Careers in Agriculture, Food Science and Natural Resources

Careers in Agriculture, Food Science and Natural Resources are diverse and offer opportunities for individuals with varying levels of education and training. These careers involve producing and improving food, textile crops, livestock, and wild game, as well as mining ore and managing hazardous waste and wildlife conservation. Technology is playing a significant role in transforming the industry, with geospatial mapping and precision agriculture improving agricultural efficiencies.

Mining jobs are also expanding, with 675,000 workers employed in the sector and projected to grow more rapidly than other segments of the cluster. Demand for renewable energy is growing faster than any other energy source in the U.S., with usage increasing 100% between 2000 and 2018. However, demand for paper and wood products is projected to slow in the next several years, reducing related employment demand.

Despite these changes, many jobs in this cluster require only a high school diploma or have no formal training requirements. Opportunities for career growth in equipment operation, research and engineering technology, soil and plant sciences, farm labor contractors, and pesticide handlers are available. Apprenticeships are not common in this cluster, but some may be found in farm work and livestock production roles.

Careers in Agriculture

Agriculture careers are professional paths related to farming, cultivation and animal husbandry. These career paths involve everything from growing crops and nurturing the soil to raising livestock like cattle, pigs and chickens. Careers in agriculture also incorporate manufacturing, marketing and selling the products that result from crops and livestock as well as providing support and assistance throughout the field.

1. Farmers and Ranchers

Discussing agriculture inevitably involves exploring the diverse realms of farming and ranching. This profession encompasses a wide spectrum of roles, from dairy farming to livestock ranching, fruit cultivation, crop farming, and organic agriculture, among others.

Within this dynamic field, there are both traditional practices passed down through generations and emerging sectors like cannabis and organic farming, reflecting the rich history and continuous evolution of agriculture worldwide.

Farmers are not merely cultivators of crops and caretakers of livestock; they are multifaceted individuals often overseeing the business aspects of their operations, including marketing, budgeting, and more.

Their work environments span farms, fields, greenhouses, and aquatic settings, engaging with a variety of elements such as plants, soil, water, and livestock. Their activities range from fishing in rivers to tending to coffee or cocoa plantations, or managing animal husbandry on farms.

2. Agricultural Economists

For those inclined towards numbers and practical application of knowledge, a career in agricultural economics offers an engaging path. Agricultural economists play a crucial role in analyzing and interpreting data to aid farmers in making informed decisions regarding their agricultural endeavors.

To venture into this field, individuals typically pursue a bachelor’s degree in economics or agricultural business management, followed by a master’s degree in agricultural economics or a related discipline. Further specialization through a PhD may be advisable for those aspiring to advanced roles.

Aspiring agricultural economists are encouraged to gain practical experience through internships or volunteering in local agricultural settings, alongside developing proficiency in data analysis during their academic pursuits.

3. Farm Managers and Operators

Farm managers and operators assume responsibility for the day-to-day operations of farms, encompassing financial management, equipment maintenance, personnel management, and marketing oversight. Their pivotal role involves ensuring the seamless functioning of all farm activities.

These professionals collaborate closely with farm owners to ensure tasks are executed efficiently within allocated budgets and timelines, while also supervising staff and overseeing all farm operations.

4. Agricultural Engineers

Agricultural engineers are tasked with designing and optimizing various agricultural production systems, including food processing facilities and farming equipment. Their expertise spans disciplines such as soil science, physics, chemistry, and computer modeling.

Prospective agricultural engineers typically pursue a bachelor’s degree in agricultural engineering from an accredited institution, supplementing their education with relevant coursework in biology, chemistry, or physics. This groundwork prepares them for advanced study or research in the field.

5. Nursery Workers

Nursery workers play a vital role in nurturing plants and trees from inception to transplantation, requiring a penchant for outdoor work and a deep appreciation for horticulture. Patience, manual dexterity, and a willingness to work in diverse weather conditions are essential attributes for this profession.

Given the increasing demand for plants and the imperative of maintaining existing greenery in the face of climate change and natural disasters, the job outlook for nursery workers remains promising.

6. Agricultural Inspectors and Testers

Agricultural inspectors collaborate with farmers and manufacturers to uphold governmental standards for food safety and quality. Their responsibilities encompass inspecting various facets of food production, from animal feed to processing plants and transportation vehicles.

These professionals are typically employed by state agencies, food inspection companies, or private laboratories, ensuring compliance with federal regulations and safeguarding consumer health.

7. Agricultural Scientists and Researchers

For those with a passion for science and agriculture, careers as agricultural scientists or researchers offer diverse avenues for exploration. Engaged by governmental bodies, academic institutions, or private enterprises, their research spans a wide array of topics, including crop and livestock improvement, farm production optimization, and food safety enhancement.

Their contributions are instrumental in advancing agricultural practices and addressing contemporary challenges such as sustainability, food security, and safety standards.

