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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.
But don’t take our (terrible play on) word for it!
In the US alone, over 50,000 jobs in agriculture are available per year; only there aren’t enough qualified graduates to fill the vacancies. Interestingly enough, the UK also seems to be experiencing similar problems with labour shortage, as their horticultural sectors continually struggle to find new workers year after year.
Indeed, there’s no better time to start your career in agriculture. But if you’re still having second thoughts, then we hope this list will help you make up your mind.
Here are the top 10 most in-demand and highest-paying agriculture careers.
10. Zoologist / Wildlife biologist
Average annual salary: $63,270 (£46,000)
‘Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!’
While a song from The Wizard of Oz might not be the best job description for zoology, it does capture the excitement of the role.
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 programmes to protect one of the 26% of mammal species on IUCN’s Red List that face extinction.
If you’re fascinated by wildlife and want to use your biology degree for a fulfilling career, this could be the best job for you – but be prepared to pursue an advanced degree for the highest levels of scientific work.
9. Buyer and purchasing agent
Average annual salary: $64,380 (£46,800)
When choosing the perfect career, consider jobs that really capitalise on your skills and interests. If you love working with people, for example, this may be one of the best careers in agriculture for you.
As a buyer for agricultural products, like finding the best cotton for a clothing manufacturer, you’ll get to interview vendors and visit suppliers to learn about their merchandise. You’ll also attend trade shows and meetings and negotiate for the best prices. Evaluating industry trends, financial reports and contracts is also a pivotal part of this high-paying job, so numerical and analytical skills will really come in handy.
8. Food scientist
Average annual salary: $68,970 (£50,130)
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 safety and to determine how long processed items can be preserved.
They normally work with other scientists to make sure that the food produced in the agricultural sector is safe for consumption.
7. Farm manager
Average annual salary: $71,160 (£51,730)
Farm manager is one of the highest-paying agriculture careers, but it 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’ll be in an office checking market prices, negotiating sales to a food processing plant and creating financial reports.
Managing a farm requires that rare person who is analytical and extremely organized, who also doesn’t mind volatile unpredictability. Previous experience in agricultural work is essential, and the complexity of large, modern farms may also require a related agriculture or business degree.
6. Agricultural engineer
Average annual salary: $80,720 (£58,700)
If you’re fascinated with the film Transformers, and you enjoy the idea of machines helping humans, then you might want to be to be an agricultural engineer.
Apart from designing agricultural equipment and machinery, engineers also test them out to ensure that they work properly and that they were made within government regulations. But it’s not all fun and games: agricultural engineers usually work overtime as most manufacturers require their help even on weekends.
5. Water/Wastewater engineer
Average annual salary: $87,060 (£63,290)
We’re so used to turning on the taps 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, treatment plants and every connection in between.
As the United Nations reports, the continuing increase in chemical fertiliser and pesticide use on farms contaminates the groundwater and jeopardises the health of agricultural workers. Water/wastewater engineers are needed to figure out ways to process wastewater safely for the environment and as a valuable agricultural resource.
If you want to flex your analytical engineering muscles and help both people and the environment, this is one of the best careers in agriculture you can choose.
4. Environmental engineer
Average annual salary: $88,860 (£64,620)
There would be nothing to harvest if the conditions for planting and growing are poor; that’s why the work of environmental engineers is so important to agriculture. By combining principles from different science fields, environmental engineers create systems that aim to prevent future damages like soil erosion, deforestation and pollution.
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.
There a load of other growing and in-demand careers in engineering you can pursue too.
1. Water resource specialist (tie)
Average annual salary: $129,100 (£93,900)
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 programmes to assure our drinking water is safe.
If you’re looking for ways to help improve the environment, this is also a top career choice. As a water resource specialist, you’ll monitor the health of bodies of water, develop conservation plans, investigate sources of water pollution and create systems to reduce contaminants in stormwater runoff.
1. Natural sciences manager (tie)
Average annual salary: $129,100 (£93,900)
Whether you’ve decided your career interests lie in biology, chemistry or earth sciences, becoming a natural sciences manager, one the highest-paying jobs in agriculture, is an option for you.
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.
Many career scientists looking for their next challenge move into a management role. While some may work solely on administrative tasks, many natural sciences managers continue their own research alongside their supervisory duties.
1. Clinical research coordinator (tie)
Average annual salary: $129,100 (£93,900)
If you’ve been having trouble finding the right career, try exploring your field for some of these lesser-known but lucrative options.
Would a study on the benefits of an all-organic diet interest you? How about the effects of pesticides on farm families? Clinical research coordinators manage the day-to-day operations of medical studies just like these, and they need an entire buffet of skills to succeed in this role.
Coordinators are in charge of the planning and management of a clinical trial, including legal compliance issues, budgeting and delegating tasks to personnel. In addition, they screen potential participants for the study, develop recruitment strategies for candidates and coordinate activities with medical teams, sponsors and institutions.
If you’d like a career that capitalises on both your personal and technical skills, this could be the perfect job for you.
Want to work in clinical research? Learn how to plan, collect, store and disseminate clinical research data with Vanderbilt University’s Data Management for Clinical Research course.
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 some of them are financially rewarding, too.
So, if you want a stable career that will make a difference for generations to come, get a job in agriculture.
Are you thinking about pursuing a career in agriculture? Which do you think will be a good fit for you? Let us know in the comments section below!
This article is an update of an earlier version originally published on 27 September 2018 and contains contributions from Michi Ancheta.
All currency conversions are based on rates supplied by XE.com on 13 April 2021.