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Be an Agricultural Information Specialist: Career Guide

Learn how to become an agricultural information specialist. Research the education requirements, training information, and experience required for starting a career in agricultural communications. View article »

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Agricultural Information Specialist

Agricultural information specialists are reporters who research and write about topics such as food safety, trade policy, and environmental sustainability. They can work for print and broadcast media outlets, public relations firms, or government agencies.

Agricultural information specialists usually work in the field, conducting interviews and preparing pieces for submission and publication. This work is typically deadline-oriented. Reporters can be required to shift gears and re-prioritize quickly in light of breaking news. Long hours and night and weekend work might be required. Depending on the area of employment, jobs in this field are predicted to be extremely competitive because of a decline in the number of publishing outlets.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Bachelor's degree
Degree Field Journalism, communications, agricultural communication
Experience Entry-level with bachelor's degree; college internship provides work experience sought by employers
Key Skills Communication skills, interpersonal skills, persistence, decision-making, problem-solving, critical-thinking, and reasoning abilities; capable of using video equipment and recorders; familiarity with Web editing software for social media networking sites
Salary (2016) $37,596 per year (median for all reporters)

Sources: O*NET Online, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Payscale.com, Washington State University

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Steps for Agricultural Information

What steps do I need to take to become an agricultural information specialist?

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

Many land grant universities have agricultural colleges that offer bachelor's degree programs in agricultural communications or agricultural journalism. These programs can prepare graduates for entry-level employment as agricultural information specialists. Students take courses in animal science and agribusiness as well as agricultural communication, news writing, and media law. Some schools also allow students to choose an area of specialization or emphasis in print media, broadcast reporting, advertising, or public relations.

To increase your opportunities for success, get hands-on experience. Students can hone their skills by working for their school's newspaper or agricultural magazine. Internship opportunities may also be available to students interested in reporting for livestock shows or rodeos. They might work for schools' extension services as well. Students interested in completing an internship during the summer months can apply for positions available through some professional organizations.

It's also a good idea to join professional organizations. Agricultural information specialists can take advantage of professional organizations offering membership opportunities, career development materials, and networking resources. These include the American Agricultural Editors' Association (AAEA), the International Federation of Agricultural Journalists (IFAJ), and the National Association of Farm Broadcasters (NAFB).

Step 2: Land Your First Job

Many agricultural information specialists work for government agencies at the state, local, and federal levels. They can also find jobs with journals, public relations firms, or professional associations.

Step 3: Consider a Master's Degree

Although not as common as bachelor's degree programs in this field, graduate agricultural communications programs are available to professionals interested in advancing their careers or conducting research. Course topics discuss communication theories or the roles of public opinion in agricultural policy.

Agricultural information specialists are reporters who cover agricultural topics. They have bachelor's degrees along with professional abilities in communications and the technology used in all forms of communication, and they earn a median annual salary of $37,596.

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