Should You Be an Agricultural Educator?
If you love agriculture, enjoy working with plants and animals, and relish the opportunity to teach people about the importance of agriculture, then Agricultural Science Education is the career for you. Agriscience teachers get to work with young people to help them develop interests in agriculture. They often become local and state leaders, advocating for agriculture and farmers in their communities.
The Agricultural Science Education program at Rutgers University is a cooperative effort of the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences (SEBS) and the Graduate School of Education (GSE). It is designed to prepare students to teach agriculture and related subjects in high school.
After completing the program you will be able to deliver agricultural instruction in the classroom and laboratory. You will be able to offer rich experiential learning experiences outside the classroom in the field, in greenhouses, and in animal facilities. You will be able to provide leadership education, partnering with national and state student organizations like the FFA. And you will emerge as leaders in your own right, playing a key role in educating the public about the importance of agriculture.
Two Paths to Completion
In New Jersey there are two paths that students can take to becoming high school agriscience teachers. In the Dual-Degree Path students earn a B.S. degree in Agriculture and Food Systems; followed by the M.Ed. in Agricultural Science Education. In the Subject Area Path students earn a B.S. in Agriculture and Food Systems and then continue with teacher certification via Alternate Route Teacher Certification.
1. Dual-Degree Path
Students spend 4 years earning a B.S. degree at SEBS in Agriculture and Food Systems, education track option*; followed by one additional year at GSE to earn their M.Ed. and NJ State Teacher certification in Agricultural Science Education. The Dual Degree Path is best suited for students who know soon after entering Rutgers University-SEBS that they want to teach agriculture, or those who decide later and are committed to graduating with the B.S./Ed.M. dual degree.
*Other majors at SEBS can be used for entry into the GSE agricultural science education path.
2. Subject Area Path
Students earn a B.S. in Agriculture and Food Systems, teacher education track, including all education courses. Then students continue on for teacher certification via the Alternate Route Program, either at GSE or several other colleges in New Jersey. The advantage of the Subject Area Path is that students are employed as a student teacher while they complete Alternate Route Teacher Certification. The disadvantage of the Subject Area Path is that students must find an employer secondary school, based on their B.S. training in Agriculture and Food Systems, that is willing to sponsor them for the Alternate Route Program.
In addition, the Alternate Route requires 400 hours of preparation completed over a 2-year period, in a combination of hybrid format and in-person meetings, usually held in the evenings and on Saturdays.
Students choosing Agriscience Education as a career need to be aware that SEBS offers up to 17 college credits for courses taken in high school in the Curriculum for Agricultural Science Education (CASE). CASE is a national organization that designs agriscience courses and certifies teachers. In 2020, Rutgers is hosting a CASE certification institute.
Students Pursuing Careers in Agriscience Education Have a Bright Future
The CASE reports that feeding 9.5 billion people by 2050 will require more food production on less land and with fewer resources. Agriculturalists agree it will require more "STEAM" (Science, Technology, Engineering, Agriculture, and Math) to remain efficient and productive.
According to the Department of Agriculture Office of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources Education and the NJ Association of Agricultural Educators there is a shortage of trained K-12 Agricultural Teachers in NJ. There are 44 agriculture programs in the state and they are unable to fill available positions with teachers from NJ.
According to the National Association of Agricultural Educators there are approximately 12,000 agricultural education position in the U.S. and the demand for positions outstrips the supply of teachers. In addition, potential jobs for those trained in agriculture goes far beyond K-12 education to include jobs like Ag Literacy Coordinator, Agricultural Education Professor, Farm Business Management Instructor, 2-year Technical College Agriculture Instructor, Adult Agricultural Education Instructor and Young Farmer Instructors.
The National FFA organization reports that Agricultural expertise is in demand. Careers in agriculture are wide-ranging, and quality employees are in high demand. According to Purdue University, the 34,500 new graduates with food, agriculture, renewable natural resources and environmental expertise will fill only 61 percent of the expected 57,900 annual job openings.