The agriculture industry is looking to recruit a new generation of talented graduates to help overcome long-term global challenges, such as food and water shortages and climate change
The sector offers a range of potential agriculture careers, from engineering and sales to farm management and working with animals, making it an interesting option for graduates with relevant skills.
As Grace Nugent, livestock team 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 farm jobs
When it comes to finding a first farming job, Dr Iwan Gittins Owen, course coordinator for agriculture degrees at Aberystwyth University, feels that 'Career prospects are generally very good, more so in the private rather than the public sector'.
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 are nearing retirement, and that means openings are available for those with the right farming qualifications.
'The late Sir Colin Spedding (an industry expert) stated in 2010 that the UK agricultural industry would need 60,000 new entrants, including 10,000 at graduate and management level, by 2020 just to sustain its workforce,' Iwan says.
To make yourself more employable, you should acquire business and IT skills in addition to gaining a scientific and technological understanding of the industry, he advises. A good degree, especially one that includes a year gaining practical experience and contacts in the industry, will give you an advantage.
Read De Lacy Executive's Growing a Career page for further guidance on how to get into farming.
Popular agriculture careers
There are many different paths that you could choose depending on your agricultural skills, interests and academic background.
Among the most popular, Iwan says, are 'hands-on' agriculture careers including dairy herd, sheep flock or farm management in the UK and overseas. Many choose to take their skills overseas, such as finding work in New Zealand.
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.
Or you could opt for administrative jobs, for example in the agricultural or animal health and welfare departments of local government. 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.
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 - and so 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 playing 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, it's a sector that 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 may wish to consider the agricultural apprenticeships listed through GOV.UK.
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 as you 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 the wider society - notably the increasing demand for food as the global population grows. Talented new graduates could be the ones to overcome 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,' Iwan 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 the 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 influencing 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
- Discover what other agriculture graduates have done with their degree.
- Explore the full range of graduate environmental jobs.
- Search for graduate jobs in agriculture.