Research the educational and skill requirements needed to become an agricultural grader, as well as the job description and employment and salary outlook. Read on to decide if this career is right for you.
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Job Description for an Agricultural Grader
Agricultural graders sort agricultural products according to their size, quality and type. Following sorting, each product is then labeled according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) grade. Some products are graded entirely on their visual characteristics, while others must be analyzed for nutritional content. For example, beef is graded into eight categories, while both poultry and eggs have three grades. Fruits, vegetables and specialty products have 312 grades, while cotton has 38, according to the USDA. Most agricultural graders specialize in grading one or just a few types of related products. Graders must discard damaged or defective foods, weigh some types of food and assist in the packaging of food products by categorizing each food according to its characteristics.
|Education||High school diploma|
|Job Skills||Attention to detail, ability to lift products and stand for long periods, good communication skills, ability to work independently and perform repetitive tasks|
|Median Hourly Wage (2015)*||$11.18 (for agricultural graders)|
|Job Growth (2014-2024)**||-2% (for agricultural graders)|
Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **O*Net Online
Agricultural graders performing nutritional analyses generally have high school diplomas. Agricultural graders responsible for grading agricultural products purely on their visual characteristics do not necessarily have any formal education. According to O*Net Online in 2010, 61% of agricultural graders held less than a high school diploma, while 37% had achieved a high school diploma or equivalent. Agricultural graders are often trained on the job, regardless of the highest educational level they have completed. Time spent in training may vary by task and site, from a few days to a few months.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that agricultural graders must hold the following traits:
- Good vision and attention to detail in order to complete their evaluations
- Ability to lift products and stand for many hours
- Strong written communication skills, since agricultural graders, like most government regulators, are required to report the findings of their work in detail
- Independent work skills
- Ability to perform repetitive tasks
Employment and Salary Outlook
The BLS reported the mean hourly wage for agricultural graders was $11.18 in May 2015. California, Washington, Florida, Texas and Oregon had the highest number of agricultural graders in the nation. Nebraska, North Dakota, Minnesota, Kansas, and Maryland were the top-paying states for agricultural graders, where they earned between $14.47 and $17.95 per hour on average. According to O*Net Online, the employment rate for graders was expected to decrease 2% from 2014-2024.