Online agriculture degree programs aren't especially common, but a few fully online options do exist. Certain subjects within agriculture are more commonly offered through an online course of study: agricultural business is a more popular online program at the bachelor's degree level, while online agricultural education programs are more commonly available at the master's degree level.
Bachelor's degree programs in agricultural business can be completed entirely online. Agricultural education programs at the master's degree level can also typically be completed without visiting campus. Students should already possess a bachelor's degree to qualify for such programs. They also may need to attend an orientation session upon enrollment. However, students who are not already licensed as teachers in their state may need to complete additional requirements, including a student teaching practicum or hands on training at a farm. These are the most common programs and are detailed in the article below.
Bachelor's Degree in Agricultural Business
A bachelor's degree program in agricultural business, sometime referred to as agribusiness, is usually offered through a school's agricultural science department. This program teaches the concepts of business management as they relate to an agricultural-based business. Though typically offered in a traditional classroom setting, often requiring hands-on training at a farm affiliated with the given school, some schools offer this type of program online.
Program Information and Requirements
A bachelor's degree program requires students complete a minimum of 120 credit hours, including general education courses. Study of agriculture-related topics may not begin until a student's second year. These programs may require 30 to 50 credit hours in agribusiness, in addition to general education requirements.
Students need online access to the secure software platform used by a particular program. Some programs may use video streaming to allow easier access to online lectures. Discussion boards and chat rooms are often used to facilitate discussion. While online access is available for courses and, usually, course material, some programs are hybrid, requiring a certain amount of traditional classroom time with an instructor.
List of Courses
An online agricultural business bachelor's degree program includes general business courses in economics, accounting and management, as well as agriculture courses.
Students learn about market behavior and structure as it relates to the business of agriculture. Critical thinking is emphasized in programs that explore futures markets and market forces. Students learn to evaluate markets to minimize risk.
Students are taught to analyze the financial records and production summaries of agricultural businesses. Dealing with actual, existing businesses is part of the coursework.
Agricultural policies in the United States are explored. Students study what goes into creating effective policy and how economics and politics affect policy development.
Master's Degree in Agricultural Education
This online degree program prepares professional educators, extension agents and those who work with youths in agricultural settings to become teachers of agriculture and agricultural science. Some online programs may feature a concentration, such as program planning, curriculum development, and instructional technologies, among others. Typically, 30-40 credit hours are required, as well as completion of a thesis or a written exam.
Program Requirements and Information
Students must have a bachelor's degree to begin a masters-level program of study. Students may be required to attend an orientation session upon enrollment. Some online programs require the use of video conferencing; others require students to communicate through online message boards and content management systems. Other kinds of software may be required as well.
From teaching methods to computer applications, master's level agricultural education programs cover a wide range of topics. Students develop the skills to evaluate educational programs and teach a variety of age groups.
Agriculture and Extension Education
Students completing this course understand the role of agricultural education. They recognize the historical touchstones that led to agricultural education, as it is known today. Students learn about state and federal polices, as well as various trends, developments and innovations as they relate to the field.
Agricultural Research and Analysis
Students learn to use various research methods in educational or communications settings. Some techniques covered include data analysis and reporting, preparation of proposals and literature review.
Depending on the particular course, students learn to work with youth or adult learners. Theories of learning and teaching methods are explored.
Earning a bachelor's degree in agricultural business can lead to employment as an agricultural or farm manager. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov), earnings for farm-related occupations vary, depending on factors such as the season and weather to crops and price fluctuations.
Graduates of this online program can find employment as agricultural science instructors in post-secondary education. According to a May 2015 survey by the BLS, approximately 9,680 individuals were employed as post-secondary agricultural science teachers. The average yearly income was approximately $95,280.
Individuals may continue their studies in agricultural business by obtaining a Master of Science in Agricultural Business, or other related field. These degrees are not usually offered online.
The American Society of Farm Managers and Rural Appraisers offers accreditation to professional farm managers with five years experience. Besides submitting documentation that proves experience and training, managers must pass the AFM Accreditation examination.
Students interested in pursuing online agricultural degrees should keep in mind that while many courses can be completed online, some hands-on components may also be required depending on the specifics of the program, such as working on a farm or an internship.