Agricultural Economics Degree and Certificate Program Information
Degree programs in agricultural economics combine classroom work with research and field experiences. This article looks at bachelor's, master's and doctoral degree programs and covers topics such as curriculum and career options.
In bachelor's, master's and doctoral programs in agricultural economics, students gain an understanding of how economics, in theory and practice, can be applied to the production and management of natural resources, including farming and bio-fuels. Certificate programs in agricultural economics aren't generally available.
Bachelors' programs offer a broad overview of economics and the agriculture industry, while master's programs stress research. Both levels may require internships. At the doctoral level, students write and present a dissertation, as well as work as teaching assistants.
Bachelor of Science in Agricultural Economics Degree
In a Bachelor of Science in Agricultural Economics program, students are introduced to analysis and interpretation of the relationship between local, state, national and international economies and agricultural production. Both theoretical and practical applications of economics are explored. Students can focus on economic policy and economic development within the context of managing farming and other natural resources or on the principles of agribusiness management. Internships are often available and may be required. Students entering this degree program typically already have a high school diploma.
The curriculum generally combines courses in economics with biology, mathematics, business and marketing, with some variation on electives based on the students' interest in public policy, farm management or agribusiness. Some course topics include:
- Animal science
- Soil types and characteristics
- Agricultural quantitative analysis
- Agricultural economics of policy and trade practices
- Marketing of agricultural products
- Concepts in agribusiness law
- Principles of finance and agricultural practice
- Farm and ranch operations
Popular Career Options
A bachelor's degree in agricultural economics may qualify graduates to land entry-level positions business or agriculture. Some popular career choices are:
- Environmental analyst
- Pesticide field agent
- Marketing representative
- Economic analyst
- Assistant broker
Master's Degree in Agricultural Economics
Master of Science in Agricultural Economics programs are research-intensive and tend to emphasize the theoretical and conceptual relationships between agricultural policies and practices in conjunction with economic principles. The Master of Agriculture program focuses on applying economic theories and problem-solving skills to real-world issues in agricultural production and marketing. The curriculum covers advanced economic theory that includes national and international trade, commodities and futures trading, statistical analysis, analysis of agricultural and food policies, agricultural marketing and agricultural production, preparing students for progressively advanced careers or continued doctoral study, depending on their career goals.
Schools may require that incoming students have completed coursework in micro and macroeconomics, differential calculus and statistics. Master's degree programs in agricultural economics may require students hold a bachelor's degree, although it's not always required that it be awarded in agricultural economics.
Internships are common degree requirements. Students enrolled in a Master of Science in Agricultural Economics program may also have the option of enrolling in a thesis or non-thesis option. Typical course topics include:
- Farm appraisal
- American agriculture policy
- Food and agricultural policy development and analysis
- Quantitative price analysis
- Economic development of natural resources
Popular Career Options
With a graduate degree in agricultural economics, students may be able to attain mid-level careers in agribusiness or food companies, public policy organizations, banking, trade organizations or research settings. Graduates may choose a career like:
- Finance officer
- Foreign diplomatic staffer
- International business consultant
Although a master's degree is often sufficient for most employment, those seeking to work at the highest levels of business or in higher education might consider a doctorate in agricultural economics. A Master of Science in Agricultural Economics prepares students for career advancement or continued education at the doctoral level.
Doctor of Philosophy in Agricultural Economics Degree
For students aspiring to teach at the college or university level or work as professional economists, a Doctor of Philosophy in Agricultural Economics provides the opportunity to continue advanced study and discussion of the agricultural production and economic trade, development and policies. Along with academic research in preparation for the writing of a dissertation and coursework, doctoral candidates usually teach at the undergraduate level. Degree concentrations may be available in international trade and economic policy, natural resources and environmental economics, farm production and economics, agribusiness or similar fields.
Individuals looking to enter a doctoral degree program may possess a master's degree in agricultural economics or economics, although this isn't always required. Previous coursework in microeconomics, macroeconomics, advanced calculus and statistics is generally preferred.
In addition to core, required coursework in theoretical and applied economics, students generally have some latitude to tailor their doctoral program to reflect their interests. Course topics include:
- International trade
- Agricultural policy analysis
- Regulatory economics
- Industrial organization theory and application
- Econometric theory and practice
- Labor economics in America
Employment Outlook and Salary Info
Graduates of doctoral degree programs in agricultural economics may become postsecondary instructors at colleges or universities. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimated that employment will increase 17% for instructors overall from 2010-2020 (www.bls.gov). According to the BLS, postsecondary agricultural science teachers earned an annual median salary of $80,490 in 2012.
Graduates who seek to become professional economists will face slower than average job growth in the decade 2010-2020, according to the BLS. Competition is expected to be keen. The BLS also reported that economists earned a median annual wage of $91,860 in 2012.
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