Agricultural science is the study of the biological and chemical aspects and organized growth of livestock, soils, food and plants. Many in the agricultural science field work for large corporations in the private sector, but there is a definite need for agricultural scientists to teach at the college level. University professors of agriculture participate in primary research, oversee and advise student research and teach the next generation of agricultural scientists.
Animal science professors generally work in agriculturally rich schools with dedicated livestock programs and can focus on a variety of sub-areas, such as reproduction, growth, animal health, nutrition, livestock management and dairy science. Some in the field work with pre-veterinary and veterinary students who plan to work with livestock. Still others work in the area of food handling and processing, focusing on the many ways to handle meat and other animal-based foods. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates a 13 percent growth in these jobs by 2020, just below the 14 percent average for all other occupations, with a median pay of $49,250 per year.
Professors in this area both teach and do research in many sub-areas, including soil formation, depletion, contamination, disease and content. This is a hands-on field with most professors leading students into the field to take soil samples and analyze them in a lab setting. In addition to field studies, some professors lead greenhouse experiments and farm-growing projects so students can help conduct research or start research projects of their own. The BLS shows a median annual wage of $57,340 per year with a growth rate of 12 percent by 2020.
Food science professors use an interdisciplinary approach by combining chemistry, nutrition, biology and even engineering to find new ways to improve food and the food production industry. Like the other agricultural sciences, this is a hands-on endeavor with most professors leading their students in real-world, hands-on research in food labs or farms. The BLS shows this field to be growing at a rate of 8 percent with an average salary of $46,940 per year.
Plant science professors in the agricultural field study how plants grow, the environmental factors that affect them both negatively and positively, pesticide and herbicide management, insects, water quality and more. They lead their students in hands-on plant management and growth research with the end goal of creating healthy, strong, disease-resistant plants efficiently and effectively. The BLS showed the average wage to be $46,640 per year in 2010 with job growth of 12 percent by 2020.
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