Careers in Agricultural Economics: Job Options and Requirements

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

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If you're interested in food from a statistical standpoint, then perhaps you should consider becoming an agricultural economist. Agriculture is an extremely important economy to track, as most agricultural products are the food citizens rely on for survival.

Essential Information

Agricultural economists apply theories and principles of economics to better understand and optimize agricultural markets. These professionals need a minimum of a bachelor's degree in economics, agricultural economics, agribusiness or a related discipline; however, a master's or doctoral degree might be needed for some positions.

Required Education Variable according to desired job level; master's degree in economics or a related field is usually the minimum
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 6% (for economists)
Median Annual Salary (May 2015)* $99,180 (for economists)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Job Options

Agricultural economists address problems ranging from clean air and water to alleviation of poverty. They examine relationships between supply and demand using data, statistics and market trends.

Job opportunities in agricultural economics exist in many areas, including agribusiness management, finance, policy, natural resource economics and economic development. Further options include:

  • Real estate agent
  • Commodities broker
  • Farm manager
  • Developer
  • Writer for magazines, trade journals or newspapers
  • Public relations specialist

Many agricultural economists teach at the college or university level. Schools across the country not only have economic programs but more specifically programs in agricultural economics, applied economics, resource economics, rural sociology or agribusiness. Additional teaching opportunities exist at the secondary level as well as through organizations such as Future Farmers of America (FFA).

Requirements

All economist positions require at least a bachelor's degree. A few entry-level positions, such as research assistant or salesperson, can be obtained with only a bachelor's degree, but more advanced positions require a master's or doctoral degree.

Agricultural economists need a strong grasp of agricultural and marketing principles, along with strong data analysis, statistical and quantitative skills. The ability to pay attention to detail and conduct complex research is also required. A specialty area, such as crop management or international development, could be helpful in meeting specific job requirements.

Salary and Job Outlook

In May 2015, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that economists, including agricultural economists, made a median annual salary of $99,180. The BLS projected that employment of economists would increase by 6% from 2014 to 2024, which was about average for all occupations.

With a few exceptions, steady job growth usually signifies a favorable job market for applicants. This should hold true for agricultural economists as well, although applicants holding less than a master's degree may face higher competition.

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