Jobs in agriculture span the spectrum from laborers picking lettuce and tomatoes to scientific researchers studying animal nutrition and crop development. Potential employers range from ranches and farms to universities and government agencies. While some positions have indoor tasks in labs and offices, many agricultural jobs involve work outdoors in fields and ranches.
The best known agricultural jobs belong to farmers, who are more likely to be called agricultural managers when employed by large companies. They oversee resources, schedules and tasks in enterprises that raise plants and animals for human consumption. They must maintain equipment and facilities, determine procedures for raising crops and livestock, and manage finances, such as taxes and budgets. They also hire and coordinate the schedules and tasks of farm workers. Traditionally, farmers have high-school diplomas and learn their skills on the job while growing up in farming families. However, many corporations now demand a bachelor’s degree.
Agricultural and food scientists research better ways to produce crops and food animals. They focus on increasing crop yields, improving animal nutrition, and finding better methods of preserving and delivering food. They typically work without supervision but may lead teams of technicians and students for larger projects. They may specialize in animals, food technology, soil or plants. The minimum qualification for the job is a bachelor’s degree, though many obtain Ph.D.’s, especially if they are interested in research or teaching. Certification is available from national organizations, which mandate education, experience and passing an exam.
Agricultural engineers develop processes and equipment to improve food production and distribution. They may develop equipment to automatically harvest certain crops, create structures for housing domestic animals, or provide ways to improve water quality or animal comfort. They typically start their tasks by talking with clients, consultants and agricultural professionals to determine the problems that need solving. The job requires a bachelor’s degree. Internships and cooperative education programs can also be helpful because many employers value practical experience. Those offering services directly to the public require a license, which demands a degree, work experience and a passing score on two exams.
Agricultural workers, also known as farm workers or ranch hands, perform many of the basic tasks needed to produce food. They plant and harvest crops by hand, feed and water animals, and operate machines that automate some of these processes. Those with experience and administrative skill may advance to supervisory positions in charge of subordinate laborers. The job generally requires no advanced education because workers learn their skills on the job. However, many employers require those who specialize in animal breeding to have work experience or a college degree.