To become an agricultural economist, a person usually needs a college degree, either a bachelor's degree or a master's degree, and experience in the field. Generally, the experience required depends on the employer's preferences. Often a person who enters an agricultural economy career has a strong interest in agriculture and the business of agriculture, especially as it relates to economic development. To obtain the necessary education, usually a person enters a college that offers a degree specifically designed for agricultural economy.
Most U.S. state universities offer degrees in agricultural economy. Not all colleges offer bachelor's, master's, and doctorate degrees, but many offer one or two degrees. Internationally, similar degrees are available, and often schools engage in exchange programs to offer students diverse agricultural experiences. Sometimes, schools refer to agricultural economy as agricultural business.
Mainly, degrees require agricultural, economic, and general education courses. Agricultural courses may contain rural sociology and farm management. Economic degrees normally incorporate general economic courses, such as micro- and macro-economics, as well as courses that are specific to agriculture, like agricultural economics. Usually degrees incorporate computer classes because agricultural economists need to be computer proficient.
Typically, a person who wants to become an agricultural economist may work in the private or government sector, non-profit organizations, and academic institutions or research centers. Often various industries, such as fertilizer, pesticide, or herbicide producers, hire agricultural economists. Other industries may include food processing, machinery manufacturing, and other farm-related businesses. A person endeavoring to become an agricultural economist should pick a field that interests him or her.
Some individual jobs include extension and outreach program directors and field agents, teachers or lecturers, and research workers. Often research workers need to have efficient computer skills, including proficiency in Internet and database searching. To become an agricultural economist who specializes in research, it is normally helpful to have a clear understanding of statistical methods.
Some agriculturists categorize agricultural economy into seven subcategories. Agricultural development concerns agriculture's role in the development of local, national, and international economy. Agricultural marketing concerns the various market types and pricing. Agricultural policy refers to all policies that concern agriculture, including trade policies, government policies, and others. Often people in this field work in a governmental institution.
Financial management is another category and generally refers to agricultural planning and financial principles. Many people in this specialty work for banks and financial institutions. Another category is natural resource and environmental economics. This specialized career is a growing sector of agricultural economy and deals with the balancing of environmental concerns and agricultural production. Typically, to become an agricultural economist in this field, a person takes environmental courses as electives during college.
Operational research or management science is the seventh category. This area of agricultural economy requires very little fieldwork and is mainly an office-type job. To become an agricultural economist in this category, a person needs excellent computer and statistical skills. Production economics deals with agricultural production, profit, and pricing of agricultural products.