How to Become a Rancher: Education and Career Roadmap

Find out how to become a rancher. Learn about the education, experience and training requirements you need if you are interested in advancing a career in ranching. View article »

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  • 0:04 Should I Become a Rancher?
  • 0:55 Career Requirements
  • 1:26 Steps to Be a Rancher

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Video Transcript

Should I Become a Rancher?

Ranchers breed and raise livestock on ranches that they own or supervise. Some livestock, such as cattle or sheep, are raised for food production, while others, like horses, are raised for commercial purposes. Ranchers keep pastures in good condition and make sure livestock is fed and cared for. They oversee breeding and the birth of healthy stock. The physical work is strenuous, and a certain amount of danger exists in working with farm machinery and large animals.

Although degrees are not required, many professionals complete bachelor's degree programs in agriculture or similar fields. Ranchers need some veterinary skills and have to know how to repair and maintain equipment and structures. To operate a profitable ranch, ranchers follow market changes and efficient business management practices.

Career Requirements

Ranchers are skilled in livestock management. They're also comfortable with machinery and equipment operation, repair, and maintenance tasks. Critical thinking skills are essential for managing all aspects of ranching, from oversight of animals to equipment and property. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics as of May 2015, farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers earned a median annual salary of $64,170.

Steps to Be a Rancher

Some education and experience are often required for a career as a rancher.

Step 1: Earn a High School Diploma

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), most ranchers and farmers have at least a high school diploma. Additionally, a high school diploma will be required for admission to postsecondary education programs, which are becoming more common in this field. Gain hands-on experience on a ranch while in high school. A position working on a family-owned farm or ranch is open to students still at the high school level. Relevant experience is typically useful when seeking a job as a rancher.

Step 2: Obtain Relevant Education or Training

Associates degree programs in ranch management are available at many community colleges. Courses include conservation, range and animal health management, animal nutrition, reproduction, and forage production. Business management courses include ranch records and finance and marketing. Some programs also offer courses in maintenance and repair of equipment and machinery used on ranches. Additionally, many colleges and universities offer bachelor's degree programs in agriculture. These programs consist of subjects like farm management, agricultural economics, or dairy science. Students also study subjects relevant to the management of livestock.

Instead of earning a degree or gaining informal work experience, an aspiring rancher can become an apprentice to a working rancher to learn the skills required. This generally requires a commitment of one to two years and is an intensive hands-on immersion in ranching. Many ranchers offering apprenticeships practice variations on sustainable ranching and have a desire to pass their knowledge on to the next generation.

Step 3: Consider Certification for Career Advancement

Aspiring ranchers who hold a bachelor's degree and at least four years of related work experience are eligible for certification through the American Society of Farm Managers and Rural Appraisers. Certification through this organization provides professional ranchers with multiple resources, including education, market data, management tools, and consultations.

Although there's no degree required for a career as a rancher, formal education in a field like agriculture or ranch management is helpful, along with some experience, to gain entry-level work.

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