In bachelor's, master's and doctoral programs in agricultural economics, students gain an understanding of how economics, in theory and practice, can be applied to the production and management of natural resources, including farming and bio-fuels. Certificate programs in agricultural economics aren't generally available. Bachelor's programs offer a broad overview of economics and the agriculture industry, while master's programs stress research. Both levels may require internships. At the doctoral level, students write and present a dissertation, as well as work as teaching assistants.
Bachelor's degree applicants must have a high school diploma or its equivalent, and applicants for master's programs must have a bachelor's degree. Doctoral degrees require a master's degree and previous math and economic coursework. Some schools may require that incoming students at both the master's and doctoral levels have completed coursework in micro and macroeconomics, differential calculus and statistics.
Bachelor of Science in Agricultural Economics Degree
In a Bachelor of Science in Agricultural Economics program, students are introduced to analysis and interpretation of the relationship between local, state, national and international economies and agricultural production. Both theoretical and practical applications of economics are explored. Students can focus on economic policy and economic development within the context of managing farming and other natural resources or on the principles of agribusiness management. Internships are often available and may be required.
The curriculum generally combines courses in economics with biology, mathematics, business and marketing, with some variation on electives based on the students' interest in public policy, farm management or agribusiness. Some course topics include animal science, agricultural quantitative analysis, and farm and ranch operations. Other courses that might be included:
- Soil types and characteristics
- Agricultural economics of policy and trade practices
- Marketing of agricultural products
- Concepts in agribusiness law
- Principles of finance and agricultural practice
Master's Degree in Agricultural Economics
Master of Science in Agricultural Economics programs are research-intensive and tend to emphasize the theoretical and conceptual relationships between agricultural policies and practices in conjunction with economic principles. The Master of Agriculture program focuses on applying economic theories and problem-solving skills to real-world issues in agricultural production and marketing.
The curriculum covers advanced economic theory that includes national and international trade, commodities and futures trading, statistical analysis, analysis of agricultural and food policies, agricultural marketing and agricultural production. Internships are common degree requirements. Students enrolled in a Master of Science in Agricultural Economics program may also have the option of enrolling in a thesis or non-thesis option. Typical course topics include:
- Farm appraisal
- American agriculture policy
- Food and agricultural policy development and analysis
- Quantitative price analysis
- Economic development of natural resources
Doctor of Philosophy in Agricultural Economics
For students aspiring to teach at the college or university level or work as professional economists, a Doctor of Philosophy in Agricultural Economics provides the opportunity to continue advanced study and discussion of the agricultural production and economic trade, development and policies. Along with academic research in preparation for the writing of a dissertation and coursework, doctoral candidates usually teach at the undergraduate level.
Degree concentrations may be available in international trade and economic policy, natural resources and environmental economics, farm production and economics, agribusiness or similar fields. In addition to core, required coursework in theoretical and applied economics, students generally have some latitude to tailor their doctoral program to reflect their interests. Course topics include:
- International trade
- Agricultural policy analysis
- Regulatory economics
- Industrial organization theory and application
- Econometric theory and practice
- Labor economics in America
Popular Career Options
A bachelor's degree in agricultural economics may qualify graduates to land entry-level positions business or agriculture. Some popular career choices are:
- Environmental analyst
- Pesticide field agent
- Marketing representative
- Economic analyst
- Assistant broker
With a graduate degree in agricultural economics, students may be able to attain mid-level careers in agribusiness or food companies, public policy organizations, banking, trade organizations or research settings. Graduates may choose a career like:
- Finance officer
- Foreign diplomatic staffer
- International business consultant
Although a master's degree is often sufficient for most employment, those seeking to work at the highest levels of business or in higher education might consider a doctorate in agricultural economics. A Master of Science in Agricultural Economics prepares students for career advancement or continued education at the doctoral level.
Employment Outlook and Salary Info
Graduates of doctoral degree programs in agricultural economics may become postsecondary instructors at colleges or universities. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimated that employment will increase 6% for postsecondary agricultural science teachers from 2014-2024 (www.bls.gov). According to the BLS, postsecondary agricultural science teachers earned an annual median salary of $90,780 in 2015.
Graduates who seek to become professional economists may see job growth of 6% from 2014 to 2024, about as fast as the average for all occupations. The BLS also reported that economists earned a median annual wage of $99,180 in 2015.
Although certificate programs in agricultural economics are not available, degree programs teach students how to apply the rules of economics specifically to the agricultural industry. Bachelor's degrees cover a broad range of agricultural economic topics, master's degrees focus on research, and doctoral degree programs usually incorporate teaching at the undergraduate level.