UW-Platteville agriculture degrees grow in popularity

April 5, 2013

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PLATTEVILLE, Wis. —  “I knew that having an agricultural degree would give me the chance to make a difference, whether that is on a local level by helping farmers to grow healthy crops, or a global scale in helping to feed our growing population,” said Laura Kanis of Viroqua, Wis., who will graduate in May from the University of Wisconsin-Platteville with a degree in soil and crop science.

(Sophomore Giselle Varrientos, a soil and crop science major, describes how the flexibility and unique courses at UW-Platteville have allowed her to find a common connection between her soil studies that span two related departments: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QgGEWwSEdno)

UW-Platteville has seen robust growth in the School of Agriculture in recent years. With approximately 800 students majoring in agricultural degrees, the School of Agriculture has doubled in size since 1995. This increase should come as no surprise according to Dr. Michael Compton, director of UW-Platteville’s School of Agriculture. “During 2010-15, the United States economy will generate over 54,000 openings per year for graduates with a baccalaureate in agriculture related programs,” he said. Some major factors that will shape the job market of students graduating with an agricultural degree include retirements, consumer preferences, global market shifts and public policy on food, energy and the environment.

The increasing popularity of agriculture degrees is not just at UW-Platteville or the Midwest, but nationwide. “From 2006-11, enrollment in colleges of agriculture rose about 20 percent to around 145,000 students nationwide,” said Compton. “Job increases in agriculture are happening due to rising U.S. farm income which results in agribusiness growth.”

(A glimpse into the UW-Platteville School of Agriculture: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bNtyGh8XLME&feature=youtu.be)

The number of graduates in agriculture is expected to continue to increase but it also is expected that the increase will fall short of meeting demands the industry is anticipating when it comes to qualified graduates. Areas of study such as animal science and agribusiness will see the largest increases in enrollment, while plant and soil sciences and horticulture programs are not expected to see the same boost in enrollment. This trend will most likely result in a shortage of graduates to fill anticipated vacancies.

“Students typically select majors for which they have a strong interest,” Compton said. “Unfortunately, a person’s interest does not always align with the market for available career positions. For example, soil and crop science is our third largest major in the School of Agriculture at UW-Platteville with just over 80 students. However, it is arguably the area with the greatest opportunity for jobs.”

With a strong job market, many students in agriculture have the flexibility to choose a career path of their preference. “It is obvious to students graduating with an agricultural degree that there are many options for them upon graduation. Many companies are growing in the industry, and need us to fill their voids,” said Kanis.

The career fair held on campus led to three job offers for Kanis, seven months before she graduates from UW-Platteville. Kanis has accepted a position working for DuPont Pioneer in Renwick, Iowa as an agronomist-emerging leader at a soybean seed production facility. Many graduates with an agricultural degree are experiencing the same demand.

Contact: Dr. Michael Compton, director, UW-Platteville School of Agriculture, (608) 342-1323, compton@uwplatt.edu

Written by: Ethan Giebel, UW-Platteville University Information and Communications, (608) 342-1194, giebele@uwplatt.edu

 

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