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December 16, 2020

Agricultural Education in the United States: Developing the Talent Pipeline

A look at trends in postsecondary enrollment and degrees.


While our industry draws talent from various educational levels and majors, a vital part of the talent pipeline is education in agriculture, food, natural resources, and biotechnology. Our new 2020 Education & Enrollment Report examines trends in U.S. postsecondary enrollment and educational attainment for the agricultural industry. reviewed recent consecutive years’ data from a variety of sources*. Data showed a decrease in overall postsecondary enrollment, and likewise, a decline in agriculture-specific enrollment from 2017 to 2019. The United States has recognized a critical workforce challenge—the skills gap between what employers want or need and what employees can accomplish or do. job postings and applicant data suggest the largest demand for bachelor’s degrees, followed by high school diplomas. However, associate’s degrees and certifications are also in-demand; prior reports noted the particularly strong need for these degree levels.


Looking at Career & Technical Education (CTE) specifically, the Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources cluster has robust enrollment in secondary schools, however, the participation drops significantly in postsecondary enrollment. Ag-Related CTE postsecondary programs consistently enrolled more males. This changes for bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate programs when we examine the Food and Agricultural Education Information System (FAEIS) data for academic areas in the core industry types, where 60% of enrollees are female. Ethnicity data is also available for the 4-year-plus institutions, which shows non-white students enrolled in ag-related disciplines increased from 31% in 2017 to 35% in 2019; the largest growth was among Hispanics.


Agribusinesses that polled recently expect to hire the highest number of recent graduates for production and sales roles. Our site saw the highest number of positions posted in 2019 and 2020 in the Plant & Soil Sciences, Seed, Biotechnology industry type, followed by Chemical, Pesticide & Fertilizer, and Equipment, Manufacturing and Technical. Conversely, the top academic degrees over the past three years in the U.S. were in Animal Sciences, followed by Agricultural Economics/Business/Management, and Food & Nutrition.


Overall, it’s crucial that the industry works together to entice talent to explore educational options in agriculture, food, natural resources, and biotechnology, especially beyond high school into postsecondary institutions. Discover more details in the full 2020 Education & Enrollment Report available to download here.




*Data sources: 2019 U.S. Job Report, 2020 U.S. Agribusiness HR Review, Food and Agricultural Education Information System (FAEIS), National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), Perkins Collaborative Resource Network, and National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. Find details and links in the full report.

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