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Career Information for a Degree in Agriculture

Degrees in agriculture range from farm management to agriculture science and journalism. Find out about the requirements and learn about career options, job growth and salary info for agriculture graduates.

Education requirements for jobs related to agriculture range from a high school diploma through a bachelor's degree. With the exception of food science, the outlooks for positions in the field are projected to be somewhat dim for the foreseeable future.

Essential Information

A degree in agriculture, sometimes called agricultural science, can lead to many diverse careers, depending on what educational track the student pursues. These degree programs prepare graduates for jobs related to the science and business of growing cash crops, raising farm animals and caring for natural resources.

Career Farm Manager Food Scientist Agricultural Journalist
Education Requirements High school diploma Bachelor's degree Bachelor's degree
Projected Job Growth (2012 - 2022) 2% decline* 5% increase* 9% decline*
Median Salary (2014) $64,170 annually* $65,840* annually* $36,360 annually*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Agriculture Degree Overview

Students interested in the agriculture industry generally need 2-year or 4-year degrees, regardless of what agriculture careers they wish to pursue. Every state has a land-grant university with a school of agriculture that offers degrees in many specialties. Students can earn degrees that will help them produce an ample and safe food supply as farmers or preserve and improve food products as food scientists. Students who want to publicize information about the industry can earn degrees in agriculture journalism.

Farm Manager

Farmers operate crop farms and ranches. They use machinery, fertilizers, land-use timetables and many other tools to grow various crops, such as corn, cotton and soybeans, or to raise farm animals, such as hogs, cattle or sheep. Many farms are family owned, but corporate interests are consolidating an increasing number of farms. Some farmers rent and work additional land from other farms to supplement their incomes. All farmers typically perform a wide variety of tasks, from planting, fertilizing and harvesting crops to keeping financial records.

Job Outlook and Salary

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expected a 2% decline in employment for farmers, ranchers and other agricultural managers from 2014-2024 as consolidated farms and more efficient farming techniques reduce job openings. As of May 2014, their median annual salary was $64,170. However, earnings can vary widely due to crop-price fluctuations and weather conditions. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) reports that most farm households earn the majority of their income from off-farm sources, such as government subsidies and jobs.

Food Scientist

Food scientists work for the federal government, universities or commercial food processors to develop and improve food products. They may work with plants and animals to develop new food sources or analyze existing foods to determine vitamin, mineral and calorie content. They might also research ways to remove harmful ingredients or additives. Food scientists may work towards improving the processing and delivery of food. Some food scientists enforce government food-processing safety and quality regulations.

Job Outlook and Salary

According to the BLS, employment opportunities for food scientists and technologists were expected to increase by 5% from 2014-2024. This growth is due in part to a growing awareness of health and increased efforts to improve the quality and quantity of the food supply. The median wage for a food scientist in May 2015 was $65,840.

Agricultural Journalist

Agricultural journalists distribute information about the agriculture industry to the public, legislators, commodity groups and government agencies through broadcast, print or web-based media. They can work for federal-government agencies, such as the USDA, the U.S. Department of the Interior or the U.S. Department of State, or with divisions of state governments. Some agricultural journalists work with advertising or public-relations agencies, while others are employed by food companies. They may also work to publicize the research of state land-grant universities.

Job Outlook and Salary

While the BLS doesn't maintain specific figures for the salaries of agricultural journalists, it does report industry-specific salary information. The median salary for reporters and correspondents was $36,360 in May 2015, while the median salary for public relations specialists was $56,770 in 2015. Reporting jobs were expected to decline 9% between 2014 and 2024. Jobs for public relations specialists, on the other hand, were expected to increase 6% in the same span.

A high school diploma may qualify you for a job as a farm manager or rancher, while a bachelor's degree is necessary for a position as a food scientist or agricultural journalist. Employment opportunities for food scientists and public relations specialists in the field of agriculture, are projected to increase at about the same rate as the national average for all occupations through 2024. Employment opportunities for farm managers and agriculture journalists are projected to decrease by 2% and 9%, respectively, over the same time period.

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