Higher Education and agricultural careers: the relative importance of and returns to an agricultural major
Agribusiness firms are increasingly hiring non-agriculture college graduates. Unclear is whether the demand for non-agriculture graduates is predicated on an undersupply of agriculture graduates or if non-agriculture graduates have skills that are not being developed in traditional agriculture programs. This study uses a large random sample of graduates of a Midwestern Land-Grant University to explore the returns by major in the agricultural and non-agricultural sectors. The strength of the study is its ability to identify the value of agricultural sector-specific skills versus general skills developed by major. The results suggest that there are substantial returns to agriculture majors working in agriculture, but only when the firms are located in urban areas. In addition, the pay gap between working in agriculture and outside of agriculture varies by majors within the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. This suggests that some majors develop substantial sector-specific skills, while others, notably Agricultural Business/Agricultural Economics develop more generally valued skills.
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