricultural economics. Lecturers and professors at the university level are typically required to have a master's degree, typically in the field they're teaching about, or in a related field.

Agricultural Economist

An agricultural economist may work in a state department of agriculture or another agency. These individuals are responsible for researching and analyzing economic trends and forecasting or explaining how those trends may affect the agricultural industry. They may be asked to create a plan for research and to conduct that research, then communicate that information to the public. They may be asked to create reports and papers on topics in the agricultural industry and to present bill analyses or fiscal notes on related legislation. It's a common requirement that an agricultural economist has a master's degree, although a doctorate is sometimes preferred.

Agricultural Scientist

An agricultural scientist is typically required to have a bachelor's degree, but many obtain a master's degree in order to stay competitive in the field. These individuals work in lab settings, in the field, and in offices, where they do things like study soil composition, deliver information about research results to the public and others in the scientific community, or develop food products. They may also design and conduct experiments to learn about improving sustainability and how much is produced by farm animals or field crops.

Job TitleMedian SalaryJob Growth
Economic Analysis Consultant$73,090** 8% (for all economists)*
Assistant Lecturer in Agriculture and Applied Economics $48,796** 11% (for all postsecondary teachers)
Agricultural Economist$87,500** 8% (for all economists)*
Agricultural and Food Scientist$61,819** 7%*

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)*, Payscale.com**

Agricultural economics is far more than just growing crops and caring for animals. It's about how to market agricultural products, management of resources and understanding and operating in the agribusiness industry as a producer of crops or animals. These programs can prepare degree holders for positions in higher education, research labs, and scientific positions.