Tuesday Talks with Dr. Patterson

MAY 19, 2015

Jobs in Agriculture

In the coming weeks Auburn University will begin its orientation sessions for incoming freshmen students and later for transfer students.  The College of Agriculture is very excited to welcome this new group of students.  For these incoming students, they are entering during a great time for job opportunities in agriculture.

A recent report released by USDA and Purdue University projects that there will be 57,900 new job openings in the United States each year between 2015 and 2020 in the food, agriculture, renewable natural resources, and environmental sectors for individuals holding a bachelor’s degree or higher (Goecker, et al, 2015).  Nearly half these jobs (46%) will be in management and business positions in these sectors with job titles such as financial analyst, agricultural economist, agricultural loan officer, and land use manager, among others.  Science and engineering positions, including opportunities for food scientists, biological engineers, animal scientists, and plant scientists, will account for about 27% of these projected positions.  Career opportunities in food and biomaterials production and education, communication, and governmental services will account for about 15% and 12% of the job openings, respectively.

The recent USDA-Purdue report is part of a series of reports released each five years.  Compared to the report released in 2010, the number of projected annual new job opportunities is up by 3,500 from 54,500 job openings per year between 2010 and 2015 (Goecker, et al, 2010).  Furthermore, similar to the 2010 study, colleges of agriculture in the United States are not graduating enough students for all the job openings.  During the 2015 to 2020 period, it is anticipated that colleges of agriculture in the United States will graduate about 35,400 students per year.  Employers, who prefer students from colleges of agriculture, will seek to fill the gap with graduates from other college programs.  

The strong demand for graduates from colleges of agriculture is attributable to at least two factors.  One, like many industries in the United States, the agriculture and natural resources sector is facing a large turnover in employees, as aging baby boomers leave the workforce.  Hence, agriculture and natural resource firms and agencies are seeking new employees to maintain their personnel levels.  Second, U.S. agriculture and natural resources firms are continuing to see growing global demand for U.S. food and agricultural products.  Hence, they are expanding their workforce to meet this growing global demand.  Agribusiness firms are especially eager to hire new scientists to help develop new products to respond to new environmental conditions, changing resource availability, and new technologies.

As expected, with a strong demand for new graduates, starting salaries in the food, agriculture, natural resources, and environmental sectors are also very strong.  Auburn University participates in a survey of recent graduates along with 16 other leading land grant colleges of agriculture (Mimeo, 2014).  The most recent survey shows that graduates from agricultural business and economics programs are receiving an average starting annual salary of $45,407.  Graduates from biosystems engineering programs receive an average of $51,830; agronomy and crop sciences graduates receive $45,986; and, graduates from agricultural education and agricultural communications programs receive $41,018 (Mimeo, 2014).

The College of Agriculture is excited to welcome our next group of students.  The college is committed to helping our students succeed academically and develop the professional skills necessary to compete in today’s global food, agriculture, natural resource, and environmental sectors.


Goecker, A.D., P.G. Smith, E. Smith, and R. Goetz. “Employment Opportunities for College Graduates in Food, Renewable Energy, and the Environment: United States, 2010-2015.”  Purdue University, 2010. http://www3.ag.purdue.edu/USDA/employment/Documents/USDA_Employ_Op_2010_8.pdf

Goecker, A.D., E. Smith, J.M Fernandez, R. Ali, R. Theller.  “Employment Opportunities for College Graduates in Food, Agriculture, Renewable Natural Resources, and the Environment: United States, 2015-2020.” Purdue University, 2015.  www.purdue.edu/usda/employment.

“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.