Allan Goecker, assistant dean and associate director of academic programs for the School of Agriculture, said a decade-long enrollment rise corresponds to growth in the number and kind of jobs. He does an annual placement survey of Purdue agriculture graduates and also led a national report on agricultural job prospects in 1995.
Ten years ago there were 1,655 undergraduates in the School of Agriculture. The latest enrollment figures for 1997 show 2,539 undergrads, up 63 from a year ago.
"We've been observing an increase for a decade," Goecker said. "There's a strong job market and a strong student interest in agribusiness, technical fields and natural resources and the environment. There's a good array of programs here."
Agricultural and food process engineering graduates had the highest overall salaries. There has also been a demand for students in sales, marketing and distribution of products and agribusiness management jobs.
Businesses in these areas are looking for students with a strong agricultural and science education, and more of them are looking at Purdue, Goecker said. Ninety businesses will come to campus this fall for an agriculture career fair Oct. 7, up from 69 a year ago.
"Generally, this is one of the stronger colleges of agriculture in the United States. You can be a good school, but you still need students to take on challenging roles after graduation," Goecker said If an employer does well with one graduate, they often return to hire others, he said.
Kamyar Haghighi, a professor of agricultural and biological engineering, agreed that career opportunities are booming in agricultural engineering. He said the number of jobs has expanded and the department is continually adjusting the curriculum to capture new opportunities.
"The area of agricultural and biological engineering has been redefined in recent years, moving into new territory. When you look at its history, it concentrated on big machinery," Haghighi said. "Now it's expanded into water and soil quality, the environment, food processing and biological engineering."
Salaries for graduates in this area average $40,000 a year, he said.
"The salaries are the highest in the School of Agriculture. This has helped our enrollment and recruiting quite a bit," Haghighi said. "We're able to place graduates in major companies and governmental agencies. Our students find a job very quickly."
Companies also have taken an interest in the school's food science department. According to department head Phil Nelson, food science graduates have averaged starting salaries around $33,000. The department boasts a 100 percent placement rate.
Well-known companies such as Kraft Foods, Gerber Products, Kroger and Nestle coordinate research programs with Purdue as well as hire students to work for them. Nelson said there has been an increase in jobs dealing with management, food supplies, manufacturing and quality control.
"They see the enrollment and projects like the construction of the new Food Science Building. It identifies the growth at Purdue," Nelson said. "A number of companies see Purdue as the top choice."
The department posted its largest freshman class ever this year, going from a low of two in 1989 to 36 this fall. The department was formed in 1983.
Sources: Allan Goecker, (765) 494-8473
Phil Nelson, (765) 494-8256 or Jennifer Lawrence, (765) 494-2766
Kamyar Haghighi, (765) 494-1182
Writer: Azura Domschke, (765) 494-8402; e-mail, email@example.com
Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; e-mail, firstname.lastname@example.org
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