WASHINGTON, January 25, 2012 -Agriculture is the most useless college major, according to the recent Yahoo! article by Terence Loose about the National Association of Colleges and Employers' (NACE) 2012 Job Outlook study, which surveyed almost 1,000 employers. The article generated a firestorm of response from the agricultural community in the past week. Other majors in the “useless” list included animal science and horticulture.

“Obviously those folks didn’t ask the right people,” said U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. “One out of every 12 jobs in the economy is linked to agriculture. There are a growing number of opportunities, not just in agriculture, but in manufacturing using agri-products and bio-based products.”

He added that agriculture and similar majors have the opportunity to participate in a growing field of work that includes making products from bio-based ingredients for fuel, chemicals, fibers and plastics. He also mentioned the potential of creating new opportunities for waste products.

“If they had asked John Deere, or Caterpillar, or folks in the chemical business that are tired of importing chemicals into this country, I think they would’ve found a different story to write and a different data set to report,” he said.

According to its own description, NACE connects more than 5,200 college career services professionals at nearly 2,000 colleges and universities nationwide, and more than 3,000 HR/staffing professionals focused on college relations and recruiting.

NACE issues its Job Outlook survey to its members every April, September and October, according to its website. Representatives from NACE did not respond to Agri-Pulse’s inquiries about the 2012 Job Outlook survey.

The Yahoo! article said the 2012 Job Outlook study surveyed almost 1,000 employers on their future hiring plans and determined that fewer “agricultural manager” positions will be available in the next seven years. 

“This is a classic case of a journalist not doing his homework in regards to numbers as well as a general ignorance of this great industry,” said Mike Gaul, director of Career Services at Iowa State University College of Agriculture & Life Sciences. “NACE’s information on careers in the ag sector is minimal at best and thus many of us in the Ag Career Services circle don’t rely heavily on them for relevant data.”

“Everything that’s happening at our college completely contradicts the Yahoo! article,” added Gaul. “Our college has the highest placement rate on campus at 98.2 percent and ISU CALS hosts the country’s largest agricultural career day.”

USDA’s National Institution of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) used Twitter to post a response to the article linking to its “Employment Opportunities for College Graduates” information.  Authors of the study came from Purdue University, USDA and Food and Drug Administration. They concluded that during 2010–15, 5% more college graduates with expertise in agricultural and food systems, renewable energy, and the environment will be needed when compared to 2005-10.

According to the NIFA article, the agricultural, food, and renewable natural resources sectors of the U.S. economy will generate an estimated 54,400 annual openings for individuals with baccalaureate or higher degrees in food, renewable energy and environmental specialties between 2010 and 2015. Seventy-four percent of the jobs are expected in business and science occupations; 15% in agriculture and forestry production; and 11% in education, communication, and governmental services. The overview also referenced the U.S. Department of Labor Monthly Labor Review published in November 2009 as reporting “significant growth in selected food, renewable energy, and environment jobs during 2008–18.”


Original story printed in January 4, 2012 Agri-Pulse Newsletter.

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