Thinking Outside the Field–Discovering Unique Jobs in Agriculture

We are very pleased to publish this guest post from Marisa Linton. Marisa grew up showing and raising livestock, and currently lives on her family’s small farm in Mount Olive, NC. She has a passion for agriculture, and is an agricultural blogger, communication consultant, and photographer.

Often times, the thought of an agricultural job brings up images of tractors, barns, corn, and livestock; however, this is an outdated view. Sure there are still cows, sows, and plows, but there are also a host of new opportunities in agriculture that have developed with technology. If you are in the market for an agricultural job, don’t forget to check out these unique options.


Bio-fuels:  The world of bio-fuels is an up and coming industry that holds a lot of job opportunities. According to the US Department of Energy factsheet, two bio-refineries created 120 permanent jobs and 1,500 temporary jobs in 2014 alone.  This growth leaves a lot of room for careers. Bio-fuels are made from biomass like switchgrass, providing agronomists with an opportunity to delve into non-traditional crops like switchgrass and giant miscanthus. Biorefineries need chemical engineers and microbiologists. The bio-industry needs people in laboratories and in the field. They need people in marketing, business, and technical jobs.Bio-fuels often start with the farmer but can end up on a race track or in military craft. To learn more about a career in bio-fuels, watch this video and head to the US Department of Energy or Biotech Careers.



Forestry: Sometimes, forestry fails to be mentioned in agriculture; however, it falls under the United States Department of Agriculture. It is a crop after all, and provides some pretty interesting job opportunities. With the US Forestry Service, you can be a fire protection specialist, firefighter, dispatcher, biologist, or a pilot. If you are interested in law enforcement, you might want to consider a job as a wildlife officer. In some parts of the country, tribal relations is a job opportunity in forestry. Foresters look at wildlife habitat, manage prescribed burning, and provide education. If you prefer the woods to the fields, then a career in forestry may be just what you are looking for. Be sure to visit US Forest Service for more information.



Aquaculture: If the woods aren’t your thing, what about the water? Aquaculture is super diverse encompassing any body of water, both salt and fresh water. It includes jobs in research, policy, farming, and industry. Farming in aquaculture can range from harvesting oysters to alligators. Yes, alligator farming is a thing. Not a believer? You can read this article about an FFA member who is a third generation gator farmer. And, if you are interested in working in aquaculture, gators aside, visit the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to learn more.



Pilot: Go above and beyond as a pilot in agriculture. Flying can be an exciting job that creates a real positive impact in the agriculture industry. Aviation can often get the job done when tactics on the ground cannot. Aerial application has been used with biomass that is too thick for tractors to be used on. An aircraft can complete 3 times as much application as any rig on the ground. If you think that sounds like fun, unmanned aerial vehicles (e.g. drone) are on the rise. This means jobs in technology development, operators, salesmen, and more. Head over to the National Agriculture Aviation Association (NAAA) to learn all you need to know.



Office of Inspector General: This unique job can be found in every state and is a part of the USDA. It is a sort of Sherlock Holmes meets Bruce Willis of the agricultural world (just take away all of the Hollywood dramatics). They conduct investigations, detect fraud, report criminal violations, and provide security for the Secretary and Deputy Secretary of Agriculture. Not only that, but it goes to other countries as well. The USDA can provide even more information on this career, just follow this link.



Genetics: Turns out there is a lot more to the genetics world than the double helix of DNA, and it is extremely vital to a successful agriculture industry. From corn to pigs, it plays a role. While it may be more of a backstage job, agriculture wouldn’t be where it is today without it. A career in genetics may require more education than the average job, but it provides a lot of interesting opportunities to make a difference in the future of an industry. Often times, it is a good mix between lab work and field work; however, it depends on your sector. Genetics can cover plant sciences that deals with genetically modified organisms (GMOs), animal science which may deal with growth or advantageous traits of livestock, or statistical genetics which develops statistical tools to help with genetic studies. For more details on possibilities in the genetics field see this list.



Wineries: There are now wineries in all 50 states of America. Not only this, but the wine industry has many job opportunities. It all starts with the grapes. A viticulturist may specialize in fertilization, pruning, environment, plant health, and pest management. Organizations such as Wine America work with policy, legislation, and education, providing another realm of jobs. If you switch to the business side of things, there are jobs in sales, marketing, and public relations. The wine industry certainly has a lot of job opportunities.

Of course, the world of agriculture does not stop with a glass of wine. There are many other unique career paths. Consider textiles (it goes beyond sheep wool but has a lot of research behind it), or aquaponics, a growing industry due to decreasing farmland. There are also communication professionals, environmental engineers, and pharmacologists. The point is to think outside the field. Agriculture is broader than you ever imagined.

Marisa Linton is about to graduate NC State University with a Master’s of Science in Communication with a concentration in agriculture. For more from Marisa, stay tuned for future blog posts here on AgGrad, or visit her blog

Tim Hammerich

Tim is a strategic communications consultant, founder of AgGrad, and the host of the "Future of Agriculture" podcast. Originally from California, he is now based out of Boise, Idaho.