WASHINGTON, May 13, 2015 – College students around the country are graduating this week, and economists say the job market is the best it’s been in a decade. For agricultural graduates, the job market has high demand in almost every area, especially agricultural business, food science, agronomy and ag education.
According to an employment outlook report released this week by USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) and Purdue University, an average of 35,400 new U.S. graduates with a bachelor’s degree or higher in food, agriculture, renewable natural resources or the environment are expected to fill just 61 percent of the expected 57,900 openings.
The report projects almost half of the job opportunities will be in management and business. An additional 27 percent will be in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) areas.
Jobs in food and biomaterials production will make up 15 percent, and 12 percent of the openings will be in education, communication, and governmental services. The report also shows that women make up more than half of the food, agriculture, renewable natural resources, and environment higher education graduates in the country.
Agricultural colleges of land-grant universities nationwide often advertise their nearly 100 percent placement rates for their students.
At Iowa State’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, more than 99 percent of graduates in the school’s three largest majors — animal science, agricultural business and agricultural studies — are either employed, pursuing further education or in the military.
At the University of Missouri’s College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, December 2013 and May 2014 graduates enjoyed placement rates of over 90 percent in agriculture-related areas, with agricultural economics and agricultural education at 100 percent.
“We continue to see great demand for those in agricultural sales roles as well as operational roles in seed, chemical and food companies,” said Stephanie Chipman, the career services director at the school. “Production positions on farms and ranches are also in demand this spring.”
She said graduates willing to look at several types of entry-level roles and willing to relocate enjoy the greatest number of offers and often receive higher starting salaries than less flexible peers.
Purdue’s College of Agriculture reported that 96 percent of its May 2014 graduates said they had found jobs or were continuing their education, making it the fifth consecutive year the placement rate had increased.
Purdue’s agriculture school awarded bachelor's degrees to 501 students in May 2014, up from 426 the previous year and 399 in 2010, when the nation was struggling to recover from the recession and the placement rate was 77 percent.
The college’s survey released this week reflects an improving job market as well as continued strong value of a Purdue agriculture education, Marcos Fernandez, associate dean and director of the college's academic programs, said in a press release. The average starting salary for College of Agriculture graduates was $43,200. Agricultural and biological engineering graduates received the most, an average of $55,405.
Similarly, at the University of Nebraska, 2013-2014 graduates of the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources reported an average wage of $40,930. Agricultural economics majors received one of the highest reported average salaries for a bachelor’s degree at $48,659, and mechanized systems management majors reported average salaries slightly higher than that.
Each year, participating agricultural colleges across the nation provide data to summarize entry-level salaries of recent graduates of their programs. The summary, which is coordinated by Iowa State University, includes information collected by career services offices from December 2013 and May 2014 undergraduates. The report includes 17 schools, with lists of potential hiring companies in each field of study. It shows that agronomy and crop science majors had an average starting salary of $45,986.
The most lucrative area with an average starting salary of $51,830 is technical and biosystems engineering, industrial technology, and packaging services. Job titles in this study area include manufacturing engineer, elevator management, and precision agricultural specialist. Majors in environmental sciences, fisheries, forestry and wildlife biology reported the lowest starting average salary at $30,051.
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