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US: Study shows salaries for Ag College grads up significantly

Data compiled and released by Iowa State University shows college graduates who major in agriculture are making more in their first year of work than their 2012 counterparts.

Graduates who left school in winter 2012 or spring 2013 and specialized in a number of agricultural fields - including agricultural economics, agricultural education and crop science, among others - are making 5 percent more than those who graduated a year ago, according to Mike Gaul, the Career Services Director for the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences at Iowa State.

"Five percent is pretty doggone good," Gaul said in an interview.

Gaul said he's particularly pleased with jumps in salary for recent graduates in agricultural education, an industry that has had trouble attracting students in the past. This year, the average entry-level agricultural education teacher made $40,762 - up from $37,002 in 2011/2012.

"It's really good to see those salaries finally move North," Gaul said, especially because small-town agricultural programs without teachers are sometimes forced to abandon agriculture education altogether.

Though eight of the nine sectors evaluated saw salary jumps, one was left out of the trend: environmental sciences, fisheries, forestry and wildlife biology. Those wages fell a little over seven percent. Government hiring freezes may be responsible for those numbers, Gaul said, as federal, state and local authorities grapple with sequestration and other budget challenges.

The data serves as a "good recruiting tool for us," Gaul noted. Though he said he does not encourage college students to base their major solely on salary predictions, it can be helpful when it comes down to choosing between two or more paths of study.

Sixteen agricultural colleges contributed to the data set.

A 2010 National Institute of Food and Agriculture study conducted in partnership with Purdue University found 54,400 agriculture jobs would be created between 2010 and 2015. It estimated, however, that universities would only graduate 29,300 agriculture students to fill those positions.

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