20 Ag Careers That May Surprise You
Biochemists, biophysicists, veterinarians and environmental engineers in agricultural applications will be agriculture’s most in-demand jobs in the future, according to a report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
These job titles represent the norm: Just as many agriculture jobs are found off the farm than on it. In fact, the agriculture industry employs over 1 million people, according to the Illinois Department of Agriculture, Yet 49% of them hold jobs off the farm.
“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% of agricultural job growth through 2015 is expected in business and science occupations; 15% in agriculture and forestry production; and 11% 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:
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- Biochemist or biophysicist
- Large animal veterinarian
- Computational biologist/bioinformaticist
- Retail buyer or purchasing consultant
- Human resource manager
- Construction manager or architect
- Environmental engineer or scientist
- Environmental compliance manager
- Agriculture teacher
- Food scientist, technologist or engineer
- Public relations specialist
- Agricultural engineer
- Molecular biologist
- Genetic researcher
- Weather and crop production analyst
- Supply chain manager
- Real estate analyst
- Stream research technician
- Peace Corps volunteer with expertise in agriculture or environmental science