sealPurdue News

November 1997

Ag education: It's not just for farmers anymore

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- What do landscape architects, zookeepers, food technologists and forest rangers have in common? Chances are it's a degree in agriculture.

A strong and varied job market is getting some of the credit for the increasing number of students signing up for classes in Purdue University's School of Agriculture.

"We've noted a decade-long rise in enrollment, and it corresponds directly with the number and kinds of jobs available," explains Allan Goecker, assistant dean and associate director of academic programs. "Ten years ago there were 1,655 undergraduates in the School of Agriculture, while 1997 enrollment figures show 2,539 students. And that number is up 63 from just a year ago."

Goecker says the job market for agribusiness positions, technical fields, natural resources and environmental management is particularly strong. Companies in these areas are seeking employees with a strong agricultural and science education, and they are increasingly looking at Purdue. A recent agriculture career fair drew 97 businesses to the West Lafayette campus -- 28 more than attended the same event a year ago.

"This is one of the strongest colleges of agriculture in the United States, but being a good school is just part of it," Goecker says. "You still need students to take on challenging roles after graduation. If an employer does well with one graduate, they often return to hire others."

In a professional employment survey of 1997 Purdue ag graduates, the average starting salary for all degree fields was $27,621. Agricultural and food process engineering graduates reported the highest average beginning salaries at $38,378. Food science graduates commanded starting salaries of about $33,000 and had a 96 percent placement rate.

The Department of Food Science will move into a new $26 million building next summer. Classrooms and laboratories are expected to be ready for use for the 1998 fall semester.

CONTACT: Goecker, (765) 494-8473; e-mail,

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; e-mail,

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