Tips for launching a career in agriculture

(BPT) - Whether you’re in high school or college, here's some big news — there are many more opportunities in the agriculture industry today than you may even be aware of. And the demand for skilled, educated professionals throughout the industry far exceeds the number of qualified candidates.

Before deciding what field to pursue, here are tips to help you launch your career.

Research the field

The best thing you can do to plan your career is to get informed. According to CareerAddict.com, the highest paying jobs in agriculture today are:

  • Agricultural Lawyer
  • Agricultural Economist
  • Biochemist
  • Environmental Engineer
  • Bioinformatics Scientist
  • Agronomy Sales Manager
  • Agricultural Engineer
  • Food Scientist
  • Animal Geneticist
  • Agricultural Operations Manager

And that's just a sample of possible positions. Technology is rapidly changing agriculture, creating jobs that didn't exist a short time ago. Future Farmers of America says the greatest growth careers in 2020 include:

  • Drone Technologist
  • Hydrologist
  • Agriculture Communicator
  • Food Scientist
  • Precision Agriculture Technologist

How can you choose the right job for you? In addition to researching these positions online, the most informative way is to meet people in those careers.

According to Robin Thomas, commercial college recruitment lead for Syngenta, if students are interested in a position, "They should job shadow someone who does what they think they want to do. If job shadowing isn’t available, interviewing a professional about the job provides a lot of insight into what the role entails and if it interests them."

Select the right school

Apply to schools offering the best education in fields that interest you. If you’re already in college, you could consider transferring to a school with a better program for your field.

Here are the top 10 schools in agriculture, according to Niche.com:

  • Cornell University
  • University of Florida
  • University of Georgia, Athens
  • Texas A&M University, College Station
  • University of Minnesota, Twin Cities
  • Kansas State University
  • University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • North Carolina State University, Raleigh
  • California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo
  • University of California, Davis

Expand your experience

Beyond getting good grades and taking classes relevant to your field, what also matters to recruiters is how you spend your time outside class.

If you’re in high school, Thomas recommends joining groups such as the 4-H Club and the National FFA Organization (Future Farmers of America). Being active in organizations shows your interest in the field and helps you develop soft skills like communication, teamwork and leadership.

Part-time jobs, summer jobs, internships or positions in co-op programs also provide valuable experience, help build your resume and offer opportunities to make connections with people in the industry.

Start networking

While "networking" may sound intimidating, it just means getting to know people in your field. This can happen naturally as you participate in organizations or do internships, but it’s more effective to be proactive.

Join on-campus groups such as Agriculture Future of America. Keep track of people you meet at events or career fairs. Introduce yourself to peers and guest speakers, ask for their card or suggest connecting on LinkedIn. Write notes about that person on the back of the card or on your phone so you’ll remember them.

How do you make an impression on someone you’ve just met? Ask questions — and listen respectfully. Your questions show that you’re interested, so don’t be afraid to ask them.

All these relationships — from your classmates and instructors to leaders in the field — may help you someday, so stay in touch occasionally. One easy way is to follow people in your network on social media, offering periodic comments or questions on their posts.

Use campus career resources

On-campus career service centers offer help with everything from resume prep to interview practice, and much more. Attend career fairs and events to meet recruiters and practice presenting yourself in a professional manner, even if you're just starting your education.

“I can’t emphasize enough how much of an impact it makes when college freshmen come to career fairs or other student events and introduce themselves, hand me a resume and tell me what they would like to do upon graduation,” Thomas says.

Use all the resources you can to seek opportunities and plan your next career move.

To learn more about careers in the agriculture field, visit SyngentaThrive.com.

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