8. Animal Veterinarians

Animal veterinarians play a crucial role in maintaining the health and well-being of various animal species, ranging from livestock to pets. With veterinary medicine witnessing continual growth, these professionals may specialize in small, large, or exotic animals, catering to diverse clientele and settings.

To embark on this career path, individuals typically pursue a bachelor’s degree in an animal science-related field before completing a veterinary medicine degree. Advanced specializations may be pursued for those working with exotic species or in specialized settings such as zoos or wildlife centers.

10. Agricultural and Food Science Technicians

Agricultural and food science technicians contribute to the development, production, and testing of agricultural products, conducting experiments and analyses in laboratory or greenhouse settings. Strong mathematical skills are essential for tasks such as soil testing, data analysis, and product development.

Their responsibilities encompass evaluating experimental outcomes, analyzing water quality, and developing new products through research and technological innovation, underscoring the interdisciplinary nature of their work.

11. Animal Nutritionists

Animal nutritionists play a critical role in determining optimal feed rations for livestock, working closely with farmers to ensure animal health and productivity. Strong mathematical acumen is essential for calculating feed formulas, making this career ideal for individuals with a knack for mathematics and a passion for animal welfare.

Typically possessing a bachelor’s degree in animal science, animal nutritionists may pursue advanced degrees to specialize in this field, contributing to the efficient management of livestock operations.

Careers Food Science

Food Science is a multi-disciplinary field involving chemistry, biochemistry, nutrition, microbiology and engineering to give one the scientific knowledge to solve real problems associated with the many facets of the food system. The basis of the discipline lies in an understanding of the chemistry of food components, such as proteins, carbohydrates, fats and water and the reactions they undergo during processing and storage. A complete understanding of processing and preservation methods is required including drying, freezing, pasteurization, canning, irradiation, extrusion, to name just a few. The ability to carry out analysis of food constituents is developed along with statistical quality control methods. The microbiology and the safety aspects of food must also be understood. Other topics covered include food additives, the physico-chemical properties of food, flavor chemistry, product development, food engineering and packaging. Food science integrates this broad-based knowledge and focuses it on food.

Careers in Food Science encompass a broad spectrum of roles dedicated to ensuring the safety, quality, and innovation of food products. Here’s an overview of some of the key career paths within this field:

1. Food Technologist

Food technologists are responsible for developing new food products and improving existing ones. They conduct research, perform experiments, and collaborate with food scientists to create products that meet consumer demands and regulatory standards.

2. Food Quality Assurance Manager

Quality assurance managers oversee the implementation of quality control processes to ensure that food products meet safety and quality standards. They develop and enforce protocols, conduct audits, and address any issues related to product quality or safety.

3. Food Safety Specialist

Food safety specialists focus on preventing foodborne illnesses by implementing and monitoring food safety protocols throughout the production, processing, and distribution stages. They conduct inspections, analyze data, and provide training to ensure compliance with food safety regulations.

4. Flavor Chemist

Flavor chemists are responsible for creating and enhancing the taste and aroma of food products. They use their knowledge of chemistry and sensory science to develop flavors, fragrances, and additives that enhance the overall sensory experience of food products.

5. Food Microbiologist

Food microbiologists study microorganisms in food and their effects on food safety and quality. They conduct research, perform tests, and develop strategies to prevent microbial contamination and spoilage in food products.

6. Food Packaging Engineer

Packaging engineers design and develop packaging solutions that protect food products from damage, spoilage, and contamination. They consider factors such as material selection, sustainability, and regulatory compliance to create packaging that meets the needs of both consumers and manufacturers.

7. Food Regulatory Affairs Specialist

Regulatory affairs specialists ensure that food products comply with government regulations and international standards. They stay up-to-date on changes in food laws and regulations, provide guidance on compliance issues, and assist with product labeling and registration.

8. Sensory Scientist

Sensory scientists evaluate the sensory attributes of food products, such as taste, texture, appearance, and aroma. They conduct sensory tests with trained panels or consumers to gather data on consumer preferences and perceptions, which informs product development and marketing strategies.

9. Food Research and Development (R&D) Manager

R&D managers oversee the research and development activities within food companies. They lead interdisciplinary teams of scientists, engineers, and technicians to innovate new products, improve existing ones, and address technical challenges in food production.

10. Food Supply Chain Manager

Supply chain managers coordinate the flow of food products from production facilities to consumers. They oversee logistics, distribution, inventory management, and supplier relationships to ensure efficient and timely delivery of food products while minimizing costs and risks.

Careers in Natural Resources 

If you’re considering a career in natural resources, there are many career options to choose from. Many individuals pursue natural resource positions to support environmentally friendly practices and influence environmental policy creation. Researching the different types of jobs in this industry can help you find roles that align with your experience, skills, education and goals.

1. GIS Technician

Average annual salary nationwide: $51,490

Main responsibilities: GIS technicians develop customized Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to analyze land data effectively. They produce graphical representations of land data to understand spatial relationships better and provide construction estimates based on historical data. Their tasks also encompass supporting GIS databases, delivering presentations, and ensuring the accuracy of database information updates.

