Graduate opportunities in agriculture

Rachel Swain, Editorial manager
February, 2022

There is great demand for graduates in this industry to help with issues such as how to sustainably feed a population that’s expected to reach nearly 10 billion by 2050

Offering a range of potential careers, from engineering and sales to farm management and working with animals, the agriculture sector is an appealing option for graduates with relevant skills.

As Grace Nugent, general manager at specialist recruitment firm De Lacy Executive says, 'Agriculture is a dynamic, sophisticated and high-technology industry with countless opportunities for young people.'

She adds, 'Graduates have a choice of commercial and technical roles on progressive farms, or in the large number of global and regional companies involved with crops, livestock, machinery and food, to name a few.

'The agricultural industry can offer competitive financial rewards, coupled with significant opportunities to achieve your potential and a chance to feel part of a vibrant community.'

Emerging jobs in the agricultural industry

When it comes to searching for jobs, Hefin Williams, co-ordinator for the BSc and Integrated Masters in Agriculture courses at Aberystwyth University, feels that 'career prospects are generally very good, more so in the private rather than the public sector currently'.

He points in particular to animal nutrition, farm management and agronomy (the science of crop production and soil management) as areas with good prospects for graduates.

The generation of baby boomers that entered the workforce in the 1970s and 1980s is nearing retirement, meaning there are openings for those with the right farming qualifications.

To make yourself more employable, you should acquire business and IT skills in addition to gaining a sound scientific and technological understanding of an industry that is becoming increasingly more technical, he advises. A good degree, especially one that includes a year gaining practical experience and establishing contacts in the industry, will give you an advantage. 

A common misconception is that you need to be male and have an agricultural background or to have been born on a farm in order to enter the industry. With female students now representing over 50% of agriculture students at some universities, and an increasing number of undergraduates coming from non-agricultural backgrounds, nothing could be further from the truth.   

For more information on how to get into farming read De Lacy Executive's Growing a Career page.

There are many paths that you could choose depending on your agricultural skills, interests and academic background.

Among the most popular, Hefin says, are 'hands-on' agriculture careers - including dairy herd, sheep flock or farm management in the UK and overseas.

Alternatively, consultancy and sales roles are available in areas such as animal nutrition or the agri-pharmaceutical industry, where you'll be advising clients but typically employed by a commercial manufacturer or supplier.

Administration jobs, for example in the agricultural or animal health and welfare departments of local government, are also available. These options include working for the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra), or the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) in Northern Ireland.

Agriculture courses

While there's a shortage of people in the 20 to 40 age group within the sector, the agriculture jobs market in the UK is still extremely competitive. Because of this, it's important to take advantage of any available training opportunities.

'Employers seek applicants with good qualifications, personal motivation and a willingness to learn,' Grace says. 'Strong communication and team-working skills will also be required. Employers will be particularly interested in applicants who have gained some experience of practical farming.'

However, once you've got your foot in the door, the agriculture sector offers newcomers the chance to progress and build lasting agriculture careers.

For a structured route into the industry involving training on the job culminating in a relevant qualification, you could consider an agricultural apprenticeship. For more information, see GOV.UK - Agriculture, environmental and animal care apprenticeships.

Large recruiters also run their own apprenticeship schemes. One of the most comprehensive is offered by agricultural and turf machinery manufacturer John Deere as they have apprenticeships for agricultural technicians, turf technicians, parts technicians and customer service technicians.

If you studied an unrelated subject at university, you may wish to consider specialist farm management courses and other related subjects. Search postgraduate courses in agriculture.

To find out more about the qualifications you'll need, see how to get an environmental job.

Agriculture graduate schemes

The farming and agriculture industry faces many significant obstacles that are vitally important for society as a whole - notably the increasing demand for food as the global population grows. Talented graduates could be the solution to overcoming these obstacles.

'Dwindling resources, climate change and the need to both protect and enhance the environment provide extremely challenging but rewarding opportunities, where the adoption of new technologies and development of precision management techniques rival any other sector or industry,' Hefin says.

'Agriculture and farming are once again viewed not only as respectable but invaluable, after many decades of negative perceptions.'

For most graduate roles, having relevant work experience is important in securing a permanent job, so it's worth spending a summer as a farmer's apprentice or undertaking an agricultural internship with a company such as John Deere.

There are also a number of agriculture graduate schemes offered by larger employers. For example, you could join an 18-month commercial or supply chain graduate scheme with sustainable agriculture and animal nutrition company AB Agri, and receive ongoing support, coaching and mentoring as you get to grips with the various business operations.

To work for the National Farmers' Union (NFU), the trade association for the agriculture and horticulture industry in England and Wales, you could join its graduate programme. When applying for the NFU graduate scheme, you'll be able to choose whether you wish to specialise in either agricultural policy or public affairs and communications.

For the former, your role will be to champion farming and food production in the UK and influence policymakers at home and in Europe. The public affairs programme will involve promoting British farming to the public and media, while engaging in lobbying and PR campaigns.

Find out more

How would you rate this page?

On a scale where 1 is dislike and 5 is like

success feedback

Thank you for rating the page