The education needed to become an agricultural consultant involves completing a bachelor's degree in a field related to agriculture, such as agricultural communications or technology, with coursework primarily focused on natural science subjects. Because agricultural consultants advise farmers on ways to increase the production and operations on a farm, they might also benefit from taking courses related to business, accounting, public relations, and commodity futures.
Agricultural consultants help farmers maximize business opportunities by providing information in topics ranging from sales and marketing to animal husbandry and soil composition. A career in agricultural consulting typically requires a bachelor's degree related to agriculture, with internships and field work providing additional experience.
|Required Education||Bachelor's degree in an agricultural field|
|Other Requirements||Optional certification available from the American Society of Agricultural Consultants|
|Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)||-6% for 'Agricultural Workers - All Other'*|
|Median Salary (2015)||$29,830 annually for 'Agricultural Workers - All Other'*|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Completing an agriculture-related bachelor's degree program is a common requirement for a career in agricultural consulting; a bachelor's degree in the field is also a prerequisite for professional certification. Aspiring agricultural consultants should take a course load heavy in natural sciences. They should also learn about the principles of agriculture and economics for the purposes of sound agri-business operations and effective problem solving. Bachelor's degree options may include those in agricultural communications or agricultural technology, or even an interdisciplinary field such as pest management.
The curriculum in these programs generally emphasizes natural science classes. Students may take classes in soil and plant science, chemistry, technical agriculture, agricultural mechanics, and animal husbandry. Depending on the degree program or area of concentration chosen, elective options may include journalism, communications, public relations, management, and business courses like accounting and commodity futures.
Hands-on learning comes through internships and field work, which is generally a graduation requirement. School facilities may include farms, greenhouses and computer labs. Students may also have access to specialized co-op and extension programs, student newspapers, agricultural clubs, collegiate 4-H clubs, and FFA chapters.
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Agricultural consultants assist farmers by providing information and strategies related to pest control, farming techniques and more. These professionals may specialize within an agricultural specialty, such as sales, communications, animal care, soil testing or horticulture. Their roles and responsibilities typically include collecting information, analyzing a problem - whether it's increasing crop production or eliminating pests - and developing solutions in keeping with accepted standards of agricultural practices.
Members of the American Society of Agricultural Consultants who have at least five years of experience and have completed a series of professional and specialized education programs - including courses in ethics, communications, and professional practices - may qualify for the voluntary Certified Agricultural Consultant certification exam.
The median annual salary for the occupational group of 'agricultural workers - all other', which is the group agricultural consultants are counted among by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, was $29,830 in May 2015. The states with the greatest number of workers in this field were California, Iowa, Arizona and Illinois, with many employed in support activities for water and sewage systems, local government, farm product raw material merchant wholesalers, and management or consulting services.
Acquiring hands-on experience in agriculture is important for aspiring consultants, as it can help them to better understand agricultural practices and specific farm-related topics, like animal husbandry or horticulture. The American Society of Agricultural Consultants offers these professionals a chance to earn voluntary certification. Individuals interested in entering the agriculture industry may want to consider that the BLS projects a 6% decline in new job opportunities for this field between 2014-2024.