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Careers in Agricultural Economics: Job Options and Requirements

Careers in agricultural economics span across many fields, all of which utilize the application of core concepts and principles of economics. Agricultural economics careers are also found in similar fields such as agribusiness or rural economics.

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Job Options

In agricultural economics, economists apply theories and principles of economics to better understand and optimize agricultural markets. Those in agricultural economics address problems ranging from clean air and water to questions regarding how poverty can be alleviated. Relationships between supply and demand are examined 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
  • Commodities broker
  • Farm manager
  • Development
  • Writing for magazines, trade journals and newspapers
  • Public relations

Many agricultural economists will teach at the college and 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 positions as economist will require at least a bachelor's degree. Some entry-level positions such as research assistant or sales can be obtained with only a bachelor's, but more advanced positions will require a graduate degree or a doctoral degree. Basic requirements for entry-level jobs with the Federal Government include three semester hours in statistics, accounting or calculus, in addition to at least 21 semester hours in economics (www.usajobs.gov).

FFA notes that agricultural economists also need a very strong grasp of production agricultural and marketing principles. A specialty are can be helpful in meeting specific job requirements, for example crop management or international development.

Those in agricultural economics fields also need strong mathematical, data, statistical and quantitative skills. The ability to pay attention to detail and conduct complex research is also required.

Salary and Job Outlook

In May 2012, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that economists, including agricultural economists, made a median annual salary of $91,860. The BLS projects that employment of economists will increase by 14% from 2012 to 2022, which is about average for all occupations.

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Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics