Bright future for college graduates in food, ag, environment

Bright future for college graduates in food, ag, environment

Employment opportunities for college students expected to grow more than 5% from 2015 to 2020.

U.S. college graduates will find many professional employment opportunities in the next five years if they have expertise in food, agriculture, renewable natural resources or the environment, according to research by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food & Agriculture (NIFA).

Between 2015 and 2020, there are expected to be 57,900 average annual job openings for graduates with bachelor’s degrees or higher in those areas.

The U of A Career Development Center has seen an increase in the number of companies recruiting students to fill agricultural and food-related job openings. Source: University of Arkansas

According to projections, almost half of the expected job openings will be in management and business, with another 27% in fields related to science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Jobs in sustainable food and biomaterials production will make up 15%, while 12% will be in education, communication and government services.

Projections are based on data from several sources. The Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts a 10.8% increase in the U.S. labor force from 2012 to 2022 due to job growth and openings from retirement or other replacements. Employment opportunities in food, agriculture, renewable natural resources and environmental occupations are expected to grow more than 5% during 2015-20 for college graduates with bachelor’s degrees or higher.

STEM areas are expected to see stronger job markets for plant scientists, food scientists, sustainable biomaterials specialists, water resources scientists and engineers, precision agriculture specialists and farm-animal veterinarians.

A strong market is also expected for e-commerce managers and marketing agents, ecosystem managers, agricultural educators, crop advisors and pest control specialists.

The University of Arkansas’ Career Development Center has tracked and seen steady growth in recent years of the number of agricultural companies recruiting on campus and engaging with our students.

An average of 35,400 new U.S. graduates with expertise in food, agriculture, renewable natural resources or the environment are expected to fill 61% of the more than 57,000 average annual openings. Most employers prefer graduates with this expertise, but because more annual openings are anticipated than can be filled by graduates, employers may look to areas such as biology, business administration, engineering, education, communication, and consumer sciences to fill the remaining 39%.

The report says graduates in these areas are essential to meet growing challenges in the U.S., but also globally, to provide leadership in providing sustainable food systems, adequate water resources and renewable energy in a world of population growth and climate change.

Graduates who are mobile, have work experience, and have technical and professional skills will have more options if they are willing to seek employment in other states or countries. Graduates who have completed internships or work experiences related to the jobs they apply for are more likely to be hired, according to the report.

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