As the school year winds down, and high school seniors prepare for their future, those who will be pursuing a degree in agricultural science have chosen a decent career path. According to the Wall Street Journal article, “Which College Majors Pay Best?,” the top 10% of earners in agricultural science fair well, but post-graduate educations in the field will deliver a 10% wage increase — an added incentive to committing to this area of study. Combining the top tier professions of economics or finance with a background in agriculture, as is the case with the merchandisers and ag bankers of the future, these graduates will be in pretty good shape.
Forecasts for the future of agriculture are exceedingly positive. Truth is, ag has been a bright spot during the deepest troughs of the economic downturn. Put on your shades, graduates, and get on board. According to AgCareers.com's 2011 U.S. Agribusiness Job Report:
"Total number of job postings in the United States and Canada were over 43,000, up 18%
from 2010. The number of jobs posted was over 3,600 each month throughout the United States and Canada, with the largest number of jobs posted in the Midwest region of the United States with more than 26,000 jobs (up 18% from 2010)."
Good news especially since the economy doesn't look like it will be recovering anytime soon. According to the Pew Research Center study, "Young, Underemployed and Optimistic," unemployment among individuals in the 18 to 25 age demographic sits around 46% for a "broad swath of young people who were still in high school or college when the downturn began."
On a personal note, having entered the feed and grain industries from the recession-ravaged wreckage of shuttered woodworking publications, a job in agriculture has offered me stability and refuge from the uncertainty of the economy (and, ultimately, the depressed job market). Playing on the adage, "Nothing is certain except for death and taxes," I'd like to add another certainty to the list — at least within the context of job security: People and animals need to eat. Period.
While agriculture certainly does embody a degree of chance — weather, global demand, natural disasters — one can assume that the cyclical nature of things (and the fundamental nutrition demands of the majority of consumers) will eventually trend upward.
I would urge the children of Generation Y, the Millennials, the Occupy-Your-Parents'-Basement Generation — whatever we're calling this group that, in many ways, seems lost — to abandon their pie-in-the-sky career delusions of a $150,000 starting salary and dispel the lifestyle myths perpetuated by reality TV. Get real, kids, and do whatever it takes to pay the bills. (Yes, I feel I can frankly comment on youth culture with an insider's credibility because I sit in the grey area between Gen X and the new wave.)
If I were ever to have a conversation with a high school senior, despite their inclination to pursue the least useful college majors (like I did), I would tell them to target their education toward a proven, evergreen career paths, ones that will in fact land them a job once they graduate (and, yes, I was lucky). Unless, of course, they truly aspire to live with their parents until they become an "adult," then they’re on their own. (Note: According to the Journal of Family Psychology, individuals between the ages of 18 and 25 years old are now considered "emerging adults.")
In my opinion, and since this is my first blog post I'm going to take liberties with making my opinion known, "emerging adults" would be best served in taking a long-view approach to higher education by looking in to college (or even high school) programs in agriculture or any other viable professional. I admit this advice may be hard to swallow for those without a background in the field or farm — but for the rest, at least consider it.
I'll end this blog with an open letter to the Millennials: