Several years ago I had the opportunity to speak to an Ag Day breakfast in Jackson County, IN. After my speech, the local FFA chapter presented me with a shirt that read: “Naked and Hungry” on the front. On the back the shirt said: “What you would be without agriculture.” I still have this shirt today because of its simple, yet poignant, truth. This truth, however, has been lost on some US business leaders as well as a few reporters and Yahoo news.
Last week, Yahoo news, not exactly a credible news organization in my view, published an article on the 10 worst college majors. The on-line article, called 10 College Majors that are Useless, was based in a research conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers’ (NACE) 2012 Job Outlook study, which surveyed almost 1,000 employers on their future hiring plans. The implication of the article is that if you major in any of these areas you will not get hired or have any kind of a career future. Arthur Terence Loose states, “There are certain majors that you might want to avoid.” While there is some truth to the assertion that certain college majors stand a better chance of getting hired than others, his list has a definite bias and is contradicted by well publicized facts.
The number 1 most useless major listed is agriculture. The article makes snide comments about farm work and states, “Just don’t expect farms and ranches to be calling you.” The facts are that, at Purdue and other major ag universities, ag majors have among the highest employment rate of any major. In addition, statistics show that farm labor is in short supply and that there is a high demand for educated and skilled farm workers. Degrees 4 and 5 were also ag related: animal science and horticulture.
The rankings are based on what some employers say they are looking for, but other employees disagree. For example, “American Express has hired over 80 agricultural economists since 1990,” says David Edwards, Vice President-International Risk Management, American Express. It is a fact that within 6 months of graduation, 90% of graduates with ag related degrees are employed in their field, not at Starbucks. The rate for average students with other than ag degrees is about 50%. And, for the past few years, the agricultural economy has been strong — something that cannot be said about the rest of the economy, a fact ignored by the Yahoo article.
One of the other majors deemed as unless by Yahoo was fashion design. So, in short, according to Yahoo, people are going to stop eating food and stop wearing clothes. Not only is this not likely to happen, just the opposite is likely to occur. World food demand is on the rise, demand for renewable energy is on the rise, and population numbers are on the rise, and most of those new people will want to wear clothes.
I would like to suggest that the most useless degree is journalism. It is obvious that the ever growing number of on-line news providers are not hiring trained reporters but, rather, are using uneducated morons to write their content. Meanwhile, if you know of someone who is contemplating their major and considering going back to school, encourage them to consider agriculture-related degrees. Farming today is not all about plows, sows, and cows. Computer technology, chemistry, genetics, economics, engineering, biology, and financial management are just a few areas in need to qualified individuals. Oh, and of course communications, to help correct the misconceptions about agriculture created by unreliable organizations like Yahoo.
By Gary Truitt