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Employment Opportunities for College Graduates
in Food, Renewable Energy, and the Environment

United States, 2010-2015

 Overview

The agricultural, food, and renewable natural resources sectors of the U.S. economy will generate an estimated 54,400 annual openings for individuals with baccalaureate or higher degrees in food, renewable energy, and environmental specialties between 2010 and 2015. Seventy-four percent of the jobs are expected in business and science occupations; 15 percent in agriculture and forestry production; and 11 percent in education, communication, and governmental services.

During 2010–15, five percent more college graduates with expertise in agricultural and food systems, renewable energy, and the environment will be needed when compared to 2005-10. More than enough graduates will likely be available during the next couple of years in some occupations, but a shortfall of new graduates with preparation in priority business and science specialties is forecast in the latter half of the period.

Four major factors shape the market for graduates between 2010 and 2015:

  • Macroeconomic conditions and retirements
  • Consumer preferences for nutritious and safe foods
  • Food, energy, and environment public policy choices
  • Global market shifts in population, income, food, and energy

GRADUATES

Expect approximately 53,500 qualified graduates to be available each year. About 55 percent of the total, 29,300 are expected to earn degrees from colleges of agriculture and life sciences, forestry and natural resources, and veterinary medicine. The other 45 percent, an estimated 24,200 graduates, will come from allied disciplines including biological sciences, engineering, health sciences, business, and communication.

Employers have expressed a preference for graduates from colleges of agriculture and life sciences, forestry and natural resources, and veterinary medicine who tend to have relatively stronger interests and more extensive work experiences for careers in food, renewable energy, and the environment than those from allied fields of study. These graduates will likely continue to be preferred by many employers, but it is important to note that there were nearly 10 percent fewer agriculture and life sciences, forestry and natural resources, and veterinary medicine graduates produced in U.S. colleges and universities in 2008 than in 2002.

The Food and Agricultural Education Information System maintains enrollment data by academic specialty that are reported by colleges of agriculture and life sciences, forestry and natural resources, and veterinary medicine. Enrollments during 2004-09 suggest some increases in agribusiness management, agricultural mechanization and engineering, animal science, food science, and natural resources management graduates during 2010–15. In contrast, fewer graduates in the plant sciences, soil sciences, and horticultural specialties are anticipated during the next five years, and there will likely be little change in the annual production of forestry and wildlife science graduates.

Relatively more graduates from the allied fields of biological and health sciences will be required to fill positions that address consumer preferences for a safe and nutritious food supply. Likewise, more earth and atmospheric scientists and environmental engineers will be required to deal with the evolving public policy choices in energy and the environment.

Shortfalls of qualified graduates to work as plant geneticists and plant breeders, climate change analysts, and food safety and security specialists are anticipated during 2010–15.

GROWTH OCCUPATIONS

The U.S. Department of Labor projects significant growth in selected food, renewable energy, and environment jobs during 2008–18 in the Monthly Labor Review published in November 2009.

Occupation – Percent Increase

Agricultural Inspectors – 12.8
Animal Scientists – 13.2
Biochemists and Biophysicists – 37.4
Computer and Information Systems Managers – 16.9
Credit Analysts – 15.0

Environmental Engineers – 30.6
Environmental Scientists and Specialists, including Health – 27.9
Financial Analysts – 19.8
Food Scientists and Technologists – 16.3
Hydrologists – 18.3

Management Analysts – 23.9
Market Research Analysts – 28.1
Natural Sciences Managers – 15.5
Pest Control Workers – 15.3
Public Relations Specialists – 24.0

Recreation Workers – 14.7
Sales Managers – 14.9
Soil and Plant Scientists – 15.5
Technical Writers – 18.2
Veterinarians – 33.0

Projected growth in these occupations is in tune with our nation’s shift toward creating new businesses and jobs in local and regional food USDA Employment Opportunities for Collge Graduates in Food, Renewable Energy, and the Environmentsystems, capitalizing on climate change opportunities, developing renewable energy, and restoring and sustaining natural resources.

 The ability to maintain a safe food supply that is more affordable and nutritious while also expanding energy production from renewable sources will increasingly depend upon the strategic integration of action teams. Those teams will need strong research and development and efficient business management skills. There will be growing opportunities for specialists who will manage our nation’s water resources.



For a two-page printable summary (PDF format, 424KB), click on the linked image, above left. You may also download a longer, eight-page printable version of the report (PDF, 12MB). Or, you can download a smaller-sized file, a Web version of the eight-page report (PDF, 950KB).

Project Consultants

  • Carol L. Anderson, Cornell University, professor emeriti
  • Perry Brown, University of Montana
  • Gregorio Billikopf Encina, University of California-Davis
  • J. Marcos Fernandez, The Pennsylvania State University
  • Mike Gaul, Iowa State University
  • Patrick D. O’Rourke, Illinois State University
  • Govind C. Sharma, Alabama A&M University
  • Bettye K. Walters, Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine

Authors

  • Allan D. Goecker, Purdue University
  • P. Gregory Smith, U.S. Department of Agriculture, NIFA
  • Ella Smith, U.S. Food and Drug Administration
  • Rebecca Goetz, Purdue University

Design: Russ Merzdorf

Web: Wright Frazier


This material is based upon work supported by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture, under Award No. 2007-38837-18626. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.