Careers in Agribusiness
Are you considering getting into an agribusiness or agriculture major?
College is a learning experience for every student. You will learn things about what you like, what you don't like, and who you are.
Many students tend to change majors after the first of second year after they realize that what they started out in is not what they really like. Agriculture majors are great in this respect because if you decide on a different major within the agriculture college, you really don't lose much in terms of wasted classes or wasted time.
Most agricultural majors will find that the first two years are very similar no matter what major in the college of agriculture that you're in. You will start out with the basics — English, chemistry, biology, and algebra. There are generally enough elective courses in these degrees to maybe even get a second major or to complete two minors.
More specialized classes will start in the third and fourth years of your program. If you are in one of the animal sciences majors this is when you will start having classes like genetics and feed rationing. If you're in a more analytical major like agribusiness you'll be starting to take more specialized business and economics courses. In many of the required courses you will have the choice of two or three different classes; be sure to choose the course that interests you because it is much better to get a good grade in a course you like than a lower score in one you hate.
The fourth year of an agribusiness degree is very much a problem solving year. There are more seminar courses and you will be spending more time putting the things that you learned in the first three years of college to work. This is also the time that you are really going to want to decide what you want to do when you get out of college because you will need to be taking your specialized courses such as grain trading. Please keep in mind that this plan of study is going to vary from university to university. It will be up to the student and their advisor to plan their courses and make sure that they are getting the classes that they need.
College courses are only a small part of preparing for life after college, internships are extremely important for agricultural majors. It is not uncommon for a student to go right into a job with the company that they interned with during college. That's why it's wise to take advantage of every summer vacation and intern with different companies if you can. When applying for a job out of college you have a much better chance if the company already knows you.
That begs the question, what should you intern in? Seed companies like Monsanto are a great choice if someone is looking to go into seed sales. Some agribusiness students go into pharmaceutical sales. The field of commodities trading is also popular, with this job you generally start by working at a local co-operative.
Farms are always in need of loans and lines of credit and there are finance firms dedicated to lending to farmers. These firms are often happy to hire agribusiness graduates.
Smaller banks may also be interested in hiring an agricultural student for their lending department as well, especially those banks in rural areas.
If you are in animal sciences then it could be a good idea to look for internships that involve livestock because you have a better chance of getting into veterinary school if you are specialize in livestock instead of companion animals.
Let's be honest — many agricultural entry level jobs are going to be dirty. Co-operatives and mills are almost always somewhat dirty and dusty places. Animal sciences majors who get jobs in factory farms are going to be working in confined places with animal waste. To put it simply, these jobs are not for everyone. But if you can survive the entry-level work, you should eventually be promoted to a more comfortable working environment with a better compensation packages.
It's good to remember that many agribusiness graduates will head straight back to their family farms upon graduation. Running a family farm is complicated these days. Farmers should have a firm understanding of the commodities market. The futures markets are very important in the financial success of many farms. Small farms also have a necessity to get profit out of every harvest, so it's not uncommon for those students that will be returning to a family farm to major in agribusiness and minor in agronomy.
The agricultural sector can be more stable than other sectors in the national economy, so there is generally a steady demand for graduates.
Just remember that a degree doesn't guarantee a job — you will have to make yourself a desirable candidate. That means you have to keep a GPA above 3.0 and get involved in plenty of campus activities.
Firms often hire experienced students and not just graduates who just have a degree. There are more and more people with bachelor's degrees available in the job market today, so as a candidate you have to do everything that you can to make you more desirable to the company you want to work for.
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