Agricultural students find encouraging job prospects when they graduate, according to California universities.
I can’t recall the last time I saw a farmer holding a pitchfork, wearing overalls and chewing on straw, but that stereotypical image of a farmer and agriculturalist still captivates the imagination of many Americans.
Recent media coverage has also demonstrated an antiquated view of food and fiber production, misinterpreting U.S. Department of Labor and U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics information to proclaim college degrees in agriculture as “useless” or “headed for the dustbin.”
This lack of understanding about where food comes from and the array of people working to get it on our plates represents an opportunity to invite the public to learn more about farming and ranching, as well as how valuable ag degrees truly are.
I have experienced that firsthand. After graduating with an agriculture diploma, I worked in outreach for the College of Agriculture at California State University, Chico, and now have a position focused on encouraging more students to consider a career in crop protection as a licensed pest control adviser.
There is such tremendous demand for PCAs that my position was created solely to recruit more young people into this path. One of the articles downplaying the importance of agricultural degrees came to my attention when one of the many young people I work with sent me a panicked email, questioning his career choice after reading the article. I quickly assured him that agriculture was a great path to be on and itemized the reasons.
Here are facts we should share with young people, as well as anyone who questions if there is a place for agricultural graduates in our economy:
A June 2011 study by the California Community Colleges Workforce and Economic Development Centers of Excellence found that agricultural jobs are expected to grow by 180,000 positions in the coming years. While the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated a decrease in production jobs, reflecting increased mechanization and productivity, the growth in supporting industries such as research, processing, marketing and sales outpaces this loss.
Attractive Ag Salaries
The Centers of Excellence study also found that the average salary in California agriculture pays $7,000 more per year than a position outside of agriculture. A career in agriculture can be in an office or in the outdoors, in sales or production, working with plants, animals, people or in a laboratory. Agricultural careers are available in big cities and in small towns. They are well-paid careers and best of all, they are rewarding.
This story is published courtesy of the California Farm Bureau Federation. Shannon Douglass of Orland chairs the state Young Farmers & Ranchers Committee. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.