20 Ag Careers That May Surprise You

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Animal science

Biochemists, biophysicists, veterinarians and environmental engineers in agricultural applications will be agriculture’s most in-demand jobs through 2015, according to a report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

These job titles represent the norm: More agriculture jobs are found off the farm than on them. In fact, the agriculture industry employs 23 percent – nearly one-fourth – of Illinois’ work force, according to the Illinois Department of Agriculture. Yet less than 2 percent of Illinois’ population works on farms.

“The field of agriculture is so vast that you can make connections between what kids are learning here and what needs to be done in the agricultural world on so many levels that you can’t think of them all,” says Scott Nelson, a teacher and campus farm manager at the Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences.

The school’s alumni roster includes current U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, an example of how an agricultural education could lead all the way to Washington, D.C. In fact, a number of non-agricultural companies are looking for employees with ag backgrounds, says Jennifer Neef, director of career services for the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences at the University of Illinois. For example, a wealth management firm needs a real estate analyst with a focus on farmland. A consulting firm needs employees with a foundation in weather science and crop production to link marketing decisions with weather prediction. Neef says an understanding of science will be a marketable asset for graduates moving forward.

The National Institute of Food and Agriculture says 74 percent of agricultural job growth through 2015 is expected in business and science occupations; 15 percent in agriculture and forestry production; and 11 percent in education, communication and governmental services.

Neef and Will Collins, who teaches an agricultural careers course at the Chicago Ag Sciences school, share the following ag careers that students and the general public may overlook:

20 Surprising Careers in Agriculture

  1. Biochemist or biophysicist
  2. Large animal veterinarian
  3. Computational biologist/bioinformaticist
  4. Retail buyer or purchasing consultant
  5. Human resource manager
  6. Construction manager or architect
  7. Environmental engineer or scientist
  8. Environmental compliance manager
  9. Agriculture teacher
  10. Food scientist, technologist or engineer
  11. Public relations specialist
  12. Agricultural engineer
  13. Enzymologist
  14. Molecular biologist
  15. Genetic researcher
  16. Weather and crop production analyst
  17. Supply chain manager
  18. Real estate analyst
  19. Stream research technician
  20. Peace Corps volunteer with expertise in agriculture or environmental science

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