Tuesday Talks With Dr. Patterson

October 28, 2014


I believe that this is a practical world and that I can count only on what I earn. Therefore, I believe in work, hard work. … 

I believe in honesty and truthfulness, without which I cannot win the respect and confidence of my fellow men. … 

And because Auburn men and women believe in these things, I believe in Auburn and love it. (Petrie) 

These lines taken from the Auburn Creed by George Petrie say a lot about Auburn men and women.  They should be important to you.  They are certainly important to the College of Agriculture at Auburn University. 

The College of Agriculture undertakes a number of efforts to help you prepare for your career, both through traditional curricular activities and through extra-curricular activities, such as college sponsored career fairs and other professional development activities.  These events give me the opportunity to talk to employers about job opportunities in the food, agriculture, and natural resources (FANR) sector and about the preparation and performance of Auburn College of Agriculture alumni. 

Job opportunities continue to be very strong in the FANR sector.  The most recent USDA report on job opportunities projects more openings each year than there are graduates from colleges of agriculture.  Over the period 2010 through 2015, the USDA study projected 54,400 new job openings each year in the FANR sector, while colleges of agriculture graduated an estimated 29,300 students per year (Goecker, et al).  This projection on jobs appears to have largely held up over this time period, as this was one of the most lucrative time periods in our nation’s history for the agricultural sector.  Agribusiness firms were active hiring new employees to grow their workforce to meet growing global demand for food, fiber, and energy products, while also trying to replace their retiring baby boomer employees.  Although the U.S. agricultural market has seen some cooling over the past two years, many sectors are still expanding.  Overall, job prospects in agriculture remain strong.

Salaries in the agricultural sector are also strong.  The College of Agriculture participates in a national survey on starting salaries for recent graduates in agriculture and related disciplines.  The report for December 2013 and May 2014 graduates shows agricultural economists and agronomists receiving the highest starting average annual salaries of $45,407 and $45,986, respectively (2013/14 Entry-level Salary Information).  Food scientists, agriculture communicators, and those working in the poultry industry were not far behind.  So, starting salaries are good and these salaries are often matched with attractive benefits.

Employers tell me that they are favorably impressed with Auburn University alumni as employees.  Like the Auburn Creed states, Auburn students are known as hard workers, who demonstrate an all-in attitude towards their work.  I have also heard comments about their professionalism.  They are punctual, meet their deadlines, uphold their commitments, and interact well with other employees.  They typically have good interpersonal communication skills and good public speaking skills.  Overall, the reputation of Auburn alumni and of College of Agriculture alumni in particular as employees is favorable.

However, this reputation is dependent on the last line of the Auburn Creed – “And because Auburn men and women believe in these things, I believe in Auburn and love it.”  For the generally positive reputation of Auburn’s College of Agriculture alumni employees to be sustained, you must believe in these things and live it.  The way you conduct yourself as a future or prospective future employee will influence employers’ view on Auburn University as a destination to recruit future employees.  Indeed, I have heard some employers say that they do not interview students at certain institutions because of their perceptions on the institution and the students it graduates. 

Auburn’s reputation could be described as a collective good or a shared brand attribute.  While this collective good can be positive, it can also be negative.  Your professional conduct can have a spillover effect on other Auburn alumni for good or bad.  When it is bad, the old adage about one bad apple spoiling the barrel is true.  To use another analogy, franchise store owners are dependent on the actions of other franchise store owners in upholding the reputation of the franchise brand.  That is why franchisers such as McDonald’s place many clauses on expected levels of performance in franchise contracts in order to protect the McDonald’s reputation, which is enjoyed by all franchise store owners.  Auburn University and the College of Agriculture will impose certain requirements for you to meet to become an alumnus or alumnae.  Insuring that all meet these requirements in a consistent manner protects the integrity of the institution.  We cannot, however, contractually obligate you to perform in a certain manner as a prospective future employee or future employees.  However, I hope that you will love Auburn enough to protect the reputation of our institution and college.  You should work to “win the respect and confidence” of your colleagues.  Remember, you will always be recognized as an Auburn man or Auburn woman. 


Goecker, Allan D., P. Gregory Smith, Ella Smith, and Rebecca Goetz. Employment Opportunities for College Graduates in Food, Renewable Energy, and the Environment: United States, 2010-2015. Purdue University, 2010.


“2013/2014 Entry-level Salary Information for Recent Graduates in Agriculture and Related Disciplines.”  Mimeo. 2014. 


Dr. Paul Patterson is associate dean for instruction for the College of Agriculture and Professor of Agricultural Economics.