Earning a Degree in Agriculture
The study of agriculture is a very broad field. An international student can earn an Associate’s Degree as well as a Bachelor’s Degree, or even a Master’s or Doctorate Degree studying agriculture. When studying agriculture, it is best to consider your future career desires, and then decide what major and degree will get you to the career that you want.
When beginning your studies in agriculture, you first need to decide what type of agriculture you want to study. An international student who wants to work with horses does not want to earn a degree in agricultural production operations, whereas a student who wants to be a nutritionist is not going to want to earn a degree in plant sciences. A better choice for this student would be food science and technology.
When choosing a specific field in the study of agriculture, it is best to think backwards. You need to look at what type of agriculture you want to major in and then determine where to study.
Once you choose to major in agriculture, you’ll typically have to narrow it down further. International students can choose from options such as:
- Agricultural Business Management – i.e. producing, processing and distributing food and fiber;
- Agricultural Production Operations – i.e. manage a farm or ranch, harvesting/planting crops;
- Animal Sciences – i.e. veterinarian, meat scientist, food safety inspector;
- Food Science and Technology – i.e. food chemist, processing plant manager,
- Horticultural Services – ex. botanical gardens, flower markets, designing gardens;
- Plant Science – i.e. crop care specialist, researcher, plant breeder;
- Soil Science – i.e. soil surveyor, soil and water conservationist.
Associate’s Degree in Agriculture
Most agriculture majors at the Associate’s level focus on the skills needed to operate farming equipment, as well as the business aspects of the agriculture industry. Prospective international students need to earn a high school diploma or successfully complete the GED exam in order to qualify for a 2-year associate’s program.
Students enrolled in an Associate Degree program will learn practical learning and theories related to agriculture. They will gain hands-on experience in areas such as soil management, crops and livestock. Graduates work in entry level careers such as a greenhouse technician, farm manager, or field worker. Students can enter the workforce right after graduation or transfer to a 4-year university to complete a Bachelor’s Degree in Agriculture.
Bachelor’s Degree in Agriculture
Bachelor’s degree agriculture majors are typically divided between programs that focus on managing agribusinesses and those that emphasize soil, plant or animal management. A high school diploma is required in order to apply to an agriculture Bachelor’s program. High school level coursework in laboratory sciences or advanced mathematics is highly recommended. These programs are typically science-based and students take courses in agricultural sciences, the physical, biological and social sciences. While in a Bachelor’s Degree program, students can choose to specialize in a specific area. Specialization can range from plants and soil technology to agribusiness to livestock management to agricultural engineers.
Master’s Degree in Agriculture
Agriculture majors at the master's degree level are designed for agribusiness professionals who want to advance in their careers, teach, or work in governmental agencies. Master’s Degree students are usually required to write a thesis but some schools offer a non-thesis option. Careers requiring a Master’s Degree include agricultural educator, agricultural policymaker, and soil composition analyst.
Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Agriculture
Doctoral candidates choose from a variety of specializations. These include agricultural demand and production, agricultural market theory, international agribusiness, manager of an agricultural chemical company, teaching at the college level, or strategic management in agribusiness which lead to a career.
When studying agriculture, it is best to think in advance. Where do you want to be working in 10 years? What do you want to be doing? Do you want to work with animals? After you have answered those questions, then you can figure out what major and degree program will get you to the career that you want.