If you’re a student that has grown up on a farm or has a special love of the land, then you may want to seek a degree in agricultural economics. While this type of applied economics degree could lead you to a successful farming career or position as an agricultural economist, there are far more jobs available that may place you in legal firms, banks, credit unions, insurance companies, credit unions, private companies, and government offices. These are just a few of the many careers available to those with a degree in agricultural economics.
While agronomy and ag-business have always had a fair level of technical skills required, lately, expectations have grown for tech-literate graduates from the major programs. Like those at Auburn and Texas A&M, such agricultural economist programs will train you for careers or even keep the pedagogically-oriented folks at the university to train others, routing them into faculty positions. If you want to work internationally or return home to contribute to your home’s agricultural needs, many opportunities await. From Napa Valley to the ag corridor of Iowa to the online global projects, demand for food and the need to deal with scarcity will almost certainly never go away as a likely source of employment.
Certainly, you can also use your degree in agricultural economics to work and contribute time and expertise to farms and related cooperative organizations. The latest investments in infrastructure will need qualified folk to see the work done right. The first Secretary of Agriculture, Henry Wallace, defined this vision of balancing the benefit of organized and well-educated farmers facing the dusty depths of the Great Depression: “What we must understand is that the industries, processes, and inventions created by modern science can be used either to subjugate or liberate. The choice is up to us.” Here we offer a list of such choice:
Reviewing Top Agricultural Economics Jobs Available
1. Agribusiness Consultant
As an agribusiness consultant, you’ll be expected to use both your applied economics and business expertise to provide professional advice about the use and management of agricultural land and natural resources. You may spend your days defining business strategies and working through financial issues with agricultural landowners, or you may choose to specialize in a specific area such as crop rotation, forestry consultancy, or pollution control. Ultimately, your goal is to offer advice that will create the perfect balance of commercial viability and sustainable agricultural land development. Your knowledge of applied economics and ability to conduct economic analyses related to agriculture will help you find employment through the government, agencies devoted to agricultural development, and commercial farms.
2. Agricultural Loan Officer
This career choice will allow you to work in the loan department of many banks, and you’ll be expected to help farmers and other rural clients apply for funds that are needed to purchase property, keep their agricultural business running, and upgrade to better equipment to expand their business. You’ll use your agricultural and business knowledge to provide workable solutions for your client’s farming issues, conduct economic analyses based on appropriate data, seek out workable loans for each client, and approve pricing and conditions on each loan transaction.
3. Agricultural Appraiser
Whenever a farm is being developed, sold, mortgaged, or insured, an agricultural appraiser is needed to provide a proper value on the land, the farming equipment, and everything else that comes with it. You may do some of your rural development work right in the fields by taking pictures and careful measurements, but much of the needed information can be found on your computer. You may utilize aerial maps, sales records, and equipment prices to help you assess the property’s true value, and you’ll be expected to write up a thorough report for the insurance agency or the bank that requested the information. Agricultural appraisers rely on their knowledge of applied economics as it relates to the agricultural industry. They commonly work for legal firms, private companies, and government agencies.
4. Agricultural Commodities Trader/Broker
This may be an excellent career choice for you if the fast-paced excitement of the stock market is something that you would enjoy. You’ll find yourself right in the busy center of international commerce, and there you’ll deal with many aspects of raw products that include such items as coffee, corn, sugar, cotton, and grains. You may actually buy and sell these products, make important decisions about futures contracts, and carefully manage risks for private companies while making deals.
5. Agriculture Development Officer
While you can certainly find work with this career choice right here in America, an agriculture development officer has the opportunity to do good work all around the world. Wherever you work, your goal will be to develop and increase agricultural activity and income in that particular area by utilizing appropriate data and statistical methods. Your job duties will include forming long-term agricultural plans based on economic analyses and making important decisions regarding agricultural resource distribution and rural development. You may find gainful employment through various government agencies and regional planning groups.
