The best career opportunities in agriculture: A degree in agriculture gives you the knowledge and skills needed to manage agricultural and farm businesses, or to work in areas such as agricultural sales, food production and farming journalism.
There’s more to a career in agriculture than just being a farmer although, of course, that is also a very viable career option for those looking to get into the field.
So, if you’re looking to work in agriculture, but don’t know what careers are available to you (and what you need to study to get them) look no further, as we will explore the top careers in agriculture today., and the skills you need to succeed in these roles.
Where Graduates Can Find Career Opportunities in Agriculture?
Agriculture graduates can find employment across a diverse range of areas, such as farm management, the service and supply industries, sales, research, or advisory and consultancy work. With employment opportunities arising in both the public and private sectors of agriculture in home and abroad. The typical place graduates can get the best career opportunities in agriculture include:
- Agricultural and Agri-pharmaceutical consultancies
- Agricultural machinery firms
- Environmental consultancies
- Farm management and commercial ancillary companies
- Food processing companies
- Food retail companies
- Government and local authorities – advisory and administrative roles
- Trade associations
- The media – for roles in agricultural journalism
- Universities – in research and lecturing posts.
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The Best Career Opportunities in Agriculture
The best career opportunities in agriculture includes:
- Agricultural consultant
- Farm manager
- Fish farm manager
- Agricultural engineer
- Agricultural economist
- Soil and plant scientist
- Conservation planner
- Commercial Horticulturalist
- Agricultural salesperson
- Rural practice surveyors
1. Agricultural consultant
As an agricultural consultant or adviser, you’ll work to ensure your clients’ businesses or enterprises are running as efficiently as possible. You’ll need to be aware of the business and legislative implications of the advice you give. Clients may include:
- conservation organizations
- public bodies
- other agricultural businesses in manufacturing and services.
Types of agricultural consultant
As an agricultural consultant, you’ll usually consult on either technical or business matters.
Technical consultants provide specialist advice on:
- environment and conservation
- waste management
- other technical applications.
Business consultants help with:
- business planning
- estate and financial management advice for agricultural businesses and farms
- personnel management.
As an agricultural consultant, you’ll need to:
- visit clients to identify and evaluate their business and/or technical requirements
- assist clients with business planning, planning applications, government grant applications, legislative advice and new business ventures
- collect and analyse data, crop yield and financial reports to measure performance
- prepare or modify business or operating plans
- organise and conduct field trials to find solutions to clients’ problems
- plan and implement improvements for the client such as using more effective pest control measures or finding more efficient ways to keep livestock
- organise presentations, demonstrations, training and farm walks for clients, colleagues, partnership organisations, professional bodies and other interested groups
- communicate effectively, both in writing and orally, with clients, colleagues and members of the public
- write advisory leaflets, technical notes and possibly press releases and articles
- market and promote consultancy services to new customers, while maintaining existing client relationships
- research and keep up to date with any relevant developments in agriculture
- carry out administrative duties, manage budgets and accounts, update information and prepare reports.
2. Farm manager
The farm manager is one of the best career opportunities in agriculture. As a farm manager, you’ll usually work with either animal production, dairy or crop production, although it’s possible that you’ll work with all three. Livestock on farms tends to be pigs, cows or sheep, while crops can cover cereals, rapeseed oil, vegetables and salad. You’ll implement strategies for maximum yield, organize farm administration, work machinery and manage any associated businesses and staff.
Farms are typically run by management companies or single-owner farmers and must satisfy regulations set by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) for safe, high-quality produce farmed in an environmentally sustainable manner.
As a farm manager, you’ll need to:
- plan finances and production to maintain farm progress against budget parameters
- undertake practical activities, such as driving tractors, operating machinery, feeding livestock or spraying fields
- market the farm’s products
- buy supplies, such as fertiliser and seeds
- arrange the maintenance and repair of farm buildings, machinery and equipment
- plan activities for trainee staff, mentoring and monitoring them
- maintain and monitor the quality of yield, whether livestock or crops
- understand the implications of the weather and make contingency plans
- make sure products are ready for deadlines, such as auctions and markets
- ensure that farm activities comply with government regulations
- monitor animal health and welfare, including liaising with vets
- maintain knowledge of pests and diseases and an understanding of how they spread and how to treat them
- apply health and safety standards across the farm estate
- protect the environment and maintaining biodiversity
- keep financial records up to date
- apply for funding – if appropriate.
3. Fish farm manager
As a fish farm manager, you’ll help to manage a fish farm breeding programme, breeding fish by hatching eggs from adult stock or sometimes by buying in young fish and then rearing them before selling on to purchasers.
Fish farming, or aquaculture as it’s commonly known, is an intensive animal husbandry business. The work involves managing and maintaining fish habitats throughout the year, taking care of stock health and welfare issues and feeding the fish either manually or using automated machinery.
As a fish farmer, you’ll need to:
- calculate the feeding regime, which is often done by automatic computer systems
- monitor the health of the fish and treat them when appropriate
- plan breeding programmes and grow schedules to obtain maximum efficiency
- adhere to environmental standards
- understand legislation and how to implement this into practical application
- ensure the water supply is of a sufficient quality for the stock
- be aware of different water management techniques
- adapt to new technologies as they develop and learn practical skills
- pay close attention to detail, in order to avoid expensive fish losses in what can be a high-risk industry
- possess stock skills such as fish handling, spawning, grading and harvesting
- update knowledge of fish health and nutrition
- maintain records of stocks
- sell fish products and assist the general public – this may apply if you work for a farm that also offers other retail and leisure activities, such as angling
- market and sell the fish – although this responsibility depends on the individual farm
- hold a full driving licence – depending on the farm this may be necessary, if it’s in an isolated position and you’re required to transport the fish for sale.
