Hey, Ag Student! Here's How To Snag A Top Ag Job

Nor' east Thinkin'

To have a great career in agriculture even if you don't go back to the farm, follow three golden rules and start planning now.

Published on: November 27, 2013

A while back, I blogged about young people excited about food production and agricultural careers. (See Insiders_secrets.) They were right to be excited.

While many industries have scaled back jobs, U.S. agriculture grew and prospered right through the Great Recession. It's still a booming industry.

No, not everyone will go back to the family farm after finishing school. But today's agriculture is far larger than the family farm.

I'm an expert, of sort. I rode that road. While I grew up on my family's farm, my brain didn't grasp it as a career opportunity until too late. So soon old, so late smart is so right.

My parents got tired of waiting. So I chose the next best thing – a career in agriculture and communications.

Today, there's far more competition for good ag industry jobs.

Rule #1: Do the "field work"

A rising number of college students start exploring career opportunities as freshmen and sophomores. As the clique goes, early birds get the fattest worms.

This fall, Penn State College of Ag Sciences hosted an Ag Career Day with a record 110 ag industry vendors. Some 107 of them were ag industry recruiters.

The other seven were for professional/graduate schools, such as the School of Law, Smeal College of Business and University of Pennsylvania's School of Veterinary Medicine, says Richard Rateau, career counselor for undergraduates at the college.

Tracy Hoover, associate ag dean for undergraduate education, reports that 861 students attended the job fair – up from 680 students a year ago. Most employers were recruiting students for internships. This is the "field work" I'm talking about.

This is happening ag college career days across the country. At Iowa State University, for instance, more than 225 companies and organizations recruited at the recent Ag Career Day. Close to 2,000 students took advantage of the opportunity. That job fair, too, was a record buster. Two years ago, that vendor count was 176.

Fall career fairs are something students shouldn't miss. "If students miss this event, opportunities will be limited by the time the spring career fair rolls around," says Monsanto's Scott Greenfield. "We'll have 98% of our summer internship positions filled after this fair."

Rule # 2: Aim for tomorrow's top jobs

A recent USDA white paper assessed ag employment needs between now and 2015. Of the top ag job openings for some 54,400 positions requiring baccalaureate or higher degrees, 74% are in business and science.

Another 15% are in agriculture and forestry production. And 11% are in education, communication and government services.

While more than enough college graduates will likely be available during the next couple years, strongest demand will be for graduates with college degrees and work experience in agriculture, forestry plus environmental science and management.

Rule # 3: Target shortfall specialties

A shortfall is forecasted over the next three years in priority business and science specialities. The top four specialties in ranking order are:

* Management and business

* Science and engineering

* Agriculture and forestry production

* Education, communication and government services

Projected growth in these occupations is in tune with our nation’s shift toward creating new businesses and jobs in local and regional food systems, capitalizing on climate change opportunities, developing renewable energy, and restoring and sustaining natural resources.

For more details, click on Ag_employment .

Click on “Add a Comment” to share your thoughts.