Agricultural job options diversifying

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As long as people need food to
survive, students from the College of Agriculture will have job opportunities. Those in agriculture-centered majors are not limited to farming after they graduate; there is an increasing amount of educational opportunities in agriculture.

“People have a tendency to think
agriculture is just cows and plows,” said Kris Boone, professor and department head of communications and agriculture education. “But, truth be known, it is far more broad.”

Aside from better-known majors like animal science and agronomy, K-State’s College of Agriculture offers a diverse set of
degree plans in a variety of different areas such as agricultural economics, agricultural communications and journalism, agricultural education, food science and horticulture.

A job placement study conducted by
the college, showed that 14 percent of students who graduated between the years of 2006 and
2011 returned to production agriculture
after receiving their diplomas; 80 percent of students responded to the survey. 

One reason behind this low figure could be the changing demographics within the college.  

“As enrollment has increased we’ve seen a
greater number of urban students,” said David Nichols, professor of animal sciences and industry. 

In fact, a shift is occurring, as students with no prior agriculture experience are joining the department.

“It’s not atypical to have
students who have never lived on a farm,” Boone said.

This is especially true for Maddy Anderson, junior
in animal sciences and industry, who is part of the early admittance program into the College
of Veterinary Medicine.  

“I’m from
Overland Park, so I really had no background in ag before attending college,” Anderson said. “And unlike the majority
of animal science students, who for the most part want to work with livestock,
I’d rather focus on exotics like reptiles and amphibians.” 

Another reason behind the change
could be that as the number of food and agricultural issues that make national
news increases, so does the need for more specialized communicators.

“People are
more interested in food issues than they used to be,” Boone said. “It’s
exciting to be involved in an industry that’s so critically important to people
around the world.”

This is an opportunity that agricultural communications and journalism majors may capitalize upon. Though the majority of
students within Boone’s department go into marketing, public relations or
focus on policy work after college, there’s still the occasional journalist in
the group.  

“We have students that feel
very passionately about telling ag’s story,” Boone said. 

Other career opportunities in agriculture include, but are not limited to, teaching, sales, extension, commodity
merchandising, engineering and farm or ranch management.

Job placement in each of these
categories for K-State agriculture majors remains steady.  

“Even during the economic downturn, our
placement has been excellent,” Boone said. 
“And because the students have this sort of technical specialization, their salaries are higher as compared to their more general studies
counterparts.”  

Carrie Keck, junior in agricultural economics
and Spanish, said she hopes to one day work for a large agriculture corporation.  

“I’d love to work for a
company that does business in Spanish speaking countries so I can use my dual
major to help communicate,” Keck said.  

When asked why she chose agriculture, Keck mentioned the size of the industry.  

“There’s so
much more involved than raising livestock and growing crops, granted that’s a
large part, but the production chain doesn’t end there,” Keck said. 

However, there’s still a place for those who wish to return to their family farm enterprises or carve
their own path in production agriculture.  

“I don’t have a family farm to return home to, but one day I’d like to
own my own ranch and run cow-calf pairs,” said Connor Carney, senior in animal sciences and industry.

There will always be a need for production agriculture but as the production chain, and industry as a
whole, becomes more diversified, so does the need for students with different
educational backgrounds.

“A lot of people don’t
understand that agriculture is food,” Boone said. “It’s about feeding people, it’s about
creating sustainable fuels, it’s about environmental sustainability, all of
those things are under this big umbrella.” 

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