4. Agricultural engineer
As an agricultural engineer, you will seek to improve current farming methods, designing new equipment and machinery using computer aided technology (CAD). You will also use data from the weather and GPS to advise farmers and businesses on land use, assessing the impact of the current processes on crops and the surrounding environment. In this role you may also get to supervise agricultural construction projects.
5. Agricultural economist
In your role as an agricultural economist, you will apply microeconomic and macroeconomic concepts and theories to understand economic decisions, such as why shoppers make certain decisions about the food they buy and how the government chooses how to support farmers. You will be analyzing economic data to find and determine trends in economic activity.
Some agricultural economists spend their time in an office, performing calculations and analysis on a range of data. Others spend their time in the fields, surveying land, interviewing farmers and performing research.
Agricultural economists is also one of the best career opportunities in agriculture that mainly work independently, but may have to collaborate with other economists, farmers and statisticians. An economics degree is preferable for those wanting to become an agricultural economist. A strong grasp of mathematics is vital for this role, and you must be able to analyze and interpret data effectively and present it in a clear and efficient way.
6. Soil and plant scientist
As a soil and plant scientist, you will test the composition of the soil in order to assess how it affects plant growth, researching alternative methods of growing crops (such as genetic modification) in order to maximize efficiency. You will present this data in detailed reports to advise food growers how to use their land most efficiently, informing farmers on the crops which are most suitable.
Many soil and plant scientists spend their days working in offices or laboratories, doing research or outside gathering samples on farms to use in their research. Soil and plant scientists specializing in food may work in kitchens, in order to test new food processing methods.
7. Conservation planner
Conservation planners are responsible for determining the environmental and ecological value of land, to decide whether it should be preserved or whether it can be built on. If land is deemed too valuable to be built on, conservation planners will draw up a report telling stakeholders what they can and cannot do.
As a conservation planner, your day to day tasks may include preparing reports, developing budgets, identifying and analyzing any environmental issues and promoting environmental management. You will be acting as the middleman between developers, environmental groups and the government.
To be a conservation planner, you will need to have good project management skills, be extremely self-motivated and organized. An environmental science degree would be extremely useful in this role, and you must also have good analytical skills.
8. Commercial Horticulturalist
As a commercial horticulturalist, you will be involved in monitoring the entire production process – overseeing the growing, harvesting, packaging, distribution and selling of food, crops and plants.
Typical day to day activities might see you supervising and training staff, managing pest/weed control programs, writing business plans, developing new products, marketing products, negotiating contracts with buyers and sellers, and helping to sell the finished products.
Commercial horticulturalists need to be extremely detail-orientated, with strong management and communication skills and have a great deal of commercial awareness.
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9. Agricultural salesperson
Working in agricultural sales, you will sell machinery, animal feed, fertilizers and seed to farmers. You will be expected to be an expert in your product and will often advise farmers on products. You will need to be able to listen to the needs of the farmer, and then recommend the correct products to suit their requirements.
The ability to build long term relationships, as well as being persuasive and knowledgeable on your product are all skills which are vital in this career. Sales and marketing degrees would be extremely valuable if you’re looking to pursue a career in sales.
10. Rural practice surveyors
Rural practice surveyors advise on rural property and agricultural matters to help farmers and other clients manage their businesses
You’ll also give professional and technical advice, as well as working in business/resource management and consultancy for the land, property and construction industries.
Some of the work you’ll do relates to estate management and professional consultancy, and alternative job titles include land agent, forester, environmental consultant and property manager.
Types of rural practice surveying work
You can work across a number of areas, or specialise in one or two, including:
- auctioneering and valuation
- environmental regulations and practices
- property management.
As a rural practice surveyor, you’ll need to:
- manage rural estates, which may comprise any combination of farms, tenanted dwellings, farm buildings let as workshops, businesses and leisure enterprises – this work often includes direct management of estate staff
- oversee the development of farming/leisure facilities to ensure they’re working efficiently and considering alternative uses for redundant farm buildings
- find new uses for properties, if working as an agent
- value rural land and property, crops, machinery, livestock and trees
- discuss with clients the most effective way to market and sell their property and other assets
- help clients who wish to buy rural properties, such as farms or smallholdings, by providing detailed information about the property, the land and other assets, noting problems that might arise or legal questions that might need to be asked
- provide professional advice on how emerging regulations and practices may affect business plans
- peruse farm accounts and use financial expertise to interpret them and advise on taxation
- issue contracts for various aspects of land management
- keep in regular contact with landowners to ensure that they’re aware of developments in their business, or any problems that are looming
- represent clients, make planning applications and submit appeals
- build and maintain good relationships with the rural community and stay well informed on all issues affecting the countryside
- keep up to date with new national or EU regulations that are likely to affect land use
- provide advice to government departments, councils, special interest groups and land users on policy issues
- advise on grants and farming subsidies relating to environmental work and agri-environment schemes
- advise on enhancing landscapes, if working in conservation.
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