Cashing in on Useless Agriculture Degrees

I'm a proud alumnus of Oklahoma State Animal Science. Involvement in the College of Agriculture programs continues to pay off.
I’m a proud alumnus of Oklahoma State Animal Science. Involvement in the College of Agriculture programs continues to pay off.

Every once in a while, a new report comes out that predicts growth or decline in various industries or product markets. Groups supported by the outcome usually proclaim the report as the latest and greatest news, opposing groups usually dismiss reports for their fallacies, and media outlets are looking for a chance to gain the largest viewing audience.

Agriculture audiences find ourselves on both sides of the aisle when such reports are released. In 2011, I wrote about a report from The Daily Beast, claiming several food and farm related college programs to be among the “20 Most Useless Degrees” – Horticulture (No. 2), Agriculture (No. 3), Nutrition (No. 10), and Animal Science (No. 20). Regarding the same report, Andy Vance pointed out the need and relevancy of agricultural degree programs considering the expected growth and demand for global agricultural products in the next 40 years.

Then, again in 2012, Yahoo Education came out with a new story citing the National Association of Colleges and Employers‘ (NACE) 2012 Job Outlook study. In this story, University degrees from agriculture programs ranked as the No. 1 most useless degree, followed by Animal Science and Horticulture, numbers 4 and 5, respectively.

Fast forward to 2015, where do agriculture degree programs rank among the press and media?

Agriculture Degrees Cited Among Highest Paying in 2015

Image via USA Today
Image via USA Today

In the past few weeks, USA Today cited the areas of Agriculture and Natural Resources among some of the highest expected starting salaries (averaging over $51,000) and lifetime earnings (more than $2.6 million) for 2015 college graduates. Those are some fairly exciting numbers when you consider agriculture is lined up next to the likes of engineers, computer scientists, Math and Science programs, and Business majors.

What makes an Agriculture graduate successful?

When taking a look at the hiring landscape, employers are looking for certain characteristics that make a quality hire into a successful employee. As identified by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), these important attributes include:

  • Problem-solving ability
  • Initiative
  • Analytic/quantitative skills
  • Verbal communication skills
  • Leadership
  • Work Ethic
  • Teamwork
  • Written communication skills

Fortunately, for most students enrolled in university and college agriculture and natural resources programs, these attributes are deeply instilled in their lives and course work. Students who are actively engaged in university Agriculture programs often extend their college experiences well-beyond the classroom.

Those who are involved in college leadership programs, judging teams and industry/skills-related clubs will more often than not rank among the top recruiting prospects when employers seek future employees. If you want to set yourself apart for opportunities beyond college, become an engaged student and diversify your skill set and experience outside the classroom.

It does not matter if the media reports demise or demand for agriculture degree programs in their next story. We can take pride that our job fields will be in demand. As agriculture works to sustainably feed a global population of 9 billion people by the year 2050, we can be confident for the opportunity to use our skill sets.

Whether it be economics, business, education, advocacy, communications, biology, nutrition, physiology, or any number of other concentrations students have the opportunity to study in today’s university agriculture programs, know there will be a place for our role in Agriculture fields today, tomorrow, and many years down the road.

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