A wide variety of areas fall under the category of agriculture programs,
but they all generally focus on food: how best to grow or produce it, or how
to manage the food industry.
There's a wide choice of majors at the undergraduate level, all
of which fall under the umbrella of an agriculture degree. Here are just a
- Animal science
- Plant science
- Agricultural business and management
- Agricultural engineering
- Food science
Each major has a different focus. Admission requirements may also vary.
Make sure your major fits your interests and career goals.
Most agriculture programs include a number of required courses in the first
or second year.
"In general, what the curriculum offers here in the second year is a broad
set of courses which cover crop science, animal science, economics and
land resources," says Calum Turvey. He works with a university department
of agricultural economics and business.
These courses are required in any agricultural major. "And then you
can start to specialize in, say, animal science or economics or commerce."
Some institutions offer diplomas or associate's degrees (generally
two years) in agriculture. A bachelor's degree will take you three
or four years to complete. There are also graduate programs.
When you're considering a program, think about where you want to go with
your training. The shorter programs will teach you the hands-on technical
skills. A four-year degree gives you business and management skills.
Turvey advises potential applicants to develop a strong base in math
and science right from high school. Chemistry and biology are very important.
Some students choose agriculture because they come from rural or farming
backgrounds. But there are others who have never set foot on a farm but are
still interested in some aspect of agriculture.
Even if you grew up on a farm, a degree will refresh and update your knowledge.
"Agriculture has changed a great deal since the 1960s when I got into it,"
says Dennis Brink. He is a professor of animal science at the University of
"Now we have good old Nebraska pig farmers taking classes on the transplantation
of pig hearts into humans, or students contemplating chicken eggs as potential
sources of pharmaceuticals.
"Agriculture definitely has become a form of cutting-edge discovery
Occupational Outlook Handbook
For more information related to this field of study, see: Agricultural
Encyclopedia of Earth
An electronic reference about the Earth, its natural environments,
and their interaction with society
American Seed Trade Association
A list of Internet agriculture resources
National Postsecondary Agricultural Student Organization
Works with industry and educational institutions