Ag: A Promising Field For College Grads [opinion]

Rosemary Gordon

Rosemary Gordon

How many of you know someone in college right now? If I could see a show of hands, I’m pretty certain just about all of you would have yours raised. The next question is: Do you know what he or she is studying?

We often hear about the best and the worst occupations and if it is actually worth it to get a specific degree when calculating the cost of college and the expected salary.

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Even though jobs in agriculture are not on U.S. News & World Report’s Top 20 list as the best paying, a career in agriculture can provide a good  living, contrary to what some outsiders may think.

In fact, we talked about it a lot at American Vegetable Grower’s® 2014 VegetableGrowerConnectSM, an invitation-only event that brings together some of the largest vegetable operations for one-on-one meetings with industry suppliers. The members of our Grower Roundtable agreed that, as an industry, we need to let those in school know a career in agriculture offers competitive wages and uses the latest technology.

The good news is more jobs in agriculture and related fields are coming. Last month, a national report was released indicating that nearly 58,000 jobs in these fields will open annually over the next five years across the U.S. and, in some areas, employers will have difficulty finding graduates to fill all the positions. Specifically, the jobs will involve food, agriculture, renewable natural resources, and the environment.

The report, produced by Purdue University’s College of Agriculture with grant support from USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture, projects that almost half of the new jobs each year will be in management and business. About 27%, however, will be in the STEM areas: Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. Jobs in food and biomaterials production will take up 15%, and 12% of the new jobs will be in education, communication, and governmental services.

Specifically, job opportunities in the STEM areas are expected to continue to grow. According to the report, the strongest markets are for plant scientists, food scientists, sustainable biomaterials specialists, water resources scientists and engineers, precision agriculture specialists, and other ag-related areas.

In response to the release of the report, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said: “There is incredible opportunity for highly skilled jobs in agriculture. Those receiving degrees in agricultural fields can
expect to have ample career opportunities.”

Perhaps some day a job in agriculture will be on U.S. News & World Report’s Top 20 list. If that ever occurs, I bet we no longer will be in the 2% of the population producing food for the other 98%.