How to Become an Agricultural Science Teacher


Agricultural education has a long history in the United States with roots in the 19th century. While it has seen its ups and downs over the years, agricultural education is now offered from the middle school to university level. In the 21st century, agricultural education has come to focus on sustainable farming and ranching practices and increasingly seeks to provide a hands-on way to explore scientific concepts. In short, agricultural education may be best understood as an applied science program that also introduces other key skills and knowledges, such as business management. According to the National Association of Agricultural Educators, there are an estimated 11,000 agricultural educators working in public schools across the United States today and another 10,000 working in higher education. Learn how to become an agricultural science teacher whether you’re already an expert or starting from scratch.

How Can I become an Agricultural Science Teacher at the K-12 Level

Like any other teacher, in order to teach agricultural studies, one needs a bachelor’s degree and to be certified to teach in his or her state. If one’s goal is to teach agricultural studies, it is important to take a wide range of courses (e.g., animal science, crop science and horticulture), as well as other courses, such as biology and environmental science. Once you have obtained your bachelor of science in agricultural studies, you’ll need an education degree. There are dozens of postsecondary institutions across the United States where one can complete a degree in agricultural education (a list of programs is provided on the National Association of Agricultural Educators website). Once you have degrees in agriculture and education, you’re set to enter the job market. Bear in mind that at the K-12 level, relevant experience (e.g., a history of involvement with the H4 or similar organizations) will also work to your advantage on the job market. This is why it is important to understand how to become an agricultural science teacher before you initiate the journey.

How Can I become an Agricultural Science Teacher at the College Level

If you want to become an agricultural science teacher at the college level, you’ll need to complete a bachelor’s degree in agricultural science (or an allied field) and at least a master’s degree in agricultural science or an allied field. An education degree is not required at the college level, but a history of teaching (or some evidence that you would make a great teacher) will help you land a part-time or full-time position. Since most college-level teaching positions are about teaching rather than research, a strong history of research, funding and publication may not be required for all positions, but it certainly helps. At the very least, you want to demonstrate that you are both knowledgeable and committed to staying on top the latest developments in the field. There is no single formula for how to become an agricultural science teacher at the college level but attending relevant conferences and participating  in innovative local projects and initiatives is highly advised.

How Can I become an Agricultural Science Teacher at the University Level

If you’re exploring how to become an agricultural science teacher at the university level (e.g., to land a coveted spot in one of the nation’s oldest and most prestigious agricultural programs, such as Cornell University’s College of Agricultural and Life Sciences), you’ll need to complete a bachelor’s degree in agricultural science (or an allied field) and graduate-level degrees in the field. In most cases, a PhD in agricultural science or in a allied field (e.g., biology) with a focus on agricultural research is considered the minimum qualification to obtain a university-level teaching position in agricultural science. In addition to having the right set of degrees, you’ll need to have a track record of research, funding and publications in the agricultural science field. This means carrying out innovative research, finding funding for the research, and presenting and publishing the results of your research in refereed scholarly forums. Once hired, this cycle of research, funding, presentation and publication will need to continue in order to eventually obtain tenure and promotion to full professor status.

What is the job outlook for Agricultural Science Teachers?

If you’re exploring how to become an agricultural science teacher, you no doubt also want to find a great job in the field. Not surprisingly, most jobs in the field are located in states where agriculture is a major industry. At the K-12 level, North Dakota, South Dakota, Illinois, Nebraska and Indiana are among the states with the most well established and robust agricultural education programs.  However, as more and more people become interested in sustainable growing practices and urban agricultural, even urban school boards are beginning to recruit educators in the agricultural science field. Of course, teaching agriculture to rural teens who already work on family farms versus kids at an inner city school are two very different projects. Whatever your final destination, understand that the location will profoundly shape both who and what you teach. At the postsecondary level, job prospects are also strong. Many colleges offer diplomas and continuing education courses in agricultural science, which means there are opportunities for both full-time and part-time instructors.

What is the compensation for Agricultural Science teachers?

K-12 jobs in the agricultural science field can pay well, but it depends on the level and state. Generally, high school teachers make more elementary and middle school teachers and college and university professors make more than high school teachers. However, salaries for full-time teachers also vary from state to state. While even new teachers in New York State report annual salaries above $60,000, in many states, this is the very top of the pay scale for experienced teachers. In general, at the K-12 level, one should expect their annual salary to range from $40,000 to $65,000 with much higher salaries in California, New York State, Connecticut and Massachusetts.  According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor,  at the postsecondary level, the mean annual wage for agricultural science teachers is $95,280, which is well above average compared to annual reported salaries across fields. The top 10% of earners at the postsecondary level report wages close to $150,000 annually, but one should assume that these earners are well into their career and likely working in a research position at a top-ranked university. Given the available of jobs and potentially high compensation, there is ample reason to explore how to become an agricultural science teacher.

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