Agriculture – Useless College Degree Part 2

According to a Yahoo can be described as “anyone who is uncultured, ignorant, or stupid…of lower intelligence” or as “an uneducated person with a backwoods mentality.” I find it ironic that Yahoo Education would come out with a story citing Agriculture (No.1) (and two associated degree programs: Animal Science (No.4) and Horticulture (No.5)) as one of the most useless college degrees in today’s employment outlook. To be fair the author of the story (don’t worry he’s a crazy, job-quitting sailor. His words. Not Mine.) was pulling from the National Association of Colleges and Employers‘ (NACE) 2012 Job Outlook study.

There’s nothing that make a man any more mad than to take a stab at the heart of his lifestyle and passion, and boy is the Agriculture community shouting back at this story! A very similar story came out last Spring from the Daily Beast (where was the response then?). The story ranked Animal Science (No.20), Agriculture (No.3), and Horticulture (No.2) as some of the most useless degree programs. I shared my thoughts here and many of you responded. This year’s report came out on a notably higher profile web page and traffic will likely be higher.

A few questions I have for the survey:

  • How were the rankings figured with growth in expected hires and a consistent impact on GNP?
  • Why are degree areas so limited? Areas like Animal Science encompass so many more jobs than Scientists (breed associations, consultants, ranchers… the list could continue all day).
  • Were factors considered like the aging population of production agriculture and the need for younger members?
  • And… eh it’s not worth it. Just come with me one day to visit a few farms, ranches, and agriculture supporters then you decide what impact they have on world food production. Then leave us to enjoy life soaking up the environment that surrounds us.

The study didn’t do near the justice to all of the possibilities that are encompassed by a degree in agriculture related fields. If you follow my blog at all, you’ll already recognize that modern farmers and ranchers wear many hats when on the job. Did you check out the following storyon Yahoo? It listed the most versatile jobs in America: Environmentalist, Entrepreneur, Pharmaceutical, Human Resources, Accountant. Pretty sure farmers and ranchers must have knowledge in all of those roles. Most Effective Degrees? Yeah that’s another Yahoo story on the same page. Jobs include Business Administration, Psychology, Accounting, Information Technology, Health Care. Yeah I can see farmers and ranchers utilizing these skills as well. Farmers and Ranchers are just one sector of all the possibilities in Agriculture.  Then there were the online degrees, but I think you get the idea.

Heck, I’m in my 5th year of college education just trying to learn what there is to cattle production, and I still have a few years of school and a lifetime of learning in the pasture to do. Even then I won’t know it all. I got a good job secured a few months prior to graduation and felt like I was behind. I know there’s a good job demand out there. People have to eat. And someone has to know how to produce that food. Agriculture, Animal Science, and Plant studies aren’t going anywhere any time soon. And I’ll bet a steak on that.

Agriculture… It’s about feeding a growing global population
…And learning hands-on about life’s processes (or in my case hands-in)
…And other times it’s about taking care of this great big Earth with which God Provided us!

“Agriculture, It’s more than part of life. It’s a passion, a lifestyle, a resilient community that works hard to feed the world!” — Ryan Goodman

Do you have a degree in an Agriculture related field? Where has your life involved with Agriculture taken you?


  1. Great post Ryan! I share much of the same passion, and was equally hurt by this article’s blatant demise of my aspired profession. I have enjoyed nothing more than becoming involved in this industry and look forward to a long career ahead supporting American Agriculture.

    Additionally, I was very troubled that the author referred to the degrees as “useless.” In my opinion any sort of education is “USEFUL” and helps build your personal skill set. If that wasn’t the case, then why would a majority of curriculum include “general ed” credits. It is important to continue learning, and I have a hard time understanding how anyone can say that certain types of education are “useless.”

  2. This is a strange coincidence. It comes when I am starting a series of articles for my ag newspaper, about the changing face of FFA and how it relates to today’s world. I come from both worlds. Born and raised in a large city, I have spent my adult life in ag. As I have said many times, my husband and I did not have the advantage of a degree in ag. But we learned from many people who did, farmers included. And, yes, we also learned from farmers and ranchers who did not go to college to study ag, but learned from their experiences. I hope I can encourage some young people to go into the one of thousands of jobs/vocations that are a part of agriculture today. I’m AgProud, too, Ryan. Keep up your preachin’!

  3. Why do I always find myself cast as the contrarian in these things? Oh well.

    If there is a problem with a degree in ‘agriculture’ it that it promotes a certain group think. In my experience ag colleges suffer from an echo chamber environment where curriculum is more determined by the businesses that donate to them, and then mine the student body for employees. Ag colleges do not promote a career as a farmer or rancher, they groom students for careers in agribusiness. If we want more farmers we need to teach students what it will take to succeed in farming, not how to impress the Monsanto recruiters.

    I loved my time in the ag college at Oklahoma State, but if my daughters want to get into ag, I’ll push them towards a broader degree and they can come back from there.

    1. Aaron I’ll have to say I agree with you there. Having gone through the program, the recruiting and even worked for a large Ag business myself, the instruction style definitely lends itself to that. I am thankful for my raising and hands-on skills learned there, so many of my peers had no clue of those things. And thanks to your constant prodding, not saying I’m there yet, but I’m definitely asking ‘Why’ a lot more often.

  4. I’m in the same boat Ryan, I am also in my fifth year of learning all there is to know about cattle production and the cattle industry. I feel it’s a life-long learning curve. But that is what aim passionate about. How many people can say that they wake up every morning to a job that they are passionate about? That’s one of the many things I love about being a part of the cattle industry,

  5. You have to remember that the survey covered 1500 companies. How many of those companies were food related? If only a small portion was then the results will be biased. It all depends on how you conduct the survey!
    Typically ag majors get jobs and people have to eat !

  6. I agree with the comments above — and that’s coming from a guy that majored in the technology field. Sometimes I wish I could leave the office, the computer screen, and all other technology behind and go work on a farm. I would be a “gringo” no doubt but I think it could be enjoyable. I just wish the jobs paid better. I suppose I could work for a landscaping or tree service company in St. Petersburg, FL but it wouldn’t be quite the same.

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