Agricultural Economist: Job Description, Duties and Salary

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become an agricultural economist. Get a quick view of the degree requirements, job description and duties as well as salary statistics to find out if this is the career for you.

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An agricultural economist specializes in understanding the economic activity within agricultural markets. They research statistics and data pertaining to the agricultural industry and project possible patterns and trends within the economy. Most hold a graduate degree in economics.

Essential Information

Agricultural economists examine data and statistics to identify trends and make predictions for the agricultural market. These professionals can work in a variety of agricultural sectors and often perform their own research. Education in this field is variable, but can include a formal education, typically a master's degree.

Required Education Variable; most often a master's or Ph.D. degree in economics, but sometimes a bachelor's degree is acceptable
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 6% (for economists)
Median Annual Salary (May 2015)* $99,180 (for economists)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Job Description for an Agricultural Economist

Agricultural economists employ principles and concepts of economics to learn more about the supply and demand of goods and services in the agricultural sector. This includes analysis of production, consumption, and distribution. These professionals often choose an area of expertise, such as crop and livestock sciences, environmental economics, policy analysis, agribusiness, food safety, international trade, rural development, or marketing systems.

Agricultural economists typically work with agricultural data and statistics in office settings, but they may travel as part of a research group to collect information. Additionally, they may teach and conduct research at colleges and universities with undergraduate or graduate programs in agricultural economics.

Find schools that offer these popular programs

  • Agribusiness Operations
  • Agricultural Economics
  • Farm and Ranch Management
  • Farm Supplies Retailing and Wholesaling

Duties of an Agricultural Economist

Agricultural economists examine data to determine patterns and trends in economic activity. They also conduct research to collect data and market samples. They use the predictions obtained from their research to inform, influence, and improve the business decisions of clients and agricultural organizations. As agricultural economists better determine market indicators like farm income and food prices, they study many areas, such as:

  • Natural resource management
  • Agricultural policy
  • Food science
  • Farm credit
  • Agricultural marketing systems
  • Commodity exchanges

Whether they want to offer a short-term forecast or long-term prediction for some part of the agricultural market, these professionals must have an excellent understanding of agricultural production and relevant economic forces. This involves devising data collection methods and using appropriate statistical methods to obtain useful information. Agricultural economists may also communicate their findings at seminars and conferences to encourage further research or investment in a particular area.

Agricultural Economist Salary

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for all economists was $99,180 as of May 2015 ( The highest paid economists worked in pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing industries; however, the federal government was the largest employer of economists as of 2015.

Although some positions require only a bachelor's degree in economics, most agricultural economist positions require a master's or Ph.D. in the field. The courses aspiring agricultural economists could study include food science, agricultural policies and marketing systems, and farm credits. These professionals need to have a solid understanding of agriculture, statistics, and market forces in order to make their projections.

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