Economics of Agriculture

The field of agricultural economics looks at the numbers side of farming or producing livestock. Find information about degree requirements and employment growth for agricultural managers, economists and farmers here, as well as how much you might earn in the field.

Are Studies in Agricultural Economics for Me?

Career Overview

Studies in agricultural economics are concerned with the production, marketing and management of agricultural resources. If you study agricultural economics, you may be qualified for a career with a farming company, government agency or environmental group. For example, as a farm manager for a large company, you could be responsible for marketing crop products, comparing transportation options or setting production quotas. If you have your own farm or you work for a small farming operation, you might oversee the different stages associated with crop production.

Agricultural economists who work for the government may analyze the market of a specific crop and suggest policy changes. Economists who work for large corporations study sales trends and develop strategies for competing in the marketplace.

Employment and Salary Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that employment of agricultural managers, farmers and ranchers was expected to decline by 19% between 2012 and 2022. However, the BLS has identified two areas of potential growth: horticulture or plant cultivation and organic food production. By comparison, economists can expect an average growth of 14% in jobs nationwide through 2022. Your best opportunities as an economist are likely to be found in consulting services; completion of a graduate degree program may help you stand out in the job market.

As of May 2013, agricultural managers, farmers and ranchers earned a median annual wage of $70,110, while economists earned $93,070, according to the BLS. Earnings for farmers may vary due to the growing conditions of crops and consumer demand (www.bls.gov).

How Can I Study Agricultural Economics?

Educational Requirements

Agricultural economics degree programs can be found at all postsecondary education levels, from associate's to doctoral degrees. While some aspiring farmers acquire their training on the job, agricultural managers may need an associate's or a bachelor's degree. You'll need at least a bachelor's degree to work as an economist. If you want to advance to management-level positions in agribusiness or eventually become a college professor, you'll probably need a graduate degree in agricultural economics.

Undergraduate Programs

An associate's degree program in agricultural economics may include courses in agricultural finance, animal science and global food crops. Some 4-year agricultural economics programs offer specializations in farm management and financial planning. During the second half of your undergraduate studies, you may also have the chance to participate in an internship, through which you'll earn college credits while gaining hands-on experience in the agricultural industry.

Graduate Programs

A bachelor's degree program in a relevant field of study can help you prepare for graduate studies in agricultural economics. Master's degree programs usually require a thesis and include courses in agribusiness forecasting, rural financial markets and ecological economics. Courses in calculus and economics may also be required before you can be admitted to a doctoral program. Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) programs usually offer advanced coursework in production economics, macroeconomics and agricultural marketing.

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