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Industrial Agriculture Career Options and Requirements

Industrial agriculture degree programs typically teach students about the production of crops, livestock, and farm management. Continue reading for an overview of the major, as well as career and salary info for some career options for graduates.

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Career options and requirements for the industrial agriculture industry vary greatly depending on the particular role. Farmers or ranchers may need just a high school diploma and hands-on work experience, while a food scientist could need a graduate degree to find employment. Due to the changing nature of the industry and technological advancements, many industrial agriculture employers recommend that candidates complete an undergraduate degree, regardless of the job.

Essential Information

Commercial farming is a diverse field that includes crop and livestock production, farm supervision, and food systems management. Some commercial farms focus on a single crop or livestock, while others produce a mix of crops and animal products.

Experience in the farming industry is a major requirement for this field. For management positions in commercial farming, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that it's become more common for professionals to hold undergraduate degrees in or related to agriculture. The BLS also points out that at least one state-run university in every state offers agricultural degree programs in such areas as agriculture business, dairy science, farm management, or agricultural economics.

Career Title Farmer or Rancher Agricultural Manager Agricultural and Food Scientist
Education Requirements High school diploma or equivalent; undergraduate degree recommended High school diploma or equivalent; undergraduate degree recommended Bachelor's degree; graduate degree might be needed
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024) -2%* -2%* 5%*
Average Salary (2015) $69,880* $69,880* $72,030*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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Career Options

Farmer or rancher, agricultural manager and agricultural or food scientist are just a few of the career options in industrial agriculture.

Farmer or Rancher

Farmers and ranchers usually own the land where they raise crops and/or livestock, although some rent land as well. While many of these workers operate smaller farms and ranches, some own large properties or several properties; these latter workers tend to hire a significant number of agricultural workers and administrative staff.

The BLS expects a decline of 2% in employment of farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers from 2014 to 2024. The bureau reported that the average annual salary for these workers was $69,880 as of May 2015.

Agricultural Manager

These professionals tend to work for the owners of larger ranches and farms, and their duties usually include managing the everyday tasks involved in agricultural production. This can involve hiring and supervising workers, purchasing tools, making harvesting schedules, monitoring budgets, and maintaining equipment.

Agricultural and Food Scientist

These scientists conduct research to determine if agricultural products are safe for consumption, but they also determine ways to improve overall agricultural and food production. Per the BLS, the bulk of these scientists conduct basic research to monitor all aspects of the agricultural production process. Some scientists are in applied research, and they conduct experiments to see if different techniques or use of chemicals can improve production.

For the decade spanning 2014-2024. job opportunities for agricultural and food scientists were predicted to increase by 5%, according to the BLS. In 2015, these professionals earned an average annual salary of $72,030, the BLS reported.

Requirements

The BLS indicates that farmers and ranchers tend to learn their trades from direct experience, since many farmers and ranchers are raised in the industry. Due to technological changes in agriculture, however, many of these workers have pursued additional training or postsecondary coursework to learn more about advances in agricultural sciences.

Most agricultural managers also have previous experience in the industry. The BLS reports that these workers might only need experience and the equivalent of a high school diploma to find employment. Since agricultural managers oversee business matters, it has become more common for these workers to hold an undergraduate degree in a field related to agricultural business. While certification is not required, agricultural managers can elect to become certified to prove their skill in the field. Prior to certification, though, individuals might need to meet education and experience requirements.

For the most part, agricultural and food scientists require a bachelor's degree, per the BLS, but it's not uncommon for these professionals to hold a graduate degree in a related field. While certification is respected within the industry, the BLS indicates that most certifications are voluntary. Licensure, however, might be required; each state has different regulations.

In order to prepare for a career in industrial agriculture, a postsecondary education and voluntary certification or licensure can be very useful. Farmers or ranchers can benefit from the technical knowledge offered in an agricultural sciences program, while agricultural managers study business management. Since food scientists perform in-depth research and tests to ensure that food is safe for consumption, holding a graduate degree is common.

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