Agriculture, Forestry & Fisheries

"You are learning across disciplines and how they stitch together, to help provide solutions to big problems." PROFESSOR IAN CHUBB, AUSTRALIA’S CHIEF SCIENTIST

If you want to help solve the world’s problems and be guaranteed a job, then you can’t go past the exciting field of agricultural science. As a graduate of agricultural science, you’ll be addressing the most important challenges facing us today: the supply of food, water, and energy in the face of a changing climate.

Graduates in this field are in such high demand that there are six jobs for every agricultural science graduate in Australia. You could be working in an agricultural company or as a research scientist here and overseas. You could be employed with a commodity group, bank, local and international agribusiness, and government department. You could work as an advisor, economist, scientist, teacher, trader, in policy, and as a communicator. You might be pioneering emerging areas like carbon trading and water trading, and managing Australia’s natural resources.

Agriculture is a mainstay of the nation, generating commodities with a gross value of nearly $50 billion annually, providing 12 to 15 per cent of the country's exports. Today, Australia is a world-leading exporter of commodities such as wheat, beef, wine and wool. We are also a significant exporter of agricultural science expertise and technology, and our farmers are world leaders in their efficiency and adoption of technology.

Despite the drought, agriculture has remained a thriving sector of the economy. While other areas of the economy struggle with productivity, agriculture has continued to relentlessly increase in productivity, due in large part to the nation’s highlyskilled agricultural scientists and allied professionals, and the investment in research and development.

But agriculture is coming under increasing pressure to produce more food and fibre in a more sustainable way. That means using less water, less energy, less land, fewer additional nutrients and producing fewer greenhouse gases while farmers act as stewards of the land and its biodiversity.

Jim Pratley, from the Australian Council of Deans of Agriculture, says agriculture has always been complex, but in the 21st century the degree of complexity has intensified. He says farmers and their advisors face increasing challenges including managing climate variability and drought, landscape sustainability and native vegetation, and playing a role in the carbon economy. This complex landscape means that studying agricultural science is now even more challenging and exciting.

Australia’s Chief Scientist, Professor Ian Chubb, agrees that agricultural science is an interesting, broadly based degree. “You are not learning in substantial detail the facts of one particular discipline, you are learning across disciplines and how they stitch together, to help provide solutions to big problems.”

He says those big inter-disciplinary problems include food, irrigation and climate change.

Professor Chubb says Australia will face changing circumstances – degradation of arable land, urban sprawl, changing temperature and rainfall patterns – and the country cannot afford to be without people who have the expertise to help it adapt.

He also points out that Australia has traditionally played a substantial role in helping feed many millions around the world, a role that will be critically important as the world’s population increases. Australia currently produces enough food to help feed around 60 million people, and contributes to the diet of as many as 400 million people through the export of its agricultural science and technology.

But Professor Chubb worries that Australia is at risk of losing its agricultural capacity. In 2010 there were just 743 graduates in agricultural science but over 4,500 agricultural science jobs were advertised.

Professor Chubb says Australia has an international reputation for excellence in agricultural research, which drives improvements in agricultural productivity, reduces poverty and has an important role in meeting the challenge of global food security. He argues our agricultural talents and skills are critical to Australia retaining its position “as a responsible global citizen with an influence in world affairs.”

“If you were looking for a wide and varied suite of career options, then in many respects the approach that is taken in a lot of agricultural sciences is the sort of approach that opens opportunities for you,” Professor Chubb says.

Statistics and starting salaries

Agriculture and the related food and beverage manufacturing companies employ 536,000 directly, with 27,000 working in agricultural support industries.

Average salaries:

  • Agricultural industry: $75,000-80,000


Industry bodies

Accreditation schemes

It is not necessary to register for accreditation to work as an agricultural scientist, consultant or economist. The Ag Institute Australia, together with the Australian Association of Agricultural Consultants, runs an accreditation scheme, AgCredited. It is available to all agricultural and natural resource management professionals.

Courses to consider

Consider enrolling in one of the following courses and majors to prepare yourself for a career in the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries industries.

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