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Jobs in Agriculture--the Future

Several posts on this website have dealt with the looming shortage of trained agricultural professionals needed to fill the myriad jobs in the agricultural sector (Click here, here, here, and here for those articles).

Projections in a publication from the United States Department of Agriculture entitled “Employment Opportunities for College Graduates in Food, Agriculture, Renewable Natural Resources, and the Environment, United States, 2015-2020" further underscore the concerns outlined in the above articles.  The following projections are contained in this report.

  • A continual flow of new college graduates with expertise in the food, agriculture, renewable natural resources, and environment (FANRE) sectors is essential to the country’s ability to sustain and/or increase the elements of food security, sustainable energy, and environmental quality.

  • Between 2015 and 2020, 57,900 average annual openings for graduates in the FANRE-associated disciplines are expected, while only 35,400 average annual new U.S. graduates with expertise in these disciplines are expected. This will fill only 61% of the expected average annual job openings in these sectors.

  • New jobs in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) will make up 27% of the 57,900 new openings, while new jobs in sustainable food and biomaterials production will make up 15%.

  • In the STEM areas, the strongest job market is expected to be for plant scientists, food scientists, sustainable biomaterials specialists, water resource scientists and engineers, precision agriculture specialists, and farm-animal veterinarians.

  • Plant science graduates at all degree levels are expected to find excellent career opportunities as plant geneticists, plant pathologists, and insect biologists. These disciplines will be involved in and integral to the development of higher-yielding crops that are adapted to stress and/or suboptimal growing conditions.

  • Graduates in most academic programs related to the environment will see a competitive job market because of the increasing need for specialists in the environmental science areas related to the conservation and management of soil and other natural resources necessary for food production.

  • There should be continued strong demand for precision agriculture specialists, certified pest control specialists, and certified crop advisors.

  • In some states, economic conditions may lead to more adjunct and part-time faculty in lieu of full-time faculty to meet the demands of growing enrollments in the FANRE-associated disciplines.

  • Many of the available graduates will have skill sets and interests that will attract them to employment in sectors other than those above, and this will further exacerbate the gap between the number of available jobs and the number of available candidates to fill those jobs in the FANRE sectors.

The above linked articles on this website and the above summary statements from the linked USDA report draw attention to the continued need for members of the U.S. agricultural sector to promote baccalaureate and post-baccalaureate education in agricultural sciences, and to support programs that will enhance this effort.

Composed by Larry G. Heatherly, Nov. 2015,