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Agricultural Workers - What They Do

How to Advance (Advancement)
Farmworkers who work hard, have good communication skills, and take an interest in the business may advance to crew leader or other supervisory positions. The ability to speak both English and Spanish is quite helpful in supervisory work as well.

Some agricultural workers aspire to become farm, ranch, or other agricultural managers, or own farms or ranches themselves. In addition, their knowledge of raising and harvesting produce may provide an excellent background for becoming purchasing agents and buyers of farm products. Knowledge of working a farm as a business can also help agricultural workers become farm and home management advisors. Those who earn a college degree in agricultural science could become agricultural and food scientists.

Agricultural workers held about 821,700 jobs in 2008. About one third was employed in animal production; some found employment in support activities for agriculture and forestry.

Arizona, California, Colorado, Texas, and New Mexico employ approximately one quarter of all crop workers; California, Florida, and Oregon employ the most nursery workers.

Job Outlook
Job opportunities for agricultural workers occupations should be abundant because large numbers of workers leave these jobs due to their low wages and physical demands. Little or no change in employment is expected over the 2008-18 decade, reflecting in large part the outlook for farmworkers in crops, nurseries, and greenhouses, who make up the largest majority of all agricultural workers.

Job Growth
Overall employment is expected to show little or no change in employment. Fewer agricultural workers will be needed overall because of continued consolidation of farms and technological advancements in farm equipment that is raising output per farm worker. The agriculture industry also is expected to face increased competition from foreign countries and rising imports, particularly from Central America and China because of trade agreements with those regions. Nursery and greenhouse workers might experience some job growth in this period, if the demand for landscaping plants resumes its growth pattern.

Job openings should be plentiful because of relatively large numbers of workers who leave these jobs for other occupations. This is especially true for jobs as agricultural equipment operators, and crop, greenhouse, and nursery farmworkers. Those who work with animals tend to have a more settled lifestyle, as the work does not require them to follow crops for harvest.

Farmworkers in crop production often are paid piece rates, with earnings based on how much they do instead of how many hours they work. Farmworkers tend to receive fewer benefits than those in many other occupations. Some employers supply seasonal workers with room and board.

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Academic Programs of Interest

Agricultural Mechanization
Agricultural education is instruction about crop production, livestock management, soil and water conservation, and various other aspects of agriculture. Agricultural education includes instruction in food education, such as nutrition. Agricultural and food education improves the quality of life for ...more