A career in agricultural consultancy may appeal to you if you are interested in rural issues and would enjoy advising and supporting clients
Agricultural consultants and advisers solve problems for their clients, to ensure their business or enterprise is running as efficiently as possible. They must be aware of the business and legislative implications of their advice.
Clients may include:
As an agricultural consultant, you would usually consult on either technical or business matters.
Technical consultants provide specialist advice on:
Business consultants help with:
As an agricultural consultant, you’ll need to:
Significant performance bonuses of up to £20,000 can be paid in the private sector.
Advisers and consultants working for charities and in the public sector may earn less than those working in private consultancies.
Agricultural consultancy and advisory work is mainly project-based and consultants may be paid an hourly rate or an acreage fee. Hourly rates, typically for short visits, vary between £35 and £150, depending on the type of consultancy provided and the level of experience the consultant has. Acreage fees tend to be used when consultants have a long-term relationship with a farm or business and vary between £4 and £5 per acre.
Benefits may include a company car.
Income figures are intended as a guide only.
Working hours can be demanding and varied, depending on the season and clients' needs. Regular hours of nine to five are not common as clients may need to meet in the evenings or at weekends. Unsocial hours are typically worked especially in busy periods.
Part-time work and career breaks are possible for established advisers.
A degree in agriculture or another relevant subject is usually required. The following subjects may increase your chances:
Studying business management as part of a relevant degree course can be advantageous, particularly if you want to enter the business side of consultancy.
Entry is sometimes possible with an HND, although considerable relevant experience is also usually required. Agriculture and horticulture sciences are the subjects considered most relevant.
A Masters in a subject such as animal production or seed and crop technology may be advantageous for those wanting to enter the technical side. A PhD may also help, especially if your research is in an area in which you will offer specialist advice.
It may be possible to enter into the business side of consultancy with a business degree backed up with knowledge and experience of the agricultural industry. Postgraduate business qualifications are not likely to give a particular advantage.
You will need to have:
Entry into agricultural consultancy and advisory work is competitive. A broad knowledge of agriculture and farm management is essential, as is experience of working in the industry. Without relevant experience it is difficult to find a way into an advisory or consultancy post.
Try to gain practical experience of farm management, rural surveying or planning, or other types of agricultural work. Speculative applications are often essential for trainee jobs and work experience opportunities, as many of these vacancies go unadvertised. Research potential employers thoroughly to ensure you make an informed application.
Some of the larger agricultural consultancies offer graduate recruitment schemes, generally focusing on farm management and agricultural business. These are usually advertised as they become available. The development of a strong CV and cover letter is essential, along with the ability to develop a network of contacts.
The main types of employment for agricultural consultants and advisers are:
There is also the opportunity to be a self-employed consultant. The Association of Independent Crop Consultants (AICC) has over 200 members.
Look for job vacancies at:
Specialist recruitment agencies such as De Lacy Executive also handle vacancies.
Agricultural colleges and university schools of agriculture usually have established contacts within the industry and may have information on job vacancies.
For a list of agricultural consultancies and contacts that may be useful for speculative applications see:
The training offered by agricultural consultancies varies depending on the size of the company and the needs of the business. It may involve in-house training supervised by a senior and more experienced colleague, or be a mixture of external short courses and project work.
Consultants working in the technical side of agricultural consultancy may need to undergo specific training. For example, those involved in crop consultancy may need to undertake training for the Fertiliser Advisers Certification and Training Scheme (FACTS), which provides a recognised level of competence for those involved in nutrient management advice.
Training and qualifications are also offered by Basis (Registration) Ltd for people working in the agricultural, amenity, fertiliser and environmental industries. Courses range from short one or two-day courses to intensive long-term courses, such as the BASIS Certificate in Crop Protection.
As an independent consultant, it is your responsibility to keep up to date both in your specialist area and in the agricultural sector overall. This is done mainly through personal contacts, short courses and attendance at conferences, and through membership of professional bodies, such as the BIAC and the AICC.
Career development and structure varies across the different types of employing organisations. In commercial agricultural consultancies it depends largely on performance and revenue earned, but is also affected by the size of the employing organisation. In smaller consultancies, the possibility of promotion to more senior roles may be limited and relocation or specialisation will be required.
Career progression is likely to be from junior consultant to senior consultant, then to team leader with the possibility of an invitation to become a partner or director. There is no set career structure for the independent consultant, although setting up your own consultancy may be the ultimate step in an agriculturally-based career.
For those based in the public sector and within charitable organisations, career development is likely to be linked to performance and increased responsibility, with the possibility of promotion to team leader and management positions. Progression to management roles may involve less time out in the field and more time in the office.
Opportunities to lecture at a university or college may also be possible for those with the appropriate qualifications and experience.