- #1 – Oregon State university
- #2 – Texas Tech University
- #3 – Colorado State University
- #4 – Fort Hays State University
- #5 – University of Tennessee-Martin
At first glance, an online agriculture degree might seem like an odd choice. How can you learn to farm and tend to crops over the internet? Well, you probably can’t. Then again, people who plan to make their livelihoods as farmers probably don’t need to go to college to learn their trade. But even if you’ve grown up around agriculture and plan to take over a family business, that doesn’t mean you’re ready to handle all the professional challenges of the 21st century. Online colleges are now helping rural students learn modern practices by offering distance education programs that combine traditional farming topics with training in business, technology, and even education. You can expand your career options, improve your craft, and learn how to communicate effectively with other industry professionals–without ever leaving home! The five schools we have listed below include both undergraduate and graduate programs, with degree options for beginners and experienced farmers alike.
#1. Oregon State University
Online Bachelor of Science in Agricultural Sciences
Overall Rating: 14
Students enrolling in the online agricultural science degree at Oregon State University can choose between four start terms every year. As an online student you will learn from the same world-class faculty that teach the in-person courses. You’ll take courses covering topics like management in agriculture, agricultural law, leadership development, world food crops, environmental law, introductory animal/rangeland sciences, organic farming and gardening, and environmental economics and policy. You can transfer almost an entire degree into this program, but a minimum of 45 credits of the last 75 must be earned at Oregon State (online or on campus).
- Tuition: $13,365
- Graduation Rate: 88%
- 20yr Net ROI: $338,000
- Standout Features: 1
#2. Texas Tech University
Online BS in Plant and Soil Sciences
Overall Rating: 13
The plant and soil sciences online degree is applicable to agriculture but provides students with a diverse range of career options. Graduates have gotten jobs in agriculture, golf course and athletic field management, established their own nurseries, become environmental consultants, and worked on urban farming and planting initiatives. Students can earn certificates in crop protection, horticultural landscape management, and soil management.
- Resident Tuition: $8,860
- Non-resident Tuition: $18,652
- Graduation Rate: 86%
- 20yr Net ROI: $410,000
#3. Colorado State University
Online BS in Agricultural Business
Overall Rating: 12
While students in the online agricultural business degree don’t pay in-state prices, the online tuition is heavily discounted at just half the cost of out of state tuition. Students will take courses in marketing, finance, management, economics, animal sciences, horticulture, natural resources, and food technology. Students can choose from a number of minors including anthropology, business administration, economics, global and environmental sustainability, political sciences and sociology.
- Tuition: $14,528
- Graduation Rate: 78%
- 20yr Net ROI: $364,000
- Standout Features: 1
#4. Fort Hays State University
Bachelor of Science in Agricultural Business Online
Overall Rating: 11
Fort Hays State University is a great choice for cost-conscious students as it is by far the cheapest degree in our ranking. This online agricultural business degree boasts an astonishing 99% job placement rate for graduates, who land jobs in food, fiber, and fuel industries. The average starting salary for graduates from this program is $44,000 per year. Students will take courses like principles of economics (micro and macro), agronomic crop science, computer applications for agriculture, agribusiness firms management and marketing, and marketing farm products.
- Tuition: $6,560
- Graduation Rate: 73%
- 20yr Net ROI: $191,000
- Standout Features: 1
#5. University of Tennessee-Martin
Online Bachelor of Science in Agriculture
Overall Rating: 10
Students in the online agriculture degree at University of Tennessee Martin can choose between concentrations in agricultural business or farm and ranch management. Students will take courses like agricultural economics, agriculture/natural resources management, animal science, agricultural engineering technology, mathematics, plant science, and soil sciences.
- Resident Tuition: $9,236
- Non-resident Tuition: $14,996
- Graduation Rate: 76%
- 20yr Net ROI: $118,000
What Can You Do with Your Online Agriculture Degree?
Well, the most obvious answer to this question is that you can become a farmer. However if that’s your goal then it’s important to have a plan because many areas of the field are experiencing negative or extremely slow job growth. However, the industry is going to be in need of new blood shortly. Nearly half of all farmers will reach retirement age within the next ten years. In many cases this means that they will be looking to sell their farms, or at the least hire on somebody else to run things while they enjoy the fruits of their lifetime of labor. You shouldn’t let the fact that agriculture is a low-growth industry dissuade you from pursuing a career there. Many agriculture departments are quite good at placing graduates in good paying entry level positions within the industry, so you will want to take full advantage of whatever job hunting resources your university provides.
Agriculture Career Information and Statistics
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median pay for farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers is $69,000 per year but their job growth rate is -1% between 2016 and 2026. Agricultural scientists tend to earn around $62,000 per year and the job growth rate is still only 7% between 2016 and 2026.
Paying for your Online Agriculture Degree
For most degrees, it makes sense to spend your first two years earning your general education credits at a community college. Earning your associate’s degree can save you tens of thousands of dollars in the long run. Community college tuition can be covered, in many cases, by just one or two federal grants. Good grades in community college will practically guarantee you excellent financial aid and allow you to transfer into just about all the best state universities. So if you’re looking to get your college education for a great price, community college is a great place to start. Many community colleges offer online programs, so chances are you will be able to attend community college without ever having to set foot in a classroom.
For financial aid, you should always start with FAFSA. Federal education grants are essentially free money, and federally subsidized student loans have low interest and provide you with tons of flexibility when paying them back. After that, private grants and scholarships should be where you look. Finally, if all else fails and it’s your only option, you can apply for private student loans. Private loans tend to be the worst deal, and the most expensive form of funding. So make sure you exhaust other sources first.
Is online learning right for you?
Online learning provides students with unparalleled flexibility. Most students who earn their degrees online right now are older than the traditional college age and require a higher level of flexibility in order to fit a degree into their already busy life. However, with more and more degrees being offered online, and the first generation to grow up with the internet hitting college age, the online option is going mainstream. How do you know if it’s the right fit? That’s not an easy question to answer, and you should ask yourself several questions before enrolling. Are you the kind of person who can learn by watching videos? Would you be comfortable taking tests online? Can you handle not having any face-to-face interaction with your professors and fellow students? Are you highly self-motivated and disciplined? While online education is a great option, it’s not ideal for all students. If you need the flexibility and are comfortable with the format and technology, online education offers unprecedented levels of flexibility.
Points were awarded in three categories according to the system detailed below. In addition to those three categories, we utilized a fourth bonus category to award points for standout features. Standout features can be anything from unique specializations to programmatic accreditation or high job placement rates.
20 yr net ROI
- $100,000=1 Point
- $200,000=2 Points
- $300,000=3 Points
- $400,000=4 Points
- $500,000=5 Points
- 55%=1 Point
- 60%=2 Points
- 65%=3 Points
- 70%=4 Points
- 75%=5 Points
- 80%=6 Points
- 85%=7 Points
- 90%=8 Points
For tuition we award a point at $5,000 intervals to schools whose tuition is under $25,000.
- Under $5,000=5
- Under $10,000=4
- Under $15,000=3
- Under $20,000=2
- Under $25,000=1
Sources and Resources
Salary Information and Statistics: Bureau of Labor Statistics
Tuition and Graduation Rates: National Center for Education Statistics
20yr Net Return on Investment: PayScale.com
By CVO Staff
Updated August 2018