Starting a career in agriculture technology requires getting hands-on experience and post-high school education, as well as getting additional certificates required by the specific technology focus. Although a person can begin their agricultural path out of high school, taking classes and working or volunteering prior to this point is ideal. Graduate level study is usually required for major research, engineering or managerial positions. Beyond the education and certification requirements, individuals must network well and apply to open agricultural positions that meet their skill sets.
Although a formal education in agriculture is necessary, it cannot replace the knowledge that comes with hands-on experience. Thus, the road to a career in agricultural technology begins by working on a farm. Many people who go into this field are raised on farms and are very familiar with everything it takes to operate in the agricultural industry. If a person does not have this opportunity, they should get a basic farm job or volunteer, working under an agricultural manager. These positions require individuals to perform fundamental tasks such as planting, cleaning stalls and transferring feed.
Another way to learn about agricultural technology is to become involved in agricultural groups such as the Future Farmers of America (FFA). These groups teach individuals animal and horticulture basics and allow people to compete at fairs or do research projects. Some have a small membership fee, but the fee is usually less than what a regular class would cost.
Once a person has a little experience working in an agriculture-based environment, the next step is to enroll in formal agriculture technology classes. This can happen as early as middle school. Examples of basic classes to take at this point are introductory agriculture, basic livestock management and horticulture.
Upon completion of a high school diploma or receipt of a graduate equivalency degree, those interested in agriculture should enroll in an undergraduate program for agriculture. The exact program a person enters depends on the agricultural technology goals she has. Individuals may choose between certificate, associate's or bachelor's degree programs to begin.
A certificate program in agricultural technology typically lasts two years or less. These programs are designed to teach the basic agricultural processes and equipment used in the agricultural industry on a regular basis, so they teach fundamentals such as landscaping and animal science. They are a good way to learn a little more about the business of farming but are not sufficient enough to let an agricultural technologist reach the managerial level.
A person interested in agriculture also can get an Associate of Applied Science in Agriculture Technology degree, which requires at least two years of study. Unlike certificate programs, associate programs usually provide more hands-on training via a practicum or internship. Programs that provide a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture Technology are even more focused, however, because they provide more information specific to agriculture technology, such as courses in agricultural mechanics, safety in agriculture technology and hydraulics.
Following completion of a bachelor's degree, a person may move on toward a master's or doctoral degree in agriculture if desired. Depending on the desired focus, an individual can choose from specialties such as agricultural education, food science technology or agricultural economics. These degree levels qualify a person for teaching, research and management positions.
Once a person has finished his agricultural technology education, he can hone his resume and look for open positions at companies related to his degree focus and authority. In some cases, the particular agricultural technology job a person wants might necessitate additional testing and certification, such as getting a teaching license to become an agricultural instructor. If a person wants to go the engineering route, he should get a job at a smaller company or farm before trying to move up to large, state or nationally-known organizations.