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Agriculture, Food, and Natural Resources

Careers in this cluster

Cluster definition

Do you enjoy working with animals?
Do you have a green thumb?
Do you collect rocks?
Are you interested in protecting the environment?
Do you enjoy working outdoors?
Are science classes your favorite?

If you answered yes to two or more of the questions above, you might be interested in considering a career in agriculture, food, and natural resources.

If you choose to work in occupations in the Agriculture, Food, and Natural Resources cluster, you could raise plants and animals as sources for food and shelter. On the other hand, you could focus on selling and making products from plants and animals. These products include food, lumber, and fabrics. You might also provide advice and services that farmers and ranchers need to improve products. Another option in this cluster is to work to conserve natural resources and protect the environment.


Agribusiness systems

In the Agribusiness Systems pathway, you would focus on products or services. This includes food, fiber, wood products, natural resources, horticulture, and other plant and animal products or services. You might use satellite systems, computer databases and spreadsheets, or biotechnology to increase efficiency and profitability.

Farmers and Farm Managers

Animal systems

In the Animal Systems pathway, you would strive to find better ways to produce and process meat, eggs, and dairy products. You might study the genetics, nutrition, or development of animals. On the other hand, you might purchase livestock from farmers and ranchers or assist them with marketing or selling their animals. To assure that the products are safe to eat, you could inspect and grade meat. To assist farmers and ranchers, you could advise them on how to feed or house their animals to increase production.

Another option is to care for the animals. You might train, feed and water, groom, or exercise the animals. You may also clean, disinfect, and repair their cages, stalls, or barns.

Environmental service systems

In the Environmental Service Systems pathway, you would act to protect the environment. You might focus on pollution control, recycling, waste disposal, or public health issues. Your work could involve doing studies to find threats to the ecosystem. Then you would figure out how to deal with the threats and to prevent future problems. You might design and operate wastewater systems. In other occupations in this pathway, you could collect, recycle, and remove hazardous materials.

Food products and processing systems

If you were to study and work in the Food Products and Processing Systems pathway, you would have several options. You might discover new food sources. You could also analyze food content and create new food products. Or, you could inspect processing areas to make sure food is safe to eat.

Natural resources systems

In the Natural Resources Systems pathway, you could perform a variety of tasks. Forests and rangelands supply wood products, livestock forage, minerals, and water. They also serve as sites for recreational activities and provide homes for wildlife. You would manage, develop, and help protect the forests and rangelands and other resources.

Plant systems

In the occupations in the Plants Systems pathway, you would study vegetation. Your goal would be to help crop producers feed a growing population. At the same time, you would help them conserve natural resources and protect the environment. You might also develop ways to improve the food value of crops and the quality of seeds. Through research, you could develop plants that require fewer fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides or that are resistant to drought.

Power, structural, and technical systems

In the Power, Structural, and Technical Systems pathway, you use engineering, mechanics, electronics, and power to improve agriculture. You might design buildings and equipment used on farms and ranches. You might also develop ways to conserve soil and water. Or your goal might be to improve how farm products are processed. Another option for you is to maintain and repair the machines and structures.

Level of education and earnings

If you are interested in a career in agriculture, food, or natural resources, the training or education required varies. Some occupations require less than one month of on-the-job training. However, some scientists need a doctoral degree to do research. The amount of training or education required depends on the type of work you would be doing.

Study the table below to learn about the different levels of education or training. The table presents the level of education or training required to work in the occupations and the wages for that occupation. Note that some occupations may have more than one required level of education because the type of work performed may vary in specific jobs.

Earnings for people working in some of the occupations in this cluster can vary greatly during the year, depending on the season. Some of the jobs in these occupations are part time or seasonal. For farm and ranch operators and managers, earnings vary from month to month and year to year. This is often due to price fluctuations paid for farm products, which is due to changes in weather conditions and farm output.

Also, keep in mind that there are non-wage benefits that you might receive. These types of benefits might include health insurance, paid vacation, sick leave, and retirement plans. It is important to consider these benefits when you are looking at pay. Some benefits, such as health care, are worth a lot of money. You should carefully weigh a job that pays well but does not have many benefits against one that has good benefits and lower pay. Remember, how much an occupation pays is only one factor to consider when making career choices.

  National Annual
Median Wage
Washington Annual
Median Wage
Short-Term, On-the-Job Training (Less than One Month)
Agricultural Products Graders and Sorters$24,430 $25,470
Animal Breeders$37,060 $57,480
Animal Caretakers$23,760 $27,130
Farm and Ranch Workers$24,320 - $31,190 $27,560 - $33,090
Meat Cutters$26,950 - $31,580 $29,340 - $41,410
Nursery Workers$24,320 $27,560
Trash Collectors$37,260 $52,780
Moderate-Term, On-the-Job Training (One to Twelve Months)
Commercial Fishersnot available not available
Farm and Ranch Workers$24,320 - $31,190 $27,560 - $33,090
Food Processing Workers$29,720 - $30,840 $31,300 - $37,440
Hazardous Material Workers$42,030 $59,940
Log Graders and Scalers$38,220 $48,130
Loggers$40,510 - $44,080 $51,350 - $61,390
Meat Cutters$26,950 - $31,580 $29,340 - $41,410
Pest Control Workers$35,610 $42,820
Recycling and Reclamation Workers$30,170 $30,230
Long-Term, On-the-Job Training (Over One Year)
Bakers$26,520 $31,140
Farm Equipment Mechanics$40,630 $40,760
Meat Cutters$26,950 - $31,580 $29,340 - $41,410
Water Treatment Plant Operators$46,780 $61,910
Work Experience in a Related Occupation
Agricultural Worker Supervisors$46,960 $53,150
Farmers and Farm Managers$67,950 $79,880
Associate Degree
Environmental Engineering Technicians$50,560 $73,490
Forestry Technicians$37,180 $36,220
Bachelor's Degree
Agricultural Engineers$77,110 not available
Agricultural Scientists$63,950 $68,050
Animal Scientists$58,380 not available
Environmental Engineers$87,620 $99,300
Food Scientists$65,300 $63,040
Foresters$61,410 $63,670
Zoologists$63,420 $70,250
Work Experience Plus a Bachelor's or Higher Degree
Natural Sciences Managers$123,860 $141,360

Employment & outlook

The prospects in farm production will be limited. Prices paid for farm products continue to stay low. Fewer farmers and ranchers produce more. The result is fewer and larger farms.

You will find more jobs in agricultural services. Job openings will arise from the need to replace workers who leave every year. Turnover is very high among animal caretakers and farm and ranch workers. The turnover is the result of the seasonal and part-time nature of the work. Other factors are the low pay and high physical demands.

Pet owners are expected to take advantage of grooming services and boarding services. Demand is expected to increase due to increases in the number of pet owners.

Employment growth in farm-related agricultural services--crop services, soil preparation services, farm labor and management services, and livestock services--are linked to the health of agricultural production. When farmers and ranchers face difficult times, the demand for agricultural services also drops.