CHOOSING A CAREER / FEB. 17, 2015
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How to Become an Agricultural Extension Officer in the US

Agricultural extension is the provision of research-based information on various facets of agricultural production to farmers. Agricultural extension officers are the professionals in charge of dispensing this information. If you have an interest in agriculture, and you are a good communicator, this could be the right career for you.

What Do Agricultural Extension Officers Do?

Their primary duties include:

  • Contributing to the development of effective extension programs
  • Responding to farmers’ requests for agricultural information
  • Organizing field days and other agricultural events
  • Visiting farmers in their farms and educating them on new agricultural production techniques
  • Advising farmers on how to best utilize farmland
  • Collaborating with agricultural scientists to conduct research on various agricultural topics.

Work Environment

Agricultural extension officers work from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday – although they occasionally visit farmers on Saturdays. When they are not in their offices preparing education materials, they can be found in the field educating farmers. This means the job involves frequent travel, and you could be exposed to unfavorable weather when working outdoors.

Salary

Agricultural extension officers earn as follows:

Occupation

Annual average wage

Agricultural extension officers

$51,000

Source: Indeed

Entry Requirements

To qualify for employment as an agricultural extension officer, you need to earn a bachelor’s degree in any of the following fields:

  • Agricultural science
  • Agricultural business/economics
  • Soil science
  • Rural development
  • Animal science.

Since the job involves conducting research, employers often prefer individuals with some research experience. After graduating, you can find a job as an agricultural research assistant to gain this experience and boost your employment prospects.

Important Qualities

To be an effective agricultural extension officer you need:

  • Strong verbal communication and interpersonal skills
  • Strong research skills
  • Strong report-writing skills
  • The ability to plan and organizing meetings or events
  • Good demonstration and presentation skills
  • Good outdoor skills
  • A passion for farming and the environment
  • Good problem-solving skills to help farmers find solutions to their farming challenge
  • A good knowledge of federal and local agricultural laws.

Career Advancement

After getting employed, you should focus on pursuing a master’s degree in agricultural and extension education. The degree will improve your understanding of agricultural issues and your ability to communicate them to farmers. Some of the graduate schools offering this program include:

Although there isn’t a professional association for agricultural extension agents at present, you can join the National Association of Agricultural Educators to demonstrate your professionalism and gain access to industry seminars.

Job Opportunities

The employers of agricultural extension officers include:

  • Government departments of agriculture
  • Local authorities
  • Cooperative societies
  • Companies that manufacture fertilizers and other farming inputs
  • Nonprofit organizations.

After providing extension services for several years and earning a master’s degree, you can be hired as an agricultural extension program manager. You can also move into private practice by establishing an agricultural consulting company.

Although the Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn’t provide occupational outlook data for agricultural extension services, it does note that the international demand for agricultural products is decreasing. This means there will be few employment opportunities for extension officers. However, only a few graduates of agricultural program venture into the provision of extension services.

So, if you fancy the idea of helping farmers improve the productivity of their farms, then becoming an agricultural extension officer is a sound decision.

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