Gone are the days when careers in agriculture only meant toiling under the sun while waiting for your crops to grow. Nowadays, the field has advanced in so many ways that numerous opportunities have sprouted over time, giving young people plenty of options to pick from, including a load of animal jobs.
In the US alone, thousands of jobs in agriculture are available per year; only there aren’t enough qualified candidates to fill the vacancies. Interestingly, the UK also seems to be experiencing similar problems with labor shortage, as their horticultural sectors continually struggle to find new workers year after year.
So, there’s no better time than now to start your career in agriculture if you can see this line of work growing on you. (No more puns, promise.) If you’re not sure what role to pick, check out these 10 in-demand, high-paying roles!
10. Zoologist/Wildlife biologist
What they do: Zoologists and wildlife biologists study all kinds of animal and marine life, and often spend time observing them in their natural habitats. You might also investigate the impact of wildlife on agricultural farms or develop programs to protect species that are threatened with extinction.
How to become: To pursue this profession, you’ll need a bachelor's degree in zoology or wildlife biology. Alternatively, you can enroll in a biology degree, and then select and complete relevant coursework. Be prepared, however; higher-level roles will require you to hold an advanced degree.
What they earn: $67,430 per year
9. Food scientist
What they do: If you’ve ever wondered who’s responsible for creating the nutritional information printed on the back of your pack of chips, well, you’ve guessed it: it’s food scientists. And they didn’t put it there to make you feel bad about the number of calories you just ate; food scientists gather this information to ensure food products are safe for consumption. They also use their knowledge to suggest new methods of processing, packaging and delivering food items.
How to become: If you’re the type who wants to know exactly what they’re putting in their bodies, then this science career may sound like a dream job for you. To get started, you’ll need a bachelor's degree from an agricultural science college or university. Typically, you’ll be expected to take coursework in subjects like biology, chemistry and botany.
What they earn: $74,940 per year
8. Buyer and purchasing agent
What they do: If you love working with people, this may be one of the best careers in the agriculture industry for you. As a buyer for agriculture products, you could be tasked with finding the best cotton for a clothing manufacturer, interviewing vendors, and visiting suppliers to learn about their merchandise. You’ll also attend trade shows and meetings and negotiate for the best prices.
How to become: Purchasing agents are usually educated to bachelor level and may hold a certification, such as the American Purchasing Society CPP (Certified Purchasing Professional) certification. As evaluating industry trends, financial reports and contracts is a pivotal part of this high-paying job, numerical and analytical skills will also really come in handy.
What they earn: $75,120 per year
7. Farm manager
What they do: Having one of the highest-paying agriculture careers, farm managers oversee the production of crops, livestock and dairy products. As you can imagine, the job comes with a lot of hard work and responsibility. One day you may be outside in the sunshine, inspecting crops and taking soil samples, and the next you’re in an office checking market prices, negotiating sales to a food processing plant and creating financial reports.
How to become: Managing a farm requires that rare person who is analytical and extremely organized, and who also doesn’t mind unpredictability. Previous experience in agricultural work is essential, and the complexity of large, modern farms may also require a degree in agriculture or business.
What they earn: $75,760 per year
6. Agricultural engineer
What they do: Apart from designing agricultural equipment and machinery, engineers also test them out to ensure that they work properly and that they adhere to government regulations. But it’s not all fun and games: agricultural engineers will often need to work additional hours to handle unanticipated issues, even outside in harsh weather conditions.
How to become: A bachelor’s degree in biological or agricultural engineering is the most common requirement to enter this profession. For higher-level roles, you may also need to acquire a license, such as the PE (Professional Engineering) license, awarded by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology.
What they earn: $83,260 per year
5. Water resource specialist
What they do: While water engineers design the structures that carry clean water to communities, water resource specialists figure out where to get that water from. Whether it’s sourced from wells, lakes, rivers or other bodies of water, these specialists also develop testing and monitoring programs to assure our drinking water is safe.
How to become: The minimum requirement for a career in water resourcing is a bachelor's degree in hydrology, engineering or geology. Water resource specialists must also have great critical and analytical thinking skills as well as communication skills, as their tasks entail monitoring the health of bodies of water, developing conservation plans, investigating sources of water pollution and creating systems to reduce contaminants.
What they earn: $85,990 per hour
4. Water/Wastewater engineer
What they do: We’re so used to turning on the faucets and getting fresh, clean water that we don’t often think about the massive infrastructure that makes that possible. Water/wastewater engineers are the geniuses that design pipelines, pumping stations, sewers and treatment plants — and their work has become more essential than ever. As human populations grow around the world, and as more and more chemical fertilizers and pesticides pollute our groundwater, water treatment has become a global challenge.
How to become: If you want to flex your engineering muscles and help both people and the environment, this is one of the best careers in agriculture you can choose. To get started, you’ll need a bachelor’s degree in physical science or natural resources.
What they earn: $89,940 per year
3. Environmental engineer
What they do: There would be nothing to harvest if the conditions for planting and growing were poor; that’s why the work of environmental engineers is so important to agriculture. By combining principles from different scientific fields, environmental engineers create systems that aim to prevent future damages like soil erosion, deforestation and pollution.
How to become: If you’d like to help farm owners and the environment at the same time at one of the highest-paying green jobs, this could be the one for you. Getting your undergraduate degree in environmental engineering (or even chemical or civil engineering) would be the first step to kickstart your career.
What they earn: $96,530 per hour
2. Clinical research coordinator
What they do: Would a study on the benefits of an all-organic diet interest you? How about the effects of pesticides in farming? Clinical research coordinators manage the day-to-day operations of medical studies just like these. Their tasks include planning and managing clinical trials, handling legal compliance issues, budgeting, and delegating tasks to personnel.
How to become: Working in clinical research requires you to have, at the minimum, a bachelor’s degree in clinical science or a related degree, such as life sciences and biotechnology. Although not typically a requirement to get started, a postgraduate degree can certainly help set you apart from other candidates as well as negotiate a higher starting salary.
What they earn: $99,930 per year
1. Natural sciences manager
What they do: Natural sciences managers coordinate and supervise other scientists and technicians on a variety of research and development projects in every natural science discipline. You might be in charge of developing processes for turning agricultural products into fuel, for example, or investigating the long-term effects of organic versus inorganic farming on soil.
How to become: Like any managerial position, you’ll need to acquire some years of experience before you can advance to this role. Besides a bachelor's degree in a scientific or engineering field, many natural sciences managers hold master’s and doctorate degrees, as well as Professional Science Master’s (PSM) degrees.
What they earn: $144,440 per year
For too long a time, agriculture has been unfairly pigeonholed as a backwards industry that doesn’t offer great career options. However, recent statistics say otherwise. Not only do careers in agriculture offer tremendous opportunities for career growth, but many of them are financially rewarding, too.
So, if you want a stable and rewarding career that will make a difference for generations to come, pursue a career in agriculture!
Are you thinking about it? Which role do you think will be a good fit for you? Let us know in the comments section below.
Originally published on April 13, 2021. Contains contributions from Valerie David.