Agricultural career options go well beyond farming and ranching. If you love the idea of working with crops, animals and resources that contribute to the worldwide food supply, pursuing a career in agriculture will provide a rewarding and fulfilling future.
Eight Types of Agricultural Careers
Is basic industries a good career path? It is if you're planning a career in agriculture. Agriculture is big business. The industry has been around for thousands of years, According to the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) the agriculture industry and related industries provide 11% of jobs in America. In 2017, it was reported that 21.6 million Americans were employed in the agriculture industry. There are so many career possibilities, that it's easier to segment career choices by field, rather than specific jobs.
1. Agriculture Mechanics
The field of agriculture mechanics is vast and includes several skilled jobs. You may want to consider a career as a technician, scientist, manager, or engineer.
You will assemble the various parts of agriculture equipment. You will also be responsible for the assembling of the main machines used in agriculture. Most jobs only require a high school diploma, but an associate's degree in power technology is sometimes required. On-the-job training is provided.
Computer and robotic systems control are your responsibility. This includes all installations, maintenance and operation of the automated equipment used in the agriculture industry. You'll need a high school diploma/GED with three years related experience or a vocational or technical degree in industrial technology,
The wiring and maintenance of various mechanical equipment is the electrician/electronics technician's responsibility. The jobs may be working for a specific manufacturer or a traveling position that supports company equipment and machine customers. A highschool diploma or GED is required with on-the-job apprenticeship and training.
A hydraulics Technician oversees and implements the installation of hydraulic equipment and its components. You will also be in charge of all maintenance and repairs. High school diploma or GED required and on-the-job apprenticeship training provided.
The maintenance/service technician will travel to different locations to repair agriculture equipment, such as farming equipment and lawn/garden machines. You'll be responsible for diagnosing the problem and executing a repair to restore normal usage. You'll service diesel and gas engines and transmissions. A two-year degree in an agriculture related field along with two years working with agricultural equipment is sometimes required. However, some employers may only require a high school diploma or GED and offer on-the-job training.
Your duties as a mechanical engineer are centered on various machinery. You will most likely work for an agriculture machine manufacturer, designing machines and solving problems associated with various agriculture industry machinery and equipment. A bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering is required.
In your job as a parts manager, you'll be responsible for your company's product inventory. You'll need a thorough knowledge of equipment/machinery warranties. You will serve and support company customers. Depending on the employer, you may need three or more years' experience in a parts department or a degree in a related field.
Precision Agriculture Specialist
Your duties as a precision agriculture specialist include supporting growers. This mean you'll be available to help farmers resolve any technical issues that come up while using precision technologies. Some employers require an associate's degree in agriculture as well as GIS/GPS knowledge or a relate marketing field. In lieu of a diploma, some employers accept a high school diploma or GED with one to two years' experience or precision technology internship.
A service writer supports the service department and the department manager. You'll be responsible for maintaining the documentation and service records on company agriculture products. A high school diploma or GED is required. Good writing skills are a must. Technical knowledge of equipment used in agriculture is beneficial, but not required. On-the-job training is provided.
2. Agriculture Engineers
One area of agriculture that requires an advanced degree within a field of engineering is agricultural engineering. Agriculture requires the extensive use of machinery, buildings, water lines, and waste management, all which require expert knowledge to keep the food supply safe. Engineers in the agriculture industry include, positions of designing equipment and machines.
Bioprocessing engineering (biochemical engineering) is a career speciality in biological or chemical engineering. You will focus on designing equipment and developing processing for agriculture, manufacturing food, nutraceutical, feed, chemicals, bioreactors, pharmaceuticals, equipment, etc. If you have a degree in electrical, industrial or mechanical then this is a career path you might choose. A bachelor's degree in biological engineering or related field is required.
Design Engineer or Machine Design Engineer
You will design various major component and their subsystems for agriculture equipment. This will include all design specifications. You will collaborate with various departments, such as product management, production/manufacturing and the sales/marketing departments. Bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering or mechanical engineering technology is required.
Your job as an electrical engineer will be to install, service/repair and create various electrical operations. You may work in various areas of the agricultural industry and will use technology specific to the industry. A bachelor's degree in electrical engineering or related field such as agricultural engineering, industrial or mechanical engineering is required.
Food Engineer or Structural Engineer
A food engineer designs various components and equipment in the agricultural industry. You'll use CAD (Computer Aided Design) technology. You might choose a career developing and designing food-processing plants, or you may decide on a career as a manufacturing operations supervisor. There are many career paths, especially for a structural engineer, such as designing structures for processing and storing crops or structures for housing animals. Depending on the employer, you may only need a high school diploma or GED and over five years of experiences. Other employers require a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering or industrial systems engineering.
Geospatial Analytics Scientist
Your position as a geospatial analytics scientist requires you to extract GPS data and then assess it. You'll also need to integrate and manipulate this data along with various databases in and effort to improve the performance and function of various precision agriculture software platforms. You'll need a master's degree in agricultural engineering, geographic information systems, civil engineering, or computer science.
An irrigation engineer is responsible for analyzing, planning, designing, and implementing agricultural irrigation systems. This can range from crops to canals and even dams. Depending on the job, you'll be required to have a bachelor's degree in agricultural engineering and/or civil engineering. Some positions require a master's degree while others demand a PhD.
Sanitary/Waste Handling/Environmental Engineer
A sanitary and waste handling engineer may also be an environmental engineer. Waste management is vital to any agricultural process. You will be responsible for analyzing, planning, designing, and implementing various disposal processes as well as waste collection and recycling. A bachelor's degree in environmental engineering, processing engineering, or other engineering science. Environmental compliance experience of two to three years is often required.
Software Engineers and Software Architects
Software engineers are also needed as more and more machinery becomes automated. Some of the design specialities include revision control systems and automated systems. Software architects are needed to develop and implement client server architecture. You'll need a bachelor's degree in computer science, software engineering, computer engineering, or related technical fields. Some employers require three to five years experience.
The business of agriculture has some jobs similar to other industry models. However, the focus of these business positions is on the production of food, either through crops or animals.
Agriculture Financial Service Representative
An agriculture financial service representative works with loan and insurance portfolios. You're in charge of creating and growing portfolios of mortgages, term insurance and operating loans. Your customer base ranges from individual hobby growers, niche agriculture farms, traditional farmers to park/recreational lands. You'll need a bachelor's degree in agricultural business, finance or related degree, such as business administration.
Advisor Government/Stakeholder Relations
Government advisors are agriculture experts who guide and provide information/insight to elected officials while also helping to develop agriculture political policies. As a government advisor, you'll also work with stakeholders by building relationships with various constituents. You may be required to explain policies to laypeople and forge relationships to ensure agriculture policies are understood. Depending on the position, you'll need a bachelor's degree in agriculture or related industry, such as marketing or business administration. Many positions require experience of three or four years, while other require more experience.
You will specialize in the legal aspects of the agriculture industry. Some areas of expertise include, agriculture labor, environmental regulations, land use, water, chemical/pesticide use in agriculture, and seed propriety issues. You'll need a bachelor's degree and a Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree from an American Bar Association (ABA) accredited law school. You have to pass your state bar examine before being able to practice law.
An agricultural lobbyist works for special interest groups, companies, industry communities, and organizations to provide a voice within government. You'll work to establish relationships with Agriculture policymakers to present concerns and interests of your client(s). You'll need a bachelor's degree in agricultural economics, political science, law, public relations or a related field.
Cotton Gin and Warehouse Manager
The manager for a cotton gin process and warehouse is responsible for the entire operation. This includes overseeing any of the logistics associated with the offices of the USDA Cotton Classing. This covers areas of marketing, storage and producers of cotton bales. A high school diploma or GED is required. Some job requirements include an associate degree in agricultural mechanics, agricultural engineering, agricultural business or related field.
As a crop adjuster, you'll investigate insurance claims made by farmers and agriculture companies. You'll go out into the fields to start your investigation and gather evidence. From there you'll determine the cause, such as disease, insects, weather, or other causes. A high school diploma is required with an emphasis on agricultural classes. Beyond an entry-level job, you'll need an associate's or bachelor's degree in an agricultural related field, such as agronomy, plant science, soil or crop science. You may also need a Claim Adjuster Proficiency Program Certification and possibly other state licenses. You may need a pest control advisor license as well.
Farm Business Manager/Accountant
A farm business manager/accountant provides financial advice to farms and Ag companies. You'll analyze and create reports as part of your record keeping and oversight of various accounts. This can include the budgets for farm operations and other accounting duties. You'll need either an associate's or bachelor's degree in agricultural business, farm management or a related field. Some employers provide on-the-job training for those on a management career path.
Farm Production Manager
A farm manager oversees the entire production and functions of a farm. You will coordinate with supervisors and workers to ensure equipment, supplies, seeds/feeds, and other necessities are available and ready. You'll be in charge of schedules, harvests and transporting food/animals. This position requires a bachelor's degree in horticulture, agronomy, agriculture or related field. Most positions require previous experience in managing farm production and supervising workers.
Feed Mill Manager
A feed mill manager oversees the production of producing animal feed. This includes ensuring the quality, keeping costs in check and the safety of the mill workers. Depending on the position, you may need a bachelor's degree in an agricultural area or a related field. Other positions may not require a degree, but two or more years' experience or training (often a combination of both) in a similar position or related one.
As a grain procurement specialist, you are an expert of grain trading policies and trends according to the Chicago Board of Trade. You'll work as a company representative in the purchasing of grains. You might work for a large grain seller or possibly an organization of various animal producers to purchase grain at the best price. You need good people skills to build lasting relationships on both sides of the aisle. While a bachelor's degree in agricultural business or economics or a related field is usually desired, some employers will take experience over degree.
Grain Elevator Manager
The grain elevator manager understands all facets of the agriculture industry and facility. You will be responsible for buying grain, storing grain and shipping grain to various processing plants. An associate's degree or bachelor's degree in agricultural business or economics, marketing or relate agronomic field is required.
4. Agricultural Communications
Agriculture is such a big business that many of the major agricultural, farming and ranching companies house departments dedicated to promoting and marketing their products. Individuals involved in agricultural communications often work as marketers, public relations experts or journalists.
An account manager is responsible for specific client accounts. You will establish good business relationships with each of your accounts. You will advise and inform your account representatives of promotions, product changes/recalls, provide product information, and accompany sales staff on calls to clients. You will also conduct presentations, conferences and attend related trade shows. A bachelor's degree in agribusiness, agronomy or marketing/business related field is required. Some companies don't require a degree as long as your experience is equivalent in related sales management arenas.
A brand manager works with various agriculture businesses and marketing groups to market their products, equipment and businesses. You will analyze various research and market data to ensure sales goals are met. You'll come up with various ways to help your clients develop and maintain their brand in the market. You'll need a bachelor's degree in marketing, business administration preferably with experience or education in the agricultural industry.
Market News or Farm News Journalist/Reporter
An agriculture journalist writes various feature articles for websites and print media about agricultural issues. This can include current agriculture trends, the latest research, agriculture markets, warnings about animal diseases, crop problems, legislature, and more. You'll need a bachelor's degree in journalism, agricultural communications or communications.
Public Relations Representative
This position within the agriculture industry is like other PR careers. You may be the face of an organization or Ag business. Your duties are to put the best possible image before the public by providing information related to your employer. You'll work with various agencies, organizations, marketing groups, and community groups to distribute press releases and other vital pieces of information. A bachelor's degree in agribusiness, agricultural marketing, business administration, journalism, or communications is required.
Regional Sales Manager
The regional sales manager has oversight and management of a specific territory for selling the company products. You will direct and mentor your sales team to meet quarterly sales goals. You will conduct analysis, assessments and performance evaluations on each of your sales team and overall regional performance in meeting sales quotas. You will be responsible for your sales team training and education of new company products. A bachelor's degree in agribusiness or related field or sales, marketing or business administration is usually required. In addition, you'll need a proven track record, usually five to eight years of experience.
5. Agricultural Economics
Someone has to price, broker and assess the agricultural economy from day to day and year to year. The fact is that the agricultural economy can be greatly affected by issues like drought, flood and outbreaks of food borne illness. It's the role of the agricultural economist to address these issues.
Many of the agricultural economics positions require a degree in business, finance or economics. There may be the opportunity in some positions to work your way up, such as the job of an agricultural lender insurance agent, that offers apprenticeships and training courses. You'll need a bachelor's degree in agribusiness, business administration, banking, finance or accounting.
Agricultural Policy Analyst
A food policy analyst examines data of agricultural research, education, production, extension, and various relatable government programs. You may also analyze data on agricultural programs for developing policies on processes, food security, trends, and any number of policies that affect the food industry. You'll need a master's degree in either statistics, public administration, public policy, political science, or a related field. Some jobs required a PhD.
Crop or Agriculture Insurance Agent
Clients of a crop or agriculture insurance agent include, agribusiness individuals and companies, farmers, livestock producers, and ranchers. You will need specialized insurance training and in most states be required to pass a licensing exam. You'll need to know about the different types of agriculture crops and businesses, risk management insurance, and the types of insurance available. You'll also need a bachelor's degree in agribusiness or related field, along with insurance training and licensing according to your state regulations.
An agricultural economist examines and analyzes data in search of trends and patterns to get a pulse on current market conditions and as a predictive tool for future economy conditions. This information provides companies, organizations and other clients with research that assists them in making business decisions. This job requires a bachelor's degree in agriculture, agricultural communications or agricultural technology.
Food Distribution Manager
A food distribution manager is responsible for the procurement of food, the logistics of transporting food, and the sales needed to support distribution operations. You may work for a grocery chain or food manufacturer. You'll also have oversight of price discovery and maintain/improving your supplier network. Most positions require a bachelor's degree in business management, agriculture sciences or business administration. Some employers prefer hands-on experience over degrees that include service delivery, logistics and distribution.
Sales Representative for Equipment and Ag Systems
You will specialize in selling agriculture equipment and/or systems as an Ag sales representative. Typically, you'll have a specific territory where you will make sales calls on agriculture businesses and individual farmers. Most employers seek experience, such as five years selling agricultural systems and equipment and seek proven sales track records.
6. Agricultural Agronomy
As an agronomist, you'll learn about crops and the soils they require for growth. Your responsibilities include, developing methods to improve soil use that improve crop production while maintain soil health.
An environmental specialist focuses on promoting and improving agriculture with the goal of protecting the environment, such as soil runoffs, forests from deforestation, conserving natural resources, and conserving farmland. You'll need a bachelor's degree in an environmental science, engineering or other science/engineering related field.
A greenhouse manager oversees the day-to-day running of a greenhouse/nursery. This may be in service to the general public or you may work for a large greenhouse company that provides plants to specific crop industries. You'll plan which species are grown, schedule plantings for inventory and prepare turnover of plant production. Some companies look for a bachelor's degree in agriculture, agriculture science or related field, while others accept high school diploma and five to eight years of experience.
Soil Scientist/Soil Conservationist
A soil scientist analyzes and evaluates the upper Earth crust (several feet) for its chemical and physical condition. You'll go out into the field to gather samples and provide assessments to advise on agricultural conditions, problems and solutions. You may work for universities, federal or state governments, individual farms, or corporate farms. A bachelor's degree in soil science or related field is needed. Some employers require a master's degree and eight to ten years of experience is often another requirement.
Seed Production Agronomist
A seed production agronomist manages, evaluates, develops, and implements seed production phases. Your goal will be to produce and create quality seeds to assist growers in realizing maximize yields. This position requires either a bachelor's or master's degree in agronomy or a related agricultural field.
A viticulturist researches how to improve grape yields and implements specific solutions for grape production. You'll be responsible for the land preparation, pest control, pruning, trellising, and all facets of growing and harvesting grapes for wine. This position requires a bachelor's degree in viticulture although related degrees are considered along with experience.
A weed scientist researches, and diagnoses field crop weed problems and offers solutions, such as mechanical, chemical or natural plantings. You can also find careers in golf course management or working with homeowners. You may choose a career developing products specifically for weed control. Some jobs require a master's degree in weed science while other demand a PhD. Other majors may include plant ecology, plant physiology, agronomy or soil science.
7. Animal Sciences
Animal science addresses the problems of the management and production of livestock. This encompasses the associated issues of biology, social sciences and physical. An animal scientist can also find a career path in animal foods and foods originating from animals, such as dairy and eggs.
An animal geneticist studies and analyzes genetic makeup of various animals. You will identify specific genes associated with behaviors and health issues, such as immunity and susceptibility to diseases. You'll identify ways of improving selection processes and ways to reduce genetic differences in breeds. A bachelor's degree in genetics or animal science, dairy science, biology, and poultry science. Some positions require a master's degree while others require a PhD.
A beekeeper is concerned with all aspects of bee colonies. You'll oversee and maintain a healthy bee colony and address any diseases swiftly. You'll be responsible for the production of honey including pollination. You provide bees with ample food reserves, build hives, collect/package beeswax, honey, and replace combs as needed. Apiary workers are required to have a high school degree or GED. If you wish to move into management, you'll need an associate's degree or possibly a bachelor's degree either in entomology or biology.
Artificial Insemination Technician
The technician is responsible for the artificial insemination of female animals. You will use tools designed for animal artificial insemination to meet the criteria of a breeding program for livestock. You'll be responsible for storing, thawing and preparing animal semen. You'll also serve as an advisor for farmers, ranchers and other breeders and verify pregnancies. A bachelor's degree in animal, equine or poultry science is preferred by most employers, although technically, a high school diploma is generally accepted. Some employers require you have a certification from a program that adheres to the National Association of Animal Breeders standards.
A feed sales representative sells livestock feed to a wide range of customers, such as livestock production facilities, dealers and in some instances directly to farmers. As a sales rep, you'll make calls on potential clients and establish professional relationships to market feed.
Livestock Feedlot Operator
Feedlot operators oversee the daily feeding in feed yards where 150 or more cattle or kept and fed. You will be responsible for assessing the cattle for any signs of illnesses or disease, changes in feeding habits and diet and notifying the manager. A high school diploma is required, but if you're planning a career path to feed lot manager, you need to plan for an associate's or bachelor's degree in animal science, agribusiness or other related field.
Your duties as a livestock hauler is to ensure the safety, welfare and delivery of various livestock. This transporting can be from a farm to the market or to a processing plant. You'll need a high school diploma and Commercial Driver's License (CDL).
Livestock Insurance Representative
Livestock insurance agents sell insurance policies to ranchers and farmers to cover livestock for high-value animals and blanket coverage for herds. You'll assess your clients needs and make recommendations to answer insurance needs. Many employers prefer a bachelor's degree in a related field, but accept high school diplomas. You will need to meet and pass your state's insurance licensing requirements and possibly annual continuing education courses.
Livestock buyer procures livestock for clients or works for a specific company. You'll identify livestock and negotiate a price and schedule transportation. You must be aware of current industry, trends, competition, and be able to answer clients' needs and questions. Knowledge in industry rules/guidelines, pricing and contracts is required. You must also know how to assess animals for health and advise buyers on animal care. You'll need an associate's degree or bachelor's degree in animal science, agribusiness or marketing field, depending on the employer's criteria.
Livestock Production Manager
Must be knowledgeable in animal science and the livestock industry for several types of livestock. You'll n charge of raising and marketing livestock through close monitoring and evaluations of livestock needs and health. Manage all related paperwork, reports and business responsibilities. A high school diploma or a GED is typically required, although some employers require a bachelor's degree in an agricultural related field, such as animal science, agricultural engineering or livestock evaluation.
Responsibilities can vary from a farm to a ranch worker, but both careers involve the daily duties and routines of running a working ranch or farm. Your responsibilities can range from using and maintaining equipment, tools and machinery. You'll also care for farm animals and/or livestock, such as feeding, moving to different grazing pastures, production and harvesting of crops, and repairs to fences or various farm structures. Some positions may require requisitions to your supervisor for equipment, supplies and notifying of any abnormalities or issues that arise. A high school diploma or GED is often required by farms or ranches. Some prefer basic animal science classwork, such as those offered in high school agriculture classes.
Rendering Truck Driver/Rendering Maintenance Technician
A rendering truck driver or maintenance technician transports the processed meats to plants for creating byproducts of biodiesel fuel, pet food or livestock food. These animals can't be used for human consumption due to disease, natural causes or euthanasia. Both positions require a high school diploma or GED. Truck drivers are required to have a Class A driver's license also called a CDL (Commercial Driver's License).
A veterinarian working in agriculture is often referred to as a large animal veterinarian. The animals you'll treat include horses, dairy cows, beef, hogs/pigs and goats. You may also serve chicken and turkey farmers. You may work at a private animal hospital or a county/state veterinarian department or hospital. You'll make calls to farms and ranches to treat, assess and advise on individual animal health issues as well as herd health. This requires a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree. This includes a bachelor's degree in animal science and four-year degree in veterinary medicine. All US states require you pass the North American Veterinary Licensing Exam (NAVLE).
8. Food Sciences
It's one thing to have crops and livestock on a ranch, but it's another thing entirely to turn those resources into food that's ready to be placed on the table in homes around the world. Individuals involved in food sciences deal with safety, research and product development before the food hits the shelves.
Food Product Research and Development
Food product research and development careers are focused on new food product development. This includes creating new ingredient formulas and various processes. You'll take a new idea and research how to bring it into fruition from a single creation to mass production in a plant along with the appropriate packaging. A bachelor's degree or master's degree in food science, food engineering or nutrition is required depending on the job and company.
Agricultural careers in quality assurance follow USDA standards and policies for the production of foods and grain products. You'll need to comply with these regulations and provide support that ensures passing federal and state inspections. A bachelor's degree in computer science, math, management information systems or business management may be required. Some companies accept experience as an equivalent to education.
A food chemist, food microbiologist and food researcher work within the food industry framework to advance food technology, develop effective modernization, research beneficial and harmful effects of microbes and more. The focus for all positions is to advance food quality and food safety. A bachelor's degree in chemistry, food science or biology is required. Some positions require a master's degree and researcher positions often require a PhD.
There are numerous careers within food manufacturing, from a line employee, equipment mechanic, floor supervisor to a purchasing manager. All processes involved in the manufacturing of food have various positions that require expertise, such as mixing ingredients, baking, packaging, and distribution. Depending on your job, you may only need a highs school diplomas or GED. You may be required to have an associate's degree, a bachelor's degree, a master's degree or a PhD in agricultural science or food science.
Agricultural Educational Opportunities
Most state colleges and universities offer opportunities for undergraduate and graduate degrees within agriculture. If the schools you're interested in don't offer specific degrees in agriculture, you can pursue related fields.
Related Fields of Interest
You can pursue an advanced degree in science, business or journalism that could help you take coursework to provide basic knowledge required in an agricultural career. It's a good idea to talk to a college counselor before signing up for any classes to ensure that you're on the right track.
If you're not quite ready to commit to a particular college or career field, you might find an apprentice position. You can explore possible positions at farms, ranches, stables, feed supply stores, or agricultural sales companies offering apprentice, intern or part-time jobs.
Get a Taste of Career
Working within these areas of agriculture could help you pinpoint the field that you're most interested in, while also helping you earn a living. These are also good opportunities to pursue during the summer while receiving your degree since they show future employers that you've gained hands-on experience in a professional setting.
Helpful List of Agriculture Careers
A list of agriculture careers is helpful when researching what is available. You can review the basic criteria for each position to determine which career(s) appeals to you. Once you decide and pursue a career, you should remain flexible in case you discover a different agricultural career path is a better fit.