Study Agriculture: Degrees, Courses & Online Training Info

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What kind of job can you get with a degree in agriculture? Find out degree program requirements, online options and info on courses and agriculture degrees.
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Agriculture Degrees: At a Glance

Agriculture degrees are offered as agricultural business, agricultural science or technology and general agriculture degrees. General agriculture degrees may teach topics from both the science and business programs. There are a variety of fields that you can go into with a degree in agriculture, depending on the degree-level you complete.

If you graduate with a bachelor's degree, you may become an agricultural scientist. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), career opportunities for agricultural and food scientists are expected to increase 10% from 2010-2020 as food research and safety becomes more important. With an associate degree, you may become an agricultural science technician. The BLS reports that employment opportunities for agricultural and food science technicians were expected to increase 7% over the same time period.

Associate Bachelor
Who is this degree for? Individuals interested in a technician-level position Individuals interested in working as a scientist or inspector
Common Career Paths (with approximate mean annual salary) - Agricultural science technician ($36,000)* - Agricultural inspector ($41,000)**
- Agricultural scientist ($64,000)***
Time to Completion 2 years full time 4 years full time
Common Graduation Requirements - Coursework
- Internship
Same as associate
Prerequisites High school diploma or GED - High school diploma or GED
- SAT/ACT scores
Online Availability Yes Yes

Sources: *BLS (May 2011 figures), **O*Net Online (2011 figures), ***BLS (May 2011 figures for soil and plant scientists).

Associate Degrees in Agriculture

Associate degrees in agriculture are 2-year programs that tend to provide an overview on agricultural topics. Agricultural business, or agri-business, degrees are also available. Many associate degree programs prepare students for transfer to a bachelor's program and some may have agreements set up with universities to make the transition easier.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Degree qualifies you for a career as a technician
  • Offer hands-on training through labs and internships
  • Degree can be used toward transferring into a 4-year program

Cons

  • May not be sufficient for scientist or inspector careers
  • Potential careers are growing at a slower than average rate*
  • Technician careers pay less than the average for all occupations*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2010 figures).

Courses and Training Requirements

General agriculture degrees teach students a variety of agriculture topics, such as animal science, crop production, livestock production or biology. Agri-business degrees focus more on the business end of agriculture. Associate degree programs include some general education courses and electives and an internship may be required. Some of the courses you may take include:

  • Introduction to agricultural systems
  • Agriculture business and economics
  • Business management
  • Plants and civilization
  • Sheep production
  • Computers in agriculture

Online Degree Options

Associate degree programs may be offered online. These programs, like their on-campus counterparts, may be designed for you to transfer into a bachelor's degree program. If a school offers both online and on-campus programs, then the curricula will be similar. Most schools will list the technical specifications needed for an online program on their website.

Getting Ahead With This Degree

Experience with conducting experiments may be a useful skill, especially if you are interested in becoming a technician. You may want to seek out additional opportunities to work in a lab setting and to familiarize yourself with the laboratory equipment. Earning experience through internships may also set you apart from individuals who lack hands-on experience.

Alternative Degrees

If you like the idea of conducting experiments but are not tied to working in agriculture, you might consider becoming a chemical technician. Chemical technicians have associate degrees in either applied science or chemical technology. In May 2011, the BLS reported that these individuals earned a mean annual salary of almost $45,000. Similar to agricultural and food science technicians, the BLS projected job prospects to increase just 7% from 2010-2020. Chemical technicians can move on to become chemists or chemical engineers with additional education.

Bachelor's Degrees in Agriculture

Bachelor's degrees in agriculture are normally broken down into agricultural science and agri-business. Agricultural science degrees focus on the science aspects of agriculture, including animal science, soil and biology. Some schools may offer both agri-business and agricultural science degrees. Some bachelor's degree programs require a certain amount of applicable credits or an associate degree to have already been completed prior to admission.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • May be advantageous when competing against individuals with just an associate degree
  • Hands-on degrees with internships so students gain experience in the field
  • Degree may be useful for many different specialty areas related to the agriculture field

Cons

  • Some careers may be growing slower than average*
  • May need to complete an associate degree program prior to being admitted
  • May be overkill for technician-level positions

Sources: *O*Net Online.

Courses and Training Requirements

Many bachelor's degree programs allow you to transfer credits in from an associate degree program. The length of time required to graduate depends on the amount of credits transferred in. Core curricula vary between agricultural science and agri-business degrees. Some agricultural science programs may also cover agri-business topics. Some of the courses you may take include:

  • Agricultural law
  • Farm and ranch appraisal
  • Organic farming
  • Sustainable ecosystems
  • Crop science

Online Degree Options

Some schools offer bachelor's degree programs online. Some may be degree completion programs, where you are encouraged to transfer in general education or lower division courses. Online degrees do not include internships, so you will have to look for these on your own. These programs may include interactive items like discussion groups, which allow you to communicate with the professor and other students.

Getting Ahead With This Degree

You might consider earning professional certification for your concentration area. For example, the Soil Science Society of America offers certifications for soil scientists and related careers. Certification requires the passing of an exam, five years experience and a bachelor's degree. To maintain your certification, you must complete 40 units of continuing education every two years. If you wish to work on the animal side of agriculture, the American Registry of Professional Animal Scientists (ARPAS) offers an associate membership for those who have a bachelor's degree and complete a written exam in an area of specialization. Technically, you may want to also familiarize yourself with the lab procedures and instrumentation you may use on the job.

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