In a hands-on field like agriculture, practical experience can be just as valuable as a formal education. While all entry-level jobs involve a degree of training, getting a few internships under your belt before you graduate is a good way to give yourself a head start in the real world. From helping out local businesses to making your mark abroad, below are some of the best internship opportunities to put your agriculture studies to the test.
1. Agricultural Research
The global agriculture industry doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Natural disasters, political turmoil, fluctuating economic conditions and epidemics are just some of the many unpredictable variables that affect it. While teams of workers handle curve balls on the ground, it’s the researchers working in labs behind the scenes who represent the hope for a more stable and productive future.
Covering issues as diverse as safe pest control, disease eradication, entomology and environmental protection, reputable research organizations like the government’s own Agricultural Research Service are ideal for agriculture students with a taste for science.
2. Factory Work
If a busy assembly line is the first thing that comes to mind when you picture agricultural factories, think again. In the United States, factories are at the heart of large-scale agricultural operations, bringing together farming, research, processing and more. For students with an interest in improving the private food industry, this is the perfect place to start. By joining a successful company with a complex production chain, you can get an invaluable first-hand look at what it takes to feed a nation, from production to distribution to branding.
3. Sustainable Farming
Made worse by accelerating global warming, the planet’s exploding population growth has put a tremendous amount of stress on the environment. If you worry about the impact of modern mass food production on wildlife, pollution, biological diversity and the human health, joining the sustainable farm movement may be your calling. Internship programs in this area look at agriculture as a whole in an effort to find solutions for problems that range from resource shortages to market profitability. With training this broad, you’ll be able to take your internship in any direction, whether you plan to go into agricultural engineering, science or environmental preservation.
4. International Development
While internships in sustainable farming look at food production in the general sense, international programs focus specifically on the agricultural challenges faced by developing countries, primarily in Asia, South America and Africa. Because they’re designed to address the concerns of specific nations, individual programs vary quite a bit in the type of experience they offer. For example, within Africa alone, agricultural development companies can specialize in bringing new technology to local farmers, preventing child hunger or expanding access to safe drinking water.
5. Agricultural Nonprofits
Also striving to improve all aspects of food production – from environmental stability to affordability – agricultural nonprofits can be local, national or international, which makes them some of the most versatile and easily accessible places to intern while you study. If you don’t have the time or funds to travel abroad for the summer or just prefer to stay a little closer to home, joining a nonprofit is a good alternative to getting involved with international development. Another plus of going to the nonprofit sector is that many of its agencies are small and independently run, so you might have more of a chance to rub shoulders with management and get hired full time after graduating.
With a wide-reaching major like agriculture, it’s easy to find the right fit for your interests, but don’t be afraid to look outside your comfort zone. More than scoring bonus points on your post-graduation resume, a challenging internship can help you polish your strengths and overcome your weaknesses so that you can build a more successful career down the road.
See also: 30 Best Value Agriculture Colleges 2015