One of Tally Jo Stout’s grandfathers owned and operated a feed and fertilizer business and raised cattle. Another farmed 1,500 acres. So it made sense for Stout to also pursue a career in agriculture.
“As I got older, I realized even more that agriculture was an amazing thing,” says Stout, a recent graduate of Stephen F. Austin State University in Texas and an agricultural science teacher. “Now my father and I run the farm, and I get to teach children what a great and wonderful thing that agriculture holds in our future.”
Studying agriculture in college doesn’t necessarily mean you’re preparing for a career as a farmer. You can also find careers in agricultural research, sales, marketing, education and more.
“Many still perceive agriculture as a simple farmer who scratches a modest living from a few acres and animals,” says Tim Moore, an assistant professor of agriculture business at SUNY Cobleskill in Cobleskill, N.Y. “Frankly, there are so many careers available for someone to pursue in agriculture that it is mind-boggling.”
Want to work outside? Consider becoming a production consultant, environmental planner, equipment specialist or turf/landscape professional. Want to contribute to the industry in a different way? Study agricultural research, sales or marketing. Or you could become a feed manufacturer, lab technician, zookeeper, herd management consultant or agricultural education teacher!
“Any student can become a good ag student,” says Dr. James E. Diamond, dean of environmental and agriculture sciences at Delaware Valley College in Pennsylvania. “It doesn’t matter whether they’re a farm or non-farm student. My requirement is that they have an interest in what they want to study.”
Interested in Earth science?
You can work out in the field or in a lab as a soil scientist studying erosion and the movement of nutrients through the ground. “Soil scientists provide highly specialized services to the agricultural industry,” Moore says. “Careers in this area include soil nutrient management specialists, crop production consultants and environmental management professionals.”
Are you interested in pursuing business?
Combine agriculture and business with an agribusiness major. Agribusiness classes prepare students to become agricultural entrepreneurs, provide support to the production sector, become sales professionals, business managers, business consultants, agricultural lenders, education specialists and human resource professionals.
If you’re a fan of sports, consider studying turfgrass science.
Turfgrass scientists are responsible for keeping golf courses lush, football fields playable and lawns manicured. If you become a groundskeeper, you would be responsible for maintaining fields for play—including painting team logos on turf, clearing snow and marking the field’s lines. Turfgrass science or management graduates often work as golf course superintendents, lawn care specialists or as sales representatives for related products. Or you could try a career in conservation, landscaping or production of turf products. For your degree, your classes could cover outdoor power equipment, irrigation, recreational land management and sports field management.
Stout’s classmates became teachers, dairy farm owners, pharmaceutical sales reps and ranch operators. As an ag science teacher, Stout teaches animal science, intro to agricultural mechanics (welding and woodshop), intro to world agriculture and more.
“Agriculture is always changing, and new innovations are always coming out, so it is always going to be a learning experience,” Stout says. “This makes being an agriculture teacher one of the greatest jobs ever. Most children, even in a small school, have other interests. But you must make sure that agriculture lives on so that we can continue providing for their children and their children and so on!”