6. Research Agricultural Economist
The position of a research agricultural economist would probably require studies at the graduate level or comparable field experience and would be found either in the public or university sectors. A research agricultural economist working for the government would be working alone on some projects and with a team on bigger projects. Use of the Regional Economic Agricultural Programming model would be a large part of your project planning and systems analysis. Working for a university, you would more likely be developing tables and other new systems and tools for analysis as an agricultural economist. This career has excellent remuneration and good room for advancement. Positions like Research Assistant can be a way to enter the field.
7. Professor of Agricultural Economics
A current example of this academic career path clearly requires a commitment to long-term education. Still, if you are already qualified, you can potentially head a department, molding in your image what you believe agricultural economics can mean for the next generations of leadership in areas from wildlife management to rural development and agribusiness. These positions are prevalent at land-grant or “ag” schools. A minimum of a master’s degree is usually required for this role, and a doctorate is preferred.
8. Environmental Economist
This field deals with both extraction and use of natural resources and their effects on the environment (pollution). An environmental economist might specialize in using common resources and the effects of hoarding by individuals on those markets and whether common resources (like water) should even have a market in the first place or be protected for use by everyone. These professionals rely heavily on their knowledge of applied economics and statistical methods to make recommendations to policy makers related to environmental issues. Knowledge of standard software is also required. They often hold both a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in their area of expertise.
9. Climate Resilience Specialist
Climate resilience specialists work in areas of preparing for the effects of climate change as it relates to agriculture and mitigating what effects cannot be totally prevented. Pollinator support would be an aspect of this field that is very in vogue at the moment. Trying to prevent colony collapse and foresee ways to survive as an industry in a worst case scenario are two potential areas of focus. This could require developing tables and charts as well as other methods of statistical analysis as well as knowledge of standard software. A bachelor’s degree in agricultural economics or related field is usually preferred for this position.
10. Farm Co-Op Manager
Farm co-ops can be worker owned or collectively owned by the producers of similar agricultural wares. The co-op manager will be in charge of planning and coordinating co-op operations. This position usually answers to a board, whose make up will be determined by what type of co-op you work for. Salaries range greatly by region and specific and farm type, but salaries can be among the greatest in this list.
11. International Development Specialist
The international development specialist works with other countries to ensure that you are using best agricultural practices and that you have access to resources (like money and equipment) offered by other countries. This position can be accomplished domestically, but it does offer the opportunity for travel and even to live as an expat in locations across the world. You will need familiarity with the laws of both your home and destination countries and also a bit of imagination for creative problem solving when issues pop up on the fly.
12. Feedlot Manager
This position entails overseeing the nutrition and health of the animals under your care, and also the marketing and management of the day to day operations of the feedlot. This can include labor disputes, disease outbreaks, or even preparing for untoward weather events. Though the initial pay range is in the 30s for such positions, the next step up can be the Livestock Supply Manager, which can remotely direct supply for salaries near 90k. Most feedlot managers hold either an associate’s or bachelor’s degree.
13. Import Agent
As one of these agents you work in the countries where the goods end up. As a lot of these positions deal with agricultural goods, this could be a great fit if you are a recent graduate in this area. You will work in securing the needed goods and marketing them in the destination country. This work can be accomplished as part of an existing business or as an independent contractor. Independent contractors face a higher rate of risk, but also, fewer people to share the rewards with. Import agents typically hold a bachelor’s degree in agricultural economics, applied economics, business, or a related field.
14. Export Agent
As an export agent you will work in the country where the goods are produced. You will find buyers, market the goods internationally, and keep track of invoices and all matters budgetary. Much like the import agent, there are existing jobs with current businesses and also the opportunity to strike out on one’s own. You will also need a working knowledge of the laws of both countries involved to stay on the straight and narrow. Obviously, working between two (or more) countries, the risk of running afoul of the law multiplies. Like import agents, export agents will need a bachelor’s degree to qualify.
