Agriculture, General

Overview of Agriculture Program as a College Major

A new, high-yielding line of pinto beans resists disease. A foreign flea beetle can destroy the foul-smelling skunk vine, which grows in thick layers, often smothering crops and trees. These are just two developments in the field of agriculture.

If you thought that all a college degree in agriculture did was prepare you to work on a farm, think again. From global positioning systems to computerized yield monitors to specialized biotech seed traits, modern technology and advances in agricultural research have revolutionized farming and the food industry.

What the agriculture program at most colleges and universities provides you with is a background in agricultural research, agribusiness management, agricultural demand and production as well as with a strong understanding of farm operations. It’s about agricultural production and everything that goes into it making it a successful business.

Agriculture Program Curriculum           

While effective management and business skills are an important part of an agricultural program, you may find that some programs include courses in natural resource conservation and ecology as well. And though actual course titles will differ from campus to campus, you will likely find yourself taking classes in topics such as:

  • Animal husbandry
  • Chemistry/biochemistry
  • Biology/microbiology
  • Microeconomics in agriculture
  • Mathematics
  • Integrated pest management/Weed control  
  • Livestock biometrics
  • Horticulture
  • Agricultural mechanics
  • Agronomy
  • Sustainable agriculture
  • Agricultural marketing

Education Levels Available for an Agriculture Degree

Agriculture is a broad field of study which combines aspects of science and business into teaching you about proper livestock production and plant cultivation. Education programs are available at the Associate degree, Bachelor degree, Master degree and Doctorate degree levels.

Depending on the school you choose, you may find that you can obtain your agriculture degree with a management specialization in agricultural business, equine business, turfgrass, golf course or landscape or a concentration in sustainable agriculture, also known as agro-ecology. There are also business degrees with agriculture options or you might consider another degree program and make agriculture your minor.

In addition, some students may choose to use their undergraduate agriculture education as the first step toward a pre-professional program such as veterinary medicine, food technology or forestry.

Skills Developed through Agriculture Degree Program

Beyond the knowledge you gain from your agriculture degree program, you will need to develop specific skills in order to do your job. Here are the skills that will benefit you the most in the field of agriculture:

  • Critical thinking and logic
  • Problem solving and decision making
  • Ability to present ideas both in writing and orally
  • Understanding of basic business principles
  • The ability to apply statistical techniques
  • Ability to use computers to analyze data and to control biological and chemical processing
  • Team and relationship building
Where to Obtain an Agriculture Degree

If you’re considering a career as an agricultural or food scientist, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicates that employment growth will likely be faster than with other occupations – approximately 16% over the next few years.

And if you’re wondering if there is a school near you which offers an agri-degree program, all states have a land-grant college – so designated under the Morrill Acts of 1862 and 1890 – that offers agricultural science degrees and which are designed to specifically teach agriculture, science and engineering. Many other colleges and universities throughout the country also offer agricultural science degrees or agricultural science courses. However, not every school offers all specialties.

In addition there are online college courses and/or degree programs available such as the BS in agriculture available through the e-campus program at Oregon State University.

Career Opportunities for Agriculture Majors

Because of topography and growing conditions, crop and livestock production tends to be concentrated in particular areas of the country. Therefore, depending on your career goals and educational focus, you may find that your career of choice is located in a specific area of the country.

Whatever you decide, know that agriculture generates millions of jobs each year and they are not all on farms. Jobs in agriculture come in all shapes and sizes, from feed or seed sales and service, nutrient management consulting and crop and livestock production to agricultural law, botany and viticulture (the cultivation of grapes) – plus everything in between.

And if you are interested in a career as an agronomist or crop advisor, you will need certification from the American Society of Agronomy, while soil scientists and soil classifiers are certified through the Soil Science Society of America.

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