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Top Online Agriculture Schools

Top Online Agriculture  SchoolsIt may look simple, but a tractor not only needs to have the traditional large back wheels but it needs to have a specific wheel spacing with a specific ground clearance and the machine must be able to provide a specific amount of torque. Some tractors are also massive and while the internal parts may be similar to the common car, the engineering of these machines requires special education and a background in agriculture.

As a result of the Agricultural College Act of 1890, public agricultural schools are available in every state and offer degrees varying from an associate degree in agriculture to a Ph.D. in soil science. Some of these degree programs are available online or through distance education. However, some programs may include agricultural labs that cannot be taken in an online setting. Check with the school to find out how many classes need to be completed on-site.

Environmental Science

Many professions require a background in agriculture. From breeding animals to running the family farm, changes in the modern world have created an increased demand for specific knowledge of the various facets of agriculture. Where and when to plant, how to prune, and a nuanced understanding of an animal’s diet are beneficial skills to have as a modern agricultural worker and manager. Possessing a background in agriculture may help students possibly branch into other industries such as engineering, veterinary science or landscape architecture.

In 2012, U.S. News & World Report released its annual rankings of the top undergraduate schools, including the top schools with biological and agricultural programs that offer engineering degrees at the doctorate level. The list includes the top ten schools from that list:

1.  Purdue University

1.  University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

3.  Iowa State University

4.  Cornell University

4.  Texas A&M University

6.  University of Florida

7.  University of California, Davis

8.  Ohio State University, Columbus

9.  University of Nebraska, Lincoln

10. North Carolina State University, Raleigh

Below are some of the agriculture focuses available from online schools and colleges through SchoolsGalore.com

Landscaping

While landscaping workers may be trained on the job and often have no formal education, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS.gov, 2012) reports that some landscapers, or grounds maintenance workers, may be required to have agriculture degrees focusing on landscape design or horticulture. Programs in agriculture and landscaping may include classes on landscaping theory, hydrology, and soil management, as well as botany and physiology of cultivated plants.

Some skills, such as pruning and operation of landscape machinery, may require hands-on education. Programs may also require students to enroll in and complete ecology laboratories, which they may not be able to complete online. Check with your school to find out how much of the agriculture program must be completed on-site.

According to BLS, landscaping and groundskeeping workers earned a national annual wage of $23,410 median in 2011, with the top ten percent earning $37,580 nationally and the lowest ten percent earning $17,130 nationally (BLS.gov, 2012). The BLS projects landscaping and groundskeeping employment rates could increase by up to 20 percent between 2010 and 2020 (BLS.gov, 2012). 

Agriculture science

Classes in agriculture science can focus on soil science, the chemical composition of dirt; agro eco-systems, hydrology, watershed processes, water rights, law and more. As with landscaping, many programs may include classes in ecology labs that cannot be taken in an online setting. Check with your school to find out how much of an agricultural degree can be completed online or through distance learning programs. 

According to the BLS, farmers, ranchers and other agricultural managers earned an annual national salary of $64,660 median in 2011 with the lowest 10 percent earning $31,980 and the top 10 percent earning $112,150 (BLS.gov, 2012). Agricultural food science technicians earned a national annual wage of $33,550 median in 2011, with the top 10 percent earning $54,020 nationally and the lowest 10 percent earning $22,420 nationally (BLS.gov, 2012).

Animal science

Besides their long horns, what makes a Texan Longhorn different from standard cattle and why do Longhorns need less protean rich feed and fewer antibiotics than their dairy producing counterparts? For that matter, why is the American Bison calm during thunderstorms that cause cattle to stampede? Animal scientists try to solve these questions and by doing so, help ranchers better raise their livestock and increase production.

Once an animal scientist has found the reason why an animal behaves a certain way, or why it is seemingly immune to a disease, they may begin to cross-breed the animal to develop the beneficial traits and create a new breed. After isolating various beneficial traits in the American Bison, animal scientists began to breed bison with cattle creating a new breed of Beefalo which produce meat lower in fat and cholesterol, like bison, but are fast growing and docile like cattle.

Programs for animal science may include classes on animal breeds and breeding, animal nutrition, animal behavioral science as well as plant science, nutrition, biology, chemistry and specific courses in an area of specialization be it aquatic animals, dairy animals, equestrian animals, poultry or livestock.

According to the BLS, animal scientists earned a national annual salary of $61,230 median in 2011, with the lowest ten percent earning $34,990 nationally and the top ten percent earning $127,600 nationally (BLS.gov, 2012). Animal breeders earned an annual wage of $34,390 nationally in 2011, with the top ten percent earning $59,190 nationally and the lowest ten percent earning $18,070 nationally.

Per the BLS, employment outlook for both fields is expected to be slower than the national average for all professions between 2010 and 2020. The BLS projects up to 13 percent national employment growth between 2010 and 2020 for animal scientists (BLS.gov, 2012) and possibly up to a decrease of 8 percent in national employment rates for animal breeders between 2010 and 2020., with growth projected up to only 13 percent for animal scientists (BLS.gov, 2012). While an increase in sustainable food production and food safety is expected to fuel job growth in both fields, the continued consolidation of ranches and farmers is expected to have a tempering effect on the employment outlook of both fields. 

Agricultural engineering

Coursework in agricultural engineering can prepare students to design, create, and maintain agricultural machinery and equipment ranging from tractors and combines the size of houses to the machines behind the modern dairy farm. They can design seeding trailers to be pulled behind traditional plows or re-design the plow to aerate the soil and decrease possible erosion. Agricultural engineers develop various other mechanical systems used by agricultural workers as standard equipment can rarely stand up to the task.

Agricultural engineering classes may focus on the engineering standards such as thermodynamics, fluid mechanics, calculus and vector analysis and also biodiversity, ecology and biological systems. Many schools provide cooperative programs or internships to provide their students with real-world work experience by the time they graduate. According to the BLS (BLS.gov, 2012), many employers value practical experience when hiring agricultural engineers.

While much of the mathematics and traditional engineering classes can be completed online or though distance learning, some ecology programs may require students to complete lab work which cannot be completed online. Check with your school to find out how much of the agriculture program must be completed on-site.

According to the BLS agricultural engineers earned a national median salary of $74,630 in 2011, with the lowest 10 percent earning $44,180 nationally in 2011 and the top ten percent earning $118,330 nationally in 2011 (BLS.gov, 2012). The BLS also expects the job outlook for agricultural engineers to grow slower than the national average between 2010 and 2020. Employment growth for agricultural engineers is projected to reach up to 9 percent between 2010 and 2020, notes the BLS, and new technology in agricultural production and water resource management may spur job growth (BLS.gov, 2012).

Learn more about accredited agriculture programs from online schools and colleges through SchoolsGalore.com

When researching online colleges and universities, make sure to verify the schools that interest you are accredited by the Distance Education and Training Council or by another accrediting agency that is approved by The U.S. Department of Education or The Council for Higher Education Accreditation. DETC and CHEA both provide a searchable list of approved schools. ABET, formerly the Accreditation Board of Engineering and Technology, accredits programs in agricultural engineering and provides a searchable list of approved programs.

 

Sources and further reading:

The Council for Higher Education Accreditation

The U.S. Department of Education

The Distance Education and Training Council

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

O*NET Online

The American Beefalo Association

ABET, formerly the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology

U.S. News & World Report

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