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Careers in Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing, and Hunting

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Although many of us may hold an idyllic image of what it is to be an American farmer, the realities of the industry lie far from the simplified conception of a man riding a tractor or milking a cow. Within this increasingly mechanized, amalgamated industry, the process of growing crops, raising animals, harvesting fish, and collecting timber has evolved greatly over the past century. The sub-sectors that comprise this industry include crop production, animal production, forestry and logging, fishing and hunting, and support sectors.

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Unemployment rates vary by season, with the greatest employment during late Spring through early Fall.  While agricultural job salaries vary greatly, some positions boast annual averages over $50,000, and the job forecast remains relatively strong, given the continued demand for crops, meat, dairy, and fish. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the five most common agriculture jobs, sorted by median pay, are:

Agricultural Workers

These employees typically operate machinery and perform labor-intensive tasks to maintain the regular operations of farms, often in relation to livestock or crops. These workers are supervised by agricultural managers, who oversee the operations of the farm. As of 2019, the median pay for agricultural workers amounted to $71,160. Data on the number of jobs and job growth is unclear, due to the great number of seasonal workers and turnover rate within the field.

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Forest and Conservation Workers

Workers in forest and conservation monitor and improve the quality of American forests, developing, maintaining, and protecting the land and biodiversity. These employees operate under the supervision of forest and conservation technicians, working mostly outdoors in a variety of weather conditions. No prior industry-related work experience is required of these workers, as they typically receive on-the-job training upon hiring. With 13,700 current forest and conservation workers, job growth is minimal over the next decade, at approximately 1%.

Fishers trap and catch various marine life, to be used for human consumption, animal feed, bait, and more. This job holds no entry-level education stipulations, instead, it relies on on-the-job training. These workers are employed in the most dangerous work sector, with fishing and related fishing workers experiencing the highest hours-based fatality rate in America

Interestingly enough, three of the top five most dangerous jobs are found within this industry sector.

Logging Workers

Another position found on the most dangerous jobs database, loggers are responsible for harvesting thousands of acres of forest every year. These jobs are not only physically challenging but also quite hazardous. For this risk, the average logging work is paid $41.230 per year (according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics). There are no educational or work experience requirements, as employees receive on-the-job training. However, most logging workers do have a high school diploma. With 53,200 loggers, in 2010, a 4% growth rate is forecast for the coming decade.

Farmers, Ranchers, and Other Agricultural Managers

As the supervisors of agricultural workers, these managers oversee the production of crops, livestock, and dairy goods. While some work mainly in an office, others work outdoors, operating machinery and participating in strenuous physical labor. With the highest pay of the bunch, $29.21 per hour, or $60,750 per year, this position requires more experience and education than the others. Most managers have over five years of experience in a related position and at least a high school diploma. As the management of farms and land has become increasingly complex, a number of farmers and ranchers are pursuing bachelor’s degrees in agriculture or a related field of study. As an added incentive, a number of government programs subsidize or supply farmer training for these managers, helping them remain up-to-date in their farming practices.

To find your ideal employment, search for agriculture jobs, weighing considerations like location, pay, experience, and company to find the perfect job.

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