Ag careers are growing
According to College Board, “The average published price of tuition and fees at a four-year public college is $8,660.” Times that by four years and the cost for an education can be daunting. It’s no wonder that students are cautiously making their career choices. For those who are interested in agriculture careers, the news is good. According to the USDA (2010-2015), “The agricultural, food, and renewable natural resources sectors of the U.S. economy will generate an estimated 54,400 annual openings for individuals with baccalaureate or higher degrees in food, renewable energy and environmental specialties between 2010 and 2015. Seventy-four percent of the jobs will be in business and science occupations; 15 percent in agriculture and forestry production; and 11 percent in education, communication, and governmental services.” Jobs like land-use planners, environmental compliance managers, food scientists, animal pathologists, biological engineers, seed producers, restoration foresters, climate change analysts and ecotourism specialists are just some of the jobs that are showing strength in the U.S. job market. The University of Florida College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS) offers a variety of majors designed to fit the demands of today’s ag careers.“You can do almost anything through a CALS major,” said Cathy Carr, director of alumni and career services for CALS. CALS offers more than 20 undergraduate majors and 22 graduate majors. “Our majors range from food and resource economics and family, youth and community sciences to wildlife ecology and conservation and plant science,” added Carr. One example is an undergraduate degree in organic agriculture. Fifty years ago, organic agriculture may not have been on anyone’s radar; however, nowadays, organic food sales are climbing by nearly 20 percent each year. Covering more than 70 percent of the planet, and one of the last great frontiers for scientific discovery, is the ocean. “Our newest major is marine sciences,” said Carr. This bachelor of science degree prepares students for careers in conservation and management of aquatic environments (ecology), aquatic animal health, sustainable fisheries, and aquaculture. Some ag careers, such as crop consulting, or soil and water conservation, expect or even require, master’s degrees or higher. Those two jobs would be a perfect fit for UF’s Agroecology Master of Science program. This online degree, the first degree of its kind offered in the U.S., offers a diverse interdisciplinary focus that emphasizes sustainability, resource management, valuation of ecosystem services, ecosystem productivity and crop profitability. A recent addition to CALS’ offerings is a course in bio-energy crops. The course focuses primarily on ethanol production, from sources such as corn, sugarcane, switchgrass, sweet sorghum and pine trees. In the past, many jobs in agriculture did not require a formal education; however, that is fast changing. In 2011, 66 percent of the jobs posted on AgCareers.com, the leading online job board for agriculture, food, biotechnology, and natural resources, required a bachelor’s degree or higher. The leading career type in 2011 was sales/marketing. According to AgCareers.com, some of the leading up and coming ag jobs, particularly those for Florida, include: agricultural sales, grain merchandiser, human resource specialist, biological engineer, biostatistician, welder, climate change analyst, food safety information specialist, custom applicator, soil scientist, entomologist, hydraulics technician, logistics & supply chain management, environmental scientist, plant geneticist and breeder, crop management consultant, food animal veterinarian, land use manager, precision agriculture specialist, regulatory scientist, seed producer and facilities manager. AgCareers.com is the place to turn to for recent graduates, or for those with established work histories. “At any given time a user has free access to over 4,000 active jobs and internships posted on the site from a wide variety of companies in agriculture,” explained Ashley Collins, the site’s education and marketing specialist, who explained that users can also upload resumes onto the site’s database, and subscribe to the weekly e-newsletter and/or social media updates in order to receive helpful job search tips, information about upcoming events and much more. “Maintaining a professional image online is of upmost importance,” explained Carr who also emphasized that most companies promote job openings online and through social media sites. AgCareers.com experienced a significant 18 percent increase in the number of jobs posted in 2011, while unemployment rates hovered around 9 percent. Since agriculture is the second leading industry in Florida, outside of tourism, choosing a career in agriculture may well mean you reap a promising future. Find out more about the majors offered at UF: www.cals.ufl.edu. For salary information: http://www.cals.ufl.edu/current_students/outcomes.shtml.