She is something of an anomaly, the young lady I had the pleasure of meeting recently as she was about to begin her freshman year at Mississippi State University.
She grew up a city girl, in Jackson, Miss., and neither her father nor her mother is involved with agriculture, yet all through her high school years she dreamed of a career in agriculture. She’s not sure yet what particular branch of agriculture she wants to pursue, but she’s confident she will find the one suited to her.
There could not be a better time to opt for an ag career, says Dr. Mike Phillips, professor and head of the Plant and Soil Sciences Department at Mississippi State.
“It’s estimated there will be 58,000 jobs for ag grads in the U.S. in the next five years,” he said at a recent meeting of the MSU/Starkville Ag Club. “Today, most of our graduates have two or three job opportunities when they’re ready to enter the work force. Employers know they’re ready to hit the ground running because they’ve had on-the-job experience through internships and co-op training. All of our degree programs require completion of internships.”
And, he says, “These are good, interesting, challenging jobs that pay well.”
Opportunities in the ag sector will be further broadened, Phillips says, because “there are going to be a lot of people leaving the field over the next five years due to retirements.”
Today’s agriculture isn’t just about being a farmer, he points out; rather, it’s an ever-expanding diversity of job types, from agronomy to horticulture, plant breeding, turf management, food science, unmanned aerial vehicles — almost anything that touches our daily lives can have some underlying agricultural component.
Agriculture’s wide-ranging adoption of technology has opened many new opportunities, Phillips says, noting that MSU has just opened a “fabulous state-of-the-art” precision agriculture facility. “Almost every ag sector today has some precision agriculture component,” he says, “whether it’s ag economics, landscape architecture, poultry science, greenhouse management, all of our programs now incorporate precision ag.”
Many students nearing college age would do well, Phillips says, to look at the various opportunities agriculture has to offer. “It could be one of the best decisions they make.”