The number of jobs in this industry is ‘growing’ rapidly
A career in agriculture is ripe for the picking
Looking to plant yourself in a fertile industry? Or maybe you’re considering uprooting your career for a job outside of your chosen field. You just may find a solution in agriculture, where job opportunities are cropping up all the time.
(And with that, we’ll stop with the terrible puns.)
Agriculture and its related industries provide 11% of U.S. employment. That means jobs are ripe for the picking. (Sorry.)
If you’re hesitant because your idea of agriculture involves a weathered old man in suspenders with a sprig of hay hanging from his mouth, know that times have changed. A lot. Just think about the many marijuana jobs that have been created thanks to new laws regarding the controlled substance.
Modern agriculture is a high-tech industry that combines the best of environmental sciences, information technology and software to focus on providing food, energy and consumer goods to the world, says Steve Fabijanski, CEO of Agrisoma, a Gatineau, Quebec-based firm that develops and sells seeds for an industrial oilseed.
Check out these five jobs and see if there’s a place for your career to blossom.
The job market for the business side of agriculture is incredibly robust, says Mike Gaul, director of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Career Services at Iowa State University (ISU). One key area is agricultural lending; certain regulations apply to farmland, so farmers, ranchers and other rural businesses require financial specialists to help them with loans and leases.
Other business-side opportunities include commodity sales and trading, Gaul says, adding that employers are scrambling to fill positions vacated by retiring baby boomers. A general business and finance background can help you land one of these roles, though agriculture-specific experience is usually preferred.
“The financial models and management of working capital in agriculture is very sophisticated,” Fabijanski says. But the jobs also give people a chance to get out of the office and into the field, and “people get excited about that,” he adds.
Find agricultural finance jobs on Monster.
Precision ag service technician
Farm equipment is high-tech machinery, and it takes lots of support people to keep all of the parts in good working order. Farmers use GPS and other technology to enhance productivity, Gaul says, and to troubleshoot problem areas.
“Instead of just blanketing everything [with fertilizer], they can pinpoint specific areas that need nutrients or pesticides or have drainage issues,” he says. Technicians may install or maintain the hardware or software that keeps those technologies running.
A two-year technical degree can get you an entry-level position in managing these technologies; other positions, such as a trainer on precision agriculture equipment or procedures, may require a four-year degree in agriculture, adult education or related degree.
According to the World Bank, the world needs to produce 50% more food to feed 9 billion people by 2050. There is a pressing need for R&D scientists to find new ways to feed people, produce more food with fewer resources and find solutions to problems such as the avian flu outbreak of 2015, Gaul says.
These positions—at corporations and universities alike—require at least a bachelor’s degree in food science or related degree; a master’s degree or doctorate is generally preferred. Knowledge of FDA and USDA guidelines is helpful, as well as experience working in a lab setting.
Find agriculture R&D jobs on Monster.
Big ag is all about big data—and it takes a lot of statisticians to parse and analyze those figures. Whether they research the maximum yield of a thousand-acre farm, determine the best-performing seed hybrid or analyze the effects of a foodborne viral outbreak in a certain area, people who can break down data and dig for insights are in high demand.
A data scientist who works in agriculture will often need a degree in statistics, biology, agronomy or related field. Entry-level data positions may only require a bachelor’s degree.
Find agriculture statistician jobs on Monster.
Joe Merschman, president and CEO of Merschman Seeds in West Point, Iowa, says seed sales is a “top need” in agriculture. People in these positions need to know their products well and may assist in some marketing efforts, depending on the company the work for. They must understand the different issues each farmer faces and be able to identify the kinds of products that will best help them meet their goals.
“Obviously, you need good verbal communication, writing and computer skills to survive in today's business world,” Merschman says. An agronomy background and a willingness to learn amid an ever-changing environment also are important. “Farmers are looking for salespeople who are professional and problem solvers. The sky’s the limit if you can work well with people.”
Find seed sales jobs on Monster.
Agriculture isn’t just about growing crops. Depending on their specialty, environmental technicians may help landowners establish buffer strips or terraces on their land, work with landowners to reduce runoff into groundwater or mitigate wetlands. Soil conservation and management, water quality and other environmental challenges are big issues in agriculture, and a degree in an agricultural science can open the doors to environmental protection as well.
Gaul says many millennials find that working on environmental issues calls to them: “They’re looking for ways to leave this place in a better condition than when they entered,” he says, “and this aligns well with that.”
Find environmental technician jobs on Monster.