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Department of Agricultural, Environmental, and Development Economics


Ag Degrees in Demand: Ohio State University Agricultural Graduates Report Positive Job Outlook

April 3, 2013

This article was originally published on the website of OSU's College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.

Written by Tracy Turner

March 13, 2013

COLUMBUS, Ohio – By New Year’s Day this year, graduating senior Linsey Howell already had five job offers.

Although the 21-year-old double major in agribusiness and applied economics in Ohio State University’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES) won’t receive her degree until graduation day May 5, Howell already has a start date for her new job working in grain merchandising for The Andersons: June 3.

“Thanks to the degrees I’m earning from Ohio State and the internships I’ve had, I was able to take the time to really consider the job offers and decide which one would be the best fit for me and what I want to do in my professional career,” the Danville, Ohio native said. “There are a lot of companies looking to hire agriculture graduates.

“The opportunities are nationwide and worldwide, if you are open to them. A lot of students in the college (CFAES) have job offers at the end of their junior year and a lot of students had jobs by the first career fair, and the ones who aren’t looking for jobs have already been accepted into graduate school.”

Howell is among a growing number of recent agriculture graduates and graduating seniors who are reporting strong job prospects with their agriculture and natural resources degrees in Ohio and nationwide thanks to the growing world-wide demand for food and an increasingly strong agriculture industry, experts say.

In fact, recent agriculture and natural resources graduates with bachelor's-degrees have the third lowest rates of unemployment (7 percent), according to a 2012 study by Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce. The same study found that rate even lower for graduates with advanced agricultural degrees (2.4 percent). 

This, as net farm income is expected to reach $128.2 billion this year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That’s a 14 percent increase over last year's $112.8 billion and the highest figure since 1973, USDA said in a statement.

Strong future employment prospects ring true for many recent CFAES graduates and graduating CFAES seniors, said Bruce McPheron, vice president for agricultural administration and dean of CFAES.

Consider the following:

  • Some 92 percent of CFAES graduates are employed or are attending graduate school within six months of graduation.
  • CFAES graduates report an average starting salary of $39,024
  • Some 72.1 percent of CFAES graduates reported employment within Ohio.
  • More than 200 companies and organizations hired CFAES graduates last year.

“We focus on providing not only the best possible technical education for our students but also help them gain leadership, communication, and teamwork skills,” McPheron said.

Job postings by employers received in the CFAES career services office increased in 2012 compared to 2011, said Adam Cahill, career development manager for CFAES. And the college is on pace to see continued gains so far in 2013, he said. 

“We have always had high involvement from agribusiness and seed-based companies at our career expos,” Cahill said. “Businesses see the value in our graduates which has kept them coming back every year.

“When we look at the fall semester interviews held at the college, 68 percent were from companies focused directly in seed industry and agribusiness sectors.”

The college is also seeing an increase in company interaction with CFAES student organizations and in the classroom as guest speakers, he said.

“Companies like Cargill, Archer Daniels Midland, Pioneer, Farm Credit Services of Mid-America, John Deere and numerous others have increased their presence and physical time on campus so that they can interact with and recruit students from multiple avenues outside of the traditional career fair,” Cahill said.

Kristen Johnson agrees. She is one of four recruiters employed by Farm Credit Mid-America, a $19 billion agricultural lending cooperative providing farm and home financing to more than 100,000 agribusinesses, farmers and rural residents throughout Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee.

Farm Credit Mid-America recruits on campuses at more than two dozen colleges and universities that offer four-year degrees in agriculture across our four states, including CFAES, Johnson said, noting that there is “increased competition for the best and brightest” agriculture and natural resources graduates.

“There’s been a substantial increase in the number of businesses participating in campus events seeking employees from agriculture’s talent pool,” she said. “A career fair that might have had 20 companies last year may have 60 this year.

“At the same time, those interested in agricultural careers are really stepping up to the plate. They’re coming in with definitive career plans and have done their research on the companies at the event.”

In response to the growing demand of the agricultural financing market, Farm Credit Mid-America experienced a 27 percent jump in employee numbers in the last three years, and expects to add more than 100 sales and customer support positions in 2013, Johnson said.

“That level of student professionalism is extending into our internships, too,” she said. “This year, we’ll add 40 interns to our program, up from just eight or 10 interns a few years ago.

“Like a lot of other companies, our intern program is an important part of our strategic hiring process and often leads to long-term careers and even leadership positions.”

For Howell, the knowledge that she is graduating with a high-demand degree and the completion of two agriculture-related internships, allows her to feel confident in her short-term and long-term career prospects.

“I’m so excited,” she said. “I know I’ve made the right job decision and I can’t wait to start my new career.” 

Photo: Recent agriculture and natural resources graduates with bachelor's-degrees have the third lowest rates of unemployment (7 percent), according to a 2012 study by Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce.


Tracy Turner


Bruce McPheron

Adam Cahill

Linsey Howell