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Need for ag grads outpaces supply

iStock/Getty Images Education or knowledge. Graduation hat on open textbook on wooden desk in library archive room,
Most of the need for graduates will be in business and management, followed by science and engineering.

Students graduating from college with a degree in agricultural programs are facing a bull market with employer demand outpacing supply.

A report released earlier this month by USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture and Purdue University shows U.S. college graduates can expect approximately 59,400 job opportunities annually between 2020 and 2025. This reflects 2.6% growth from the previous five years. Employer demand will exceed graduate supply for graduates with a bachelor’s degree or higher in agriculture-related fields.

“This report shows that students across America who are studying food, agriculture and related sciences to take on these challenges have made a sound career choice and will graduate into a strong and growing job market in the years ahead," said Parag Chitnis, acting director of USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

The preparation of the report began before the coronavirus pandemic when global socio-economic conditions looked much differently than they do at the release of this report.

“It was extremely challenging to project the success and perseverance of current college students, let alone the employment opportunities that await new graduates during a global pandemic,” said Marcos Fernandez, principal investigator on the project and professor in the College of Agriculture at Purdue University. “Regardless, the project team confidently concludes that the need for graduates and employment opportunities in agricultural fields will remain strong and steady.”

Graduates earning degrees with emphasis in food, agriculture, renewable natural resources and the environment (FARNRE) will account for 61% of the annual supply pool. Most of the employment opportunities will be in business and management at 42% and another 31% in science and engineering. Openings anticipated in education, communication and government will make up 14%, and 13% will be in food and biomaterials production with nearly 92% of those jobs going to FARNRE majors.

“Diversity and inclusiveness are strategic for the future workforce,” said Allan Goecker, co-principal investigator and emeritus staff of Purdue University. “For the food, agriculture, renewable resources and environment sector to fully address the needs of the United States, it must reflect the population it services.

“A more diverse and inclusive workforce will support a more innovative and creative agricultural industry for the future,” Goecker said.

Other highlights of the report include:

  • Over the past two decades and across all levels of degree attainment, more females than males have graduated in food, agriculture, renewable natural resources and the environment.
  • Some majors tend to attract a greater proportion of female students, including animal sciences, agricultural education, agricultural communication and veterinary medicine.
  • Other majors tend to attract more male students, including agricultural engineering, forestry, agronomy and crop science.
  • There will be a strong demand for graduates with expertise in data science across all disciplines.
  • Expect to see strong employment for specialists in marketing, e-commerce, field technical service, water quality and environment, climate and invasive species, food technology, and environmental and rural policy.
Source: USDA NIFA, which is solely responsible for the information provided and is wholly owned by the source. Informa Business Media and all its subsidiaries are not responsible for any of the content contained in this information asset. 
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