April 4 2013 07:00 AM

Experienced grads have the second lowest unemployment rate.

by Amanda Smith, Hoard's Dairyman Associate Editor

In the past few years, it seems as if agricultural majors have received a great deal of flack. In 2011, The Daily Beast (an online news information site) listed "agriculture" as their third most useless major. Also on their list were horticulture (#2) and animal science (#20). We covered their "findings" in a blog "Useless majors" aren't so useless late last year.

In 2012, we were put down yet again when Career Cast called dairy farming the second-worst job out there (here's a link to the full article, "The 10 worst jobs of 2012").

But a recent article from USA Today is singing a different tune as it sheds a more positive light on the degrees many people in the agricultural industry have earned. The key rationale behind this argument is a rather simple truth: people will never stop needing food.

The article went on to note that: "Agriculture science is seeing a surge at universities; the major's popularity has led to both a broader field of study and curriculum changes to better prepare students for the field. These diverse careers are what are modernizing the agriculture sector and keeping undergraduates confident in their choice of major. Despite farmland availability and fluctuating monetary value, working in agriculture is not scaring all students."

Data from Georgetown University's Public Policy Institute backs up USA Today's conclusion. A recent document, College majors, unemployment and earnings: Not all college degrees are created equal highlights the fact that many students graduating with an agricultural degree fare remarkably well.

They note that unemployment for recent graduates with a bachelor's degree is at 8.9 percent. But, it's a catastrophic 22.9 percent for job seekers that only hold a high school diploma. The combined unemployment rate for both recent college graduates and experienced bachelor's degree holders is 5 percent.

When looking specifically at recent graduates holding agriculture and natural resources degrees, though, the unemployment rate drops 1.9 points to 7 percent. Only the health and education fields, at 5.4 percent, have lower unemployment rates. To further this point, only 3.5 percent of experienced college graduates in the field are unemployed, rivaled only by 2.2 percent of health care grads.

The report also detailed that average earnings of these career fields (see table). Recent grads with an agricultural degree earned $32,000 per year on average.

The major groupings were then broken up into specific majors. Experienced college graduates with a general agriculture degree had an unemployment rate of 4.2 percent. Animal science graduates were almost a full point lower at 3.4 percent and, on average, earned $44,000 per year.