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Students will discover the variety of agricultural careers available and consider their career paths in terms of economics, interests, and suitability to their personal talents and characteristics.
*These items are included in the Living Science Careers Equipment Bags, which is available for purchase from agclassroomstore.com.
Concept Elaboration and Evaluation:
career: an occupation undertaken for a significant period of a person's life and with opportunities for progress
Explore agricultural and natural resources careers that go beyond the stereotypical farmer and rancher occupations. These careers focus on food, land, and people and significantly affect our quality of life and our environment. To assess student knowledge about agriculture and its impact on their lives, do the Source Search activity prior to this lesson. After the students complete this activity, it becomes obvious to them that there must be numerous careers in agriculture and natural resources because they learn that all the things we use every day (with the exception of services) are either grown or extracted from the natural world.
The careers highlighted in this lesson require post-high school training; many require bachelor of science degrees. The most important point to make with students concerning career education is that every industry or occupational endeavor has entry-level positions, mid-level positions, and highly skilled/educated positions. For example, most students can relate to cars. In the automotive industry you can be a car detailer (entry-level), sales person, auto plant worker, or mechanic (mid-level), or an automotive engineer who designs cars. What is the difference between these positions? Salary, yes, but what is the main factor that contributes to the differences in salary? Education! For the most part, you are paid for what you know. This isn’t always the case, but training or education usually pays off. The other part of your salary may be determined by how much or how hard you work. Here is a table to compare entry-level wages with higher paying wages:
$7/hour $14,560 per year
$23,624 current poverty level in America
(family of 4 with two children, 2013)
$53,046 median US household income
(could be two wage earners, 2009–2013)
What is the median household income in your state?
(Check the US Department of Commerce website)
Employment Opportunities (2015–2020)
Your students are probably unaware of the career opportunities that make American agricultural and natural resource management systems work. Farmers and ranchers account for less than one percent of the US workforce, but the professionals supporting this industry increase that number to about nine percent, and if you count transportation and distribution, the number employed as a result of agriculture is about 20 percent. Think about a career in agriculture and natural resources.
Opportunities in jobs related to food, agriculture, renewable natural resources, and the environment are expected to grow more than five percent between 2015 and 2020 for college graduates. These occupations include agricultural inspector, food scientist and technologist, soil and plant scientist, and irrigation engineer (more information at https://www.purdue.edu/usda/employment/).
Ask your students the following questions:
Obtain the Living Science Career Cards (see Materials). Laminate the cards, punch a hole in the upper left corner, and organize them into 14 groups as suggested below. Not all the cards will be used in this activity. Use small book rings to keep the following groups together:
Group 1: Soil Scientist, Forester
Group 2: Hydrologist, Renewable Energy Specialist
Group 3: Virologist, Plant Geneticist, Fisheries Scientist
Group 4: Biotechnologist, Environmental Scientist
Group 5: Toxicologist, Forest Engineer, Food Safety Specialist
Group 6: Entomologist, Wildlife Biologist
Group 7: Food Process Engineer, Nematologist
Group 8: Weed Scientist, Plant Pathologist
Group 9: Plant Physiologist, Aquaculturist
Group 10: Remote Sensing Specialist, Horticulturist, Range Manager
Group 11: Food Scientist, Turf Scientist
Group 12: Nutritionist/Dietitian, Florist, Conservation Biologist
Group 13: Animal Nutritionist, Wood Scientist
Group 14: Veterinarian, Agronomist
Activity 1: Agricultural Career Scenario
Activity 2: Where do I stand? What tools do I use?
Concept Elaboration and Evaluation
We welcome your feedback! Please take a minute to tell us how to make this lesson better or to give us a few gold stars!
Ask the students to brainstorm other agricultural careers that have been left out of the activity. Popular ones include mid-level jobs in processing, marketing, and distribution. Ask each student to create his or her own agricultural or natural resource career card.
Create your own “Career Activity Scenario” using the remaining Living Science Career Cards
Debra Spielmaker & Denise Stewardson
Utah Agriculture in the Classroom