2. Environmental Technician

Average annual salary nationwide: $50,630

Main responsibilities: Environmental technicians identify and assess environmental pollution or contamination risks. They conduct inspections at various facilities to ensure compliance with regulations, organize educational seminars on environmental issues, and analyze air, water, and soil samples in laboratories. Their work aids in identifying pollution trends and implementing appropriate mitigation measures.

3. Soil Technician

Average annual salary nationwide: $45,009

Main responsibilities: Soil technicians focus on enhancing soil quality and promoting sustainable land management practices. They conduct thorough land surveys to assess soil health indicators like pH levels and nutrient content. Their duties include implementing farming techniques to improve soil health, organizing meetings with landowners, and overseeing construction projects to ensure adherence to soil conservation practices.

4. Extension Agent

Average annual salary nationwide: $49,557

Main responsibilities: Extension agents design educational programs on topics such as economic and community development, agriculture, and environmental conservation. They gather community data to identify areas of need, organize seminars, and offer guidance to enhance individual learning outcomes. Additionally, they may write grants, establish volunteer networks, and oversee youth clubs.

5. Wildlife Specialist

Average annual salary nationwide: $44,017

Main responsibilities: Wildlife specialists manage and control nuisance wildlife or pests, providing services to residential, commercial, and industrial clients. They develop wildlife management plans, conduct repairs for wildlife damage, and offer pest control recommendations. Additionally, they foster positive community-wildlife relations through outreach efforts and facility inspections.

6. Recreation Manager

Average annual salary nationwide: $57,950

Main responsibilities: Recreation managers in natural resource settings coordinate community activities and events, develop marketing strategies, and analyze trends to enhance community engagement. They secure sponsorships, enforce rules, and report incidents. Additionally, they oversee budgeting and ensure visitor safety and satisfaction.

7. Water Resources Engineer

Average annual salary nationwide: $65,272

Main responsibilities: Water resources engineers oversee water usage and treatment systems, ensuring safe water supply to communities. They collect and analyze data, design treatment plans, and inspect water supply infrastructure. They also manage wastewater systems and participate in resource management discussions.

8. Natural Resources Educator

Average Annual Salary Nationwide: $71,557

Main responsibilities: Natural resources educators develop curriculum and research projects to promote understanding of natural resources. They create volunteer opportunities, lead outreach programs, and analyze student progress. Additionally, they may secure grants and collaborate with stakeholders to enhance educational initiatives.

9. Environmental Consultant

Average annual salary nationwide: $72,774

Main responsibilities: Environmental consultants offer expertise on environmental issues to organizations, providing recommendations on various projects and activities. They conduct assessments, analyze samples, and advise on compliance with regulations. Additionally, they research environmental regulations and suggest improvements to manufacturing processes.

10. Forester Average

annual salary nationwide: $57,756

Main responsibilities: Foresters manage forested areas for economic, recreational, and conservation purposes. They assess timber resources, negotiate contracts, and develop conservation plans. They also monitor tree growth and plan harvesting activities.

11. Parks and Recreation Director

Average annual salary nationwide: $77,506

Main responsibilities: Parks and recreation directors oversee city recreation programs, manage maintenance activities, and ensure facility safety. They provide reports, train staff, and develop department policies.

12. Natural Resources Technician

Average annual salary nationwide: $71,557

Main responsibilities: Natural resources technicians support conservation efforts by conducting monitoring activities and assisting in management planning. They collect data, analyze economic and environmental factors, and present findings to policymakers.

13. Land Planner

Average annual salary nationwide: $71,655

Main responsibilities: Land planners develop land use plans, process permits, and collaborate with stakeholders to ensure compliance with regulations. They analyze land acquisitions and propose development projects.

14. Environmental Policy

analyst Average annual salary nationwide: $78,326

Main responsibilities: Environmental policy analysts research policy implications on the environment and make recommendations for improvement. They analyze data, create educational materials, and coordinate awareness campaigns.

15. Biologist Average

annual salary nationwide: $70,725

Main responsibilities: Biologists study plant and animal life to enhance scientific understanding. They conduct research, collect samples, and document findings for publication. They also track and monitor wildlife behavior.

16. Environmental Engineer

Average annual salary nationwide: $87,611

Main responsibilities: Environmental engineers develop solutions for environmental challenges, monitor pollution levels, and collaborate on sustainable building projects. They lead projects, offer waste management solutions, and monitor progress


Careers in agriculture, food science, and natural resources offer a diverse array of opportunities for individuals passionate about sustainability, conservation, and environmental stewardship. From managing land resources to ensuring the safety of our food supply and preserving wildlife habitats, professionals in these fields play a vital role in shaping a more resilient and sustainable future. With a range of roles spanning from soil technicians to environmental consultants, there is ample opportunity for individuals to contribute their expertise and make a meaningful impact on the world around them. As we continue to address global challenges such as climate change and food security, the importance of these careers will only grow, making them both rewarding and essential paths for those seeking to make a difference in the world of agriculture, food science, and natural resources.

Leave a Reply