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Find the perfect agricultural science specialisation for you

James Davis

The many specialisations of agricultural science create numerous opportunities, but finding the right one can be very difficult. Luckily, we’re here to help.

Agricultural science allows us to provide food to communities the world over. It features myriad components, which all contribute to the continued operation and maintenance of farming operations and developments. The scientific method aids in this endeavour by ensuring appropriate tests are conducted to verify that current approaches to agriculture are the most efficient and sustainable, although there’s still much to be done. Agricultural scientists are constantly testing new hypotheses in a never-ending quest for knowledge. As a budding agriculture scientist yourself, you have the opportunity to contribute. The only question remaining is: where? The following are just some of the best study and career specialisations available to postgraduate students of agricultural science.

Animal science

What does it entail?

Once referred to as husbandry, animal science concerns the biology and optimal handling of animals under the influence of humans. We’ve been domesticating animals for food, assistance and companionship for thousands of years, but even today in our world of technological marvels it’s still a necessity.

As a student of animal science, you’ll study a variety of useful things, including:

  • Fundamental and advanced biology concepts, such as genetics
  • Fundamental and advanced chemistry concepts
  • The applications of ecology
  • Sustaining rural environments
  • Animal physiology

What are the job prospects?

Agricultural science in general is a booming industry, as all communities require a steady source of food. As a specialist in animal science, your knowledge will be used to understand diseases in livestock, develop more efficient ways of securing produce, processing meat, ensuring sound nutrition and more. It’s critical to the continued health, longevity and productivity of animals on farms and other commercial operations.

What’s the salary like?

Payscale doesn’t report statistics on Australian animal scientists, but in the US, an animal scientist earns $77,397.13 (AUD) per year on average. This can range quite drastically from $33,213.68 per year to $130,582.38, making it a profession with plenty of room for growth.

Where should I study it?

There are some great options for the animal science specialisation.

  • Students with little time that want to get into the job quickly ought to look at the Graduate Certificate in Animal Science from the University of Queensland. This only takes six months of full time study to complete, or about one year part time. In addition to core units in animal nutrition and technology, animals in society, concepts in animal science and more, there are a broad variety of electives to choose from that allow for further specialisation in specific branches of animal science.
  • The Graduate Diploma of Tropical Animal Science from James Cook University takes one year of full time study to complete, or roughly two years part time. In addition to core units in animal production, veterinary public health, epidemiology and applied protocol writing, students learn about aquatic pathobiology, tropical microbial molecular analysis and more. This makes it equally applicable to general animal science.
  • Both these universities offer master level equivalents too. The Master of Animal Science from UQ and Master of Tropical Animal Science from JCU both take 2 and 1.5 years respectively of full time study to complete. Students can expect to learn all the fundamentals they’d expect from graduate certificate or diplomas, with the added additions of extra electives being available and research projects that serve to deepen each student’s knowledge on a relevant topic of their choice.

Animal genetics and breeding

What does it entail?

Animal genetics is useful in preserving animals for the sake of their welfare, as well as in breeding to ensure best possible yield.

What are the job prospects?

Animal breeding is a great way to utilise the skills from this specialisation. It concerns the breeding of animals to ensure the next generation pass on favourable genes in regard to animal products like milk or eggs, meat and resilience against disease. It requires sound record keeping on all a farm’s animals to ensure they’re paired appropriately. Traits like body weight and lifespan are used to inform decision-making.

Working as a researcher can also be highly rewarding. In this role, scientists acquire knowledge that can be applied to preserve endangered animals, improve the lives of more common ones and improve the efforts of animal breeders.

What’s the salary like?

According to Payscale, animal breeders make $45,415.62 (AUD) per year on average. This can range from $31,444.69 to $84,432.38.

On the other hand, geneticists make $107,945.10 (AUD) per year on average if they’re willing to stray into the domain of humans. This can range from $56,610.50 to $207,924.75.

Where should I study it?

The Master of Agricultural Science: Genetics and Breeding from the University of Western Australia provides exactly the sort of knowledge required for any of these careers, featuring fundamental units in genetics, animal treatment, ethics and research methods. This degree takes two years of full time study to complete, or up to four years part time.

Agriculture and resource economics

What does it entail?

This is quite a different specialisation in that students learn about financial markets, commodities, business analytics and natural resource economics. It’s excellent for those with enthusiasm for agriculture and rural life who wish to understand the commercial implications of the industry. As such, they can work hand-in-hand with those from other careers mentioned in this article to aid in financial success.

What are the job prospects?

Knowledge of economics and resource management is useful in many contexts outside of agriculture, making it incredibly versatile. However, even in this context it’s useful for understanding how much commodities should be sold for and the sales process itself. Understanding the wider market is equally critical to the success of an agricultural enterprise, making it an integral component of the agriculture industry as a whole.

What’s the salary like?

Payscale doesn’t offer specific stats on agricultural economics, but a standard economist makes on average $76,602 (AUD) per year. This ranges from $49,315 to $135,628.

Where should I study it?

The Master of Environmental and Resource Economics from the Crawford School of Public Policy is one of the best programs available for this specialisation. Students can expect units in all manner of useful things, including:

  • Applied economics
  • Econometrics
  • Economic policy
  • Engineering
  • Mathematics
  • Statistics

As such, it’s very different from courses in other agricultural science specialisations.

Agronomy

What does it entail?

Agronomy is about managing soil and ensuring it can provide adequate nutrients to crops. It’s an ever-growing science, with continual advancements improving the efficiency of current technology. It includes several elements of agricultural science, including genetics, plant physiology, plant breeding, soil fertility and pest control.

What are the job prospects?

Just about every farm in the world requires effective soil and plant management to be efficient and competitive, making agronomists essential. Agronomists work to manage these considerations using modern science, which can take the form of biofuels, selective breeding, analysing macronutrients, using contour plowing to name a few technologies and techniques.

What’s the salary like?

Agronomists make $60,067 (AUD) per year on average according to Payscale. This can range from $48,440 to $88,615 per year.

Where should I study it?

The Master of Science in Agronomy from the University of New England is an excellent way to specialise in this field, provided students major in agronomy. In addition to basic units in biology, chemistry, ecology, statistical modelling and more, an agronomy major provides students with knowledge in plant function and environment, crop protection, agronomy of grains and more.  

Hopefully now you have a better understanding of just a few of the available specialisations in agricultural science. The recommended courses will ensure you gain exceptional knowledge in your discipline of interest, which can lead to a rewarding career working in the industry or as a researcher.