Ag business a bankable major for ISU grads
In one of the toughest job markets for recent college graduates, a 100 percent placement rate is unusual for any major.
But those are the job placement numbers for Iowa State University's agricultural business major spring 2012 graduates. The four-year undergraduate major prepares students to work in the agricultural sector from the business angle.
Mike Gaul, director of career placement with the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at ISU, says that of 57 agricultural business graduates in the spring semester of 2012, 55 were employed in a full-time position within two weeks of graduation and the other two were headed to graduate school. The placement rate totals graduates who are employed and who are furthering their education by pursuing advanced degrees.
From salary data from the 2011-2012 academic year, starting salaries for agricultural business grads ranged from $30,000 to $75,000, making it one of the best recent bets for college students seeking a major with a solid starting salary and built-in job security.
"Those numbers are off the charts," says Gaul.
Gaul said a recent regional report on annual salaries for graduates earning bachelor's degrees in agriculture and related fields found top earning majors included agricultural business as well as technology, food science and agronomy. The regional report was the largest ever, with more than 1,400 salary data points from 15 universities and covering students who graduated in December 2011 and May 2012.
While high employment placement levels have an obvious connection to the boom in the agricultural economy over the past several years, Gaul says that several other factors have affected employment success for the major. Baby boomers in the industry are starting to retire, providing more opportunities for young grads to move into training roles, and the agricultural business program at ISU is simply "doing a lot of things right," he says.
Ron Deiter, agricultural businesses major advisor and professor in the Department of Economics at ISU, says that it's a mix of talented students, a strong program, and well-developed links to the agricultural industry that have made the difference for their graduates.
"Since the 1950s when the agricultural business major started, Iowa State was one of the first land grant universities to recognize the need for some students to understand the business side of agriculture," he says. "Over the years, the wisdom of that decision has translated into strong partnerships with industry."
While the agricultural business major is in high demand now, Deiter doesn't see the need for students trained in the business side of agriculture going away anytime soon. "The world's population is growing exponentially, making it a tremendous challenge to produce enough food. Companies that address these challenges want good people, and our program gives students the background and experience they need."
The current overall annual placement in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences is 97.6 percent, based on the reports of graduates from 2010 and 2011 (fall 2010, spring 2011 and summer 2011). Nearly 73 percent of those graduates found employment in Iowa. Although 100 percent placement may be unusual, lately it's not been uncommon among College of Agriculture and Life Sciences majors. In the 2010-2011 annual placement numbers, agricultural business was one of 15 majors reporting 100 percent placement. The College of Agriculture and Life Sciences has 24 undergraduate majors.