15. Grain Elevator Manager
With most likely positions within processing, retail supply, and co-ops, according to agcareers.com, you will be responsible for meeting a range of standards; the salary for this level of responsibility appears to be in the upper $60k range. As noted above, mastery of applied math will benefit anyone tasked to track rates and maintain books.
16. Cooperative Extension Agent
This is very much an on the ground position that deals with farmers and individuals trying to do the best with their natural resources. Perhaps a new homeowner wants to remove invasive species or a farmer needs advice on crop rotation or irrigation water use. Like most local government positions, every day will be different for you. Typically, this type of position will require you to rely on your informal communication skills among farmers who may appreciate a more homey approach.
17. Agriculture Policy Analyst
As an agriculture policy analyst, you would be involved in the production and review of policy affecting farming, zoning, and land use in general. This job appears in both the public and private sector, with additional positions in the nonprofit arena. An acquaintance with the issues involved around the matter at hand as well as a knack for problem solving and an ability to see to the heart of a knotty problem will serve you well in the nation’s capital or in the heartland.
18. Purchasing Manager
A purchasing manager is a lot like the sales manager at a car lot. You are in charge of all the salespeople and responsible for all the contract signing while also being the team’s best salesman. Purchasing managers will be in charge of a team, plan the course of purchasing for the business, and also deal directly with any complicated or unusual situation related to purchasing.
19. Postdoctoral Research Positions
An applied research position as a postdoctoral scholar in agricultural economics will typically get you the interview for future professor positions or other related work in the field. As much a networking opportunity as a research position, these individuals usually travel to conferences and attempt to publish their work to lay the groundwork for their future careers. Obviously, this is for people who have accomplished a doctorate in agricultural economics, but post-graduate research positions are also available.
The agronomist works to coordinate the work of various teams in the organization and apply their own skills to analytical decision-making always to increase the return on investment of the grower. You can also expect to be involved in strategy decisions and serving as a resource on all things agricultural for other departments. You may also be called in to deal with customers on occasion, so translating your work into layman’s terms is a key skill.
21. Agricultural Commodities Inspector
This position utilizes the agricultural skills of your field to maintain standards and economic skills in that you understand what delivering a substandard product does to the bottom line. Everything from seeds and eggs to meat, produce, and grain will need inspection at some point in its production cycle, so don’t sleep on a vital and available job opportunity. This particular position makes a good entry point into the field as it doesn’t usually require a bachelor’s degree.
22. Farm Manager
A farm manager is in charge of everything happening at their location and coordinating those happenings with the needs of the larger organization. So you are both the top person in the command chain and a cog in a larger machine. Being able to master both these roles is where your training comes in, having a foot in both worlds, as it were. Depending on the type and size of farm, you may benefit from a background in marketing, finance, and the optimized decision making that comes from studying the field of applied economics.
23. County Extension Coordinator
A county extension coordinator is the manager of county extension agents and also works with local agricultural education institutions in research and education. Very much like a faculty member, you are in charge of educating the community about the importance of agriculture and pollution mitigation. You may work with schools, local libraries, and other community organizations to get the word out to the people who need it.
24. Assistant Breeder
This position can apply to plants or animals. Usually, this position includes the marketing and planning of the intended breeds. Research into the markets and pricing for the goods would also be a good application of your skills learned in both the agricultural and economic worlds of your studies. Quality control of the intended product, be it seed, plant, or livestock will also be a key area of concern. The knack of foreseeing possible problems with the product and markets will also serve you well.
25. Worker in Sustainable Agriculture
As a member of this growing field, you will work towards installation of best practices both for the sustainability of the particular plot of land in front of you, and the planet. Whether you work in granular rural development or at the global level, this critical field will play an increasingly large role in policy decisions as time and climate change policy windows pass. Climate change prevention or mitigation will be critical roles in the coming economy as access to resources (and maybe the resources themselves) change.
Check out this great sampling of jobs available to those with a degree in agricultural economics, and you’ll have a much better understanding of the wide array of work that you could be qualified for. Get your degree in this applied economics field, and you’ll soon be enjoying the job of your dreams.
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