Career Information for a Degree in Agriculture
A degree in agriculture, sometimes called agricultural science, can lead to many diverse careers, depending on what educational track the student pursues. These degree programs prepare graduates for jobs related to the science and business of growing cash crops, raising farm animals and caring for natural resources.
Agriculture Degree Overview
Students interested in the agriculture industry generally need 2-year or 4-year degrees, regardless of what agriculture careers they wish to pursue. Every state has a land-grant university with a school of agriculture that offers degrees in many specialties. Students can earn degrees that will help them produce an ample and safe food supply as farmers or preserve and improve food products as food scientists. Students who want to publicize information about the industry can earn degrees in agriculture journalism.
Farmers operate crop farms and ranches. They use machinery, fertilizers, land-use timetables and many other tools to grow various crops, such as corn, cotton and soybeans, or to raise farm animals, such as hogs, cattle or sheep. Many farms are family owned, but corporate interests are consolidating an increasing number of farms. Some farmers rent and work additional land from other farms to supplement their incomes. All farmers typically perform a wide variety of tasks, from planting, fertilizing and harvesting crops to keeping financial records.
Job Outlook and Salary
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expected an eight percent decline in employment for farmers, ranchers and other agricultural managers from 2010-2020 as consolidated farms and more efficient farming techniques reduce job openings (www.bls.gov). As of May 2012, their median annual salary was $69,300. However, earnings can vary widely due to crop-price fluctuations and weather conditions. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) reports that most farm households earn the majority of their income from off-farm sources, such as government subsidies and jobs (www.ers.usda.gov).
Food scientists work for the federal government, universities or commercial food processors to develop and improve food products. They may work with plants and animals to develop new food sources or analyze existing foods to determine vitamin, mineral and calorie content. They might also research ways to remove harmful ingredients or additives. Food scientists may work towards improving the processing and delivery of food. Some food scientists enforce government food-processing safety and quality regulations.
Job Outlook and Salary
According to the BLS, employment opportunities for food scientists and technologists were expected to increase by 8% from 2010-2020. This growth is due in part to a growing awareness of health and increased efforts to improve the quality and quantity of the food supply. The median wage for a food scientist in May 2012 was $58,070.
Agricultural journalists distribute information about the agriculture industry to the public, legislators, commodity groups and government agencies through broadcast, print or web-based media. They can work for federal-government agencies, such as the USDA, the U.S. Department of the Interior or the U.S. Department of State, or with divisions of state governments. Some agricultural journalists work with advertising or public-relations agencies, while others are employed by food companies. They may also work to publicize the research of state land-grant universities.
Job Outlook and Salary
While the BLS doesn't maintain specific figures for the salaries of agricultural journalists, it does report industry-specific salary information. The median salary for reporters and correspondents was $35,870 in May 2012, while the median salary for public relations specialists was $54,170. Reporting jobs were expected to decline eight percent between 2010 and 2020. Jobs for public relations specialists, on the other hand, were expected to increase 23% in the same decade.
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