Farming Science Degree Programs and Majors
Read about farming science degree programs and majors. Learn about the entrance prerequisites and course requirements of bachelor's- through doctoral-level programs. See some career options for graduates, and explore the continuing education details.
Degree programs in farming science, which is more commonly known as agricultural science, are available at the bachelor's, master's and doctoral degree levels. Majors in this area include sustainable agriculture, fruit and vegetable production, agricultural science, farming management and dairy production.
A 4-year Bachelor of Science in Agricultural Science program teaches the fundamentals of farm operations, including animal nutrition and livestock care. Laboratory components and internship opportunities may be included.
A Master of Science in Agriculture program offers areas of specialization as well as research experiences and lab studies. Farming technology trends and agricultural science are major areas of emphasis. Relevant work experience and submission of standardized test scores such as the Graduate Record Examination may be necessary for enrollment.
Students of a Ph.D. in Agricultural Science program can prepare to become scientists through the study of advanced plant research and animal management courses. The curriculum might include a dissertation and a teaching assistantship. Depending on the school or program, a bachelor's or master's degree is required for admission to a doctoral program.
Bachelor of Science in Agricultural Science
In this bachelor's degree program, students learn to run a successful farming operation, developing communication skills, business savvy and leadership abilities. They also learn to interact with farm animals. In order to prepare for future career paths, students work with advisors to choose electives that cater to their farming science goals.
Some programs are degree completion programs, requiring students to first complete a 2-year degree in a related field, like agricultural science, before transferring to a university. Standardized test scores, a statement of purpose and recommendations might also be required. Those pursuing a bachelor's degree need a high school diploma or GED.
Farming students in this program participate in labs and internships, and a senior project is required. Core courses include the following topics:
- Introductory agricultural systems
- Farm management
- Principles of soil science
- Livestock production
- Animal nutrition
Salary Information and Employment Outlook
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected that farm, ranch and other agricultural managers were expected to experience slower-than-average growth of six percent in employment between 2008 and 2018 (www.bls.gov). The BLS also reported that farm, ranch and other agricultural managers earned a median salary of $59,450 in May of 2009.
Certification and Continuing Education
Agricultural scientists may want to take advantage of industry certifications offered through organizations like the American Society of Agronomy, which offers voluntary certification for crop advisors and agronomists (www.agronomy.org). In either case, individuals must pass two exams, have at least two years of experience, hold a bachelor's degree and sign a code of ethics.
Numerous graduate degree options are available in agriculture, farming and related disciplines at the master's degree and doctoral degree levels.
Master of Science in Agriculture
Agriculture graduate students must typically complete 30 credits to earn a master's degree. Programs may be structured as Master of Science or Master of Agriculture in Agricultural Sciences programs, and they might also include the opportunity to specialize within the degree or complete an internship. Specializations focus on areas such as animal, agriculture, nutrition or plant science. A thesis might be required.
An undergraduate GPA of 3.0 or higher is generally necessary, and applicants should have a background in agricultural or farming science. Those who do not have related education or work experience may still be considered after completion of additional coursework. Graduate Record Examination (GRE) or Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) scores must be submitted.
Graduate students participate in lab experiences and internships. Some course plans include required research. Common course subjects include those listed below:
- Trends in farming technology
- Introductory agricultural research
- Designing agricultural technology
- Leading in agricultural environments
- Issues in agricultural science and technology
Popular Career Options
Completion of a graduate-level degree can open the door to careers in education, research and development in the public and private sectors. Popular job titles include:
- Agricultural technician
- Food researcher
- Agricultural science educator
- Agricultural technology developer
- Agricultural engineer
Ph.D. in Agricultural Science
At the doctoral level, students can focus on animal or crop science, agribusiness, agricultural education or production management. Exams may be required mid-program before the student formally becomes a candidate for the Ph.D. Students work closely with faculty to propose, prepare and support an oral dissertation defense, a requirement for graduation.
Some Ph.D. programs require that students have a master's degree; other programs require that those with bachelor's degrees take additional courses before proceeding to doctoral studies. GRE scores and recommendations are needed.
Doctoral students must often participate in teaching assistantships. Before students can start working on their dissertations, they must complete foundational classes and take the core competency examination. They work with a faculty advisor to determine their specific course of study. Topics of study include:
- Plant and environmental research
- Systems agriculture
- Agricultural ecology
- Biochemicals in agriculture
- Animal management
Popular Career Options
Completing a doctoral degree can prepare individuals for careers as university professors or lead to work in research. There are multiple options for individuals to conduct research, depending on their area of focus. Common career options include:
- Food scientist
- Animal scientist
- Soil and plant scientist
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