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Field of Opportunity: Graduate Shortage for High-Skill Ag Jobs

PHOTO: A new USDA report shows many high skill jobs in the food, agriculture, renewable natural resources and environment sectors, but not enough college graduates to fill them. Photo credit: ackab1/Flickr.
PHOTO: A new USDA report shows many high skill jobs in the food, agriculture, renewable natural resources and environment sectors, but not enough college graduates to fill them. Photo credit: ackab1/Flickr.
May 18, 2015

BISMARCK, N.D. – New research shows a growing demand for highly skilled workers in agriculture, but not enough young people are choosing that field of study.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, there are nearly 60,000 high skill job openings in the nation's food, agriculture, renewable natural resources and environment sectors annually, but only 35,000 new graduates with a related bachelor’s degree or higher.

Agriculture these days is much more complex, says David Buchanan, dean of the College of Agriculture, Food Systems and Natural Resources at North Dakota State University.

"For example, our Crop and Wheat Science major has seen a considerable increase over the last several years, but we are still struggling to meet the demand for the crop consultants and agronomists coming out of that program," he points out.

Buchanan says voluntary surveys find that well over 80 percent of NDSU graduates in agriculture, food systems and natural resources land jobs in their field of study within six months.

And he notes that these are careers with good pay, even just starting out.

"It's not all-encompassing of all of our graduates, but for almost all of our majors, the average salaries straight out of a Bachelor of Science program are somewhere in the $40,000 to $50,000 range, with certainly some individual examples up in the 50s or in the 60s," he states.




John Michaelson, Public News Service - ND