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Agriculture Degrees Follow Industry Trends

May 19, 2015

Now is a great time to be a student interested in a career in the agriculture industry.

A May 2015 joint report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Purdue University estimates there will be about 60,000 new agriculture job openings per year over the next five years. During that same period, the report estimates there will only be about 35,000 college graduates each year to fill those slots. 

And they are not talking about just the stereotypical farming and ranching jobs. Nearly 50 percent of the projected job openings will be in agricultural management and business, about 25 percent in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) areas, 15 percent in food and biomaterials production, and 12 percent in education, communication and government service. 

Luckily, ASU’s Department of Agriculture offers a variety of degree plans that prepare students for careers in all those areas. 

“The USDA/Purdue report is proof that what we’ve been telling potential students and their parents is real,” said Dr. Mike Salisbury, department chair. “Historically, the concept of an agriculture job was working in a field, with livestock or on a tractor, but that has changed dramatically, and we have done a good job of anticipating the industry’s future needs. We are training our students to play important roles in all aspects of the agriculture industry.”

Agriculture Careers

According to the USDA/Purdue report, these are some of the areas where the most jobs will be available, along with their median salaries (from the Bureau of Labor Statistics) and the ASU degree plans and facilities that prepare students for those types of careers.

Management and Business

Median Annual Salaries: $59,000–$92,000

  • Financial Analyst
  • Agricultural Economist
  • Agricultural Loan Officer
  • Marketing Specialist
  • Grain Merchandiser
  • Sales and Service Representative 

“Our Agribusiness degree plan was developed in conjunction with our College of Business and has become one of our fastest-growing programs,” Salisbury said. “It has grown enough that we will be adding another agriculture economist faculty member for the next academic year.” 

Dedicated Facility: Management, Instruction and Research (MIR) Center

Controlled burning is an important component for resource and range management.Controlled burning is an important component for resource and range management.

STEM Areas

Median Annual Salaries: $58,000–$75,000

  • Food, Plant or Animal Scientist
  • Environmental Scientist
  • Range or Forest Manager
  • Soil Scientist
  • Irrigation Engineer 

“Our Natural Resource Management program was built around what was recommended by the industry,” Salisbury said, “including the Natural Resource Conservation Service, Parks and Wildlife Department, soil and water conservation organizations and the Farm Service Agency. Consequently, we have a tremendous number of students that go to work for those organizations. The NRCS has listed ASU as one of its top institutions for hiring employees.” 

Dedicated Facilities: MIR Center, 2,900-square-foot Greenhouse

Students get classroom and hands-on training in the Food Safety and Product Development Lab.Students get classroom and hands-on training in the Food Safety and Product Development Lab.

Food and Biomaterials Production

Median Annual Salaries: $52,000–$70,000

  • Food and Product Development
  • Crop Management Consultant
  • Plant and Animal Inspection
  • Precision Agricultural Specialist
  • Livestock Production Manager 

“Our Animal Science degree can lead to careers in everything from livestock, feed and ranch management to pharmaceutical sales and animal healthcare,” Salisbury said. “Animal Science majors can also have a concentration in agribusiness or food science to prepare for jobs in those industries.” 

“The Food Animal Science and Marketing degree teaches students the supply side of the food industry,” he added. “We have graduates working for Hillshire Farms, Labatt Foods, Tyson, Pilgrim’s Pride and other similar companies. We also have graduates going into the safety and inspection side of the industry.” 

Dedicated Facilities: MIR Center, Food Safety and Product Development Lab, Holland Arena

The high-tech metal cutting table is a prime feature in the Mayer-Rousselot Agricultural Education Training Center.The high-tech metal cutting table is a prime feature in the Mayer-Rousselot Agricultural Education Training Center.

Education, Communication and Government Service

Median Annual Salaries: $52,000–$70,000

  • High School Agriscience Teacher
  • Agricultural Extension Service
  • Farm Services Agent
  • Outdoor Recreation Manager
  • Social Media Specialist 

“When we developed our Agricultural Science and Leadership program,” Salisbury said, “we felt there was a need in that sector. We committed to that and we had donors who helped us build a facility dedicated to it. As a result, we are situated very well to be one of the better schools for training future high school ag teachers and others interested in these areas of the industry.” 

Dedicated Facilities: MIR Center, Mayer-Rousselot Agricultural Education Training Center

  • Tom Nurre

    Tom Nurre

    Tom Nurre is a news and information specialist at Angelo State University. 
    Email Tom at

Agriculture Department

  • Nearly 400 students
  • Five undergraduate programs
  • Two graduate programs
  • Pre-vet program
  • 6,000-acre working ranch
  • Award-winning faculty
  • Undergraduate research opportunities
  • Intercollegiate judging teams
  • Six student organizations
  • Departmental scholarships

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