Growth in Career Opportunities for Iowa State Agriculture Students Mirrors National Report

May 11th, 2015

AMES, Iowa — An Iowa State University career specialist who contributed to a national five-year agricultural employment report says the outlook is bright for jobs related to food, agriculture, renewable natural resources or the environment.

“It’s good news for our students and graduates,” said Mike Gaul, director of career services in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Iowa State.

“Nationally, there are not enough agricultural students to meet the demand so employers are leaning on associated majors to fill the gap.”

Gaul served as contributor and consultant on a national report on employment outlook released May 11 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture and Purdue University.

The report, Employment Opportunities for College Graduates in Food, Agriculture, Renewable Natural Resources, and the Environment, United States, 2015–2020, estimates 57,900 job openings annually in the food, agriculture, renewable natural resources and environment fields.

Nearly half of the opportunities will be in management and business, according to the report, with 27 percent projected to be in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Jobs in food and biomaterials production will make up 15 percent, and 12 percent of the openings will be in education, communication and governmental services.

Gaul said for recent agriculture and life sciences graduates from ISU, the hot areas lately have been in fields of agricultural business, agronomy, food science, horticulture and agriculture education. The College of Agriculture and Life Sciences’ placement rate for recent graduates has been 97 percent or higher for the past 17 years. For the most recent year, the placement rate is 98.4 percent. Fifteen of the college’s majors had rates higher than 98.4 percent for the most recent year.

Gaul said pending retirements among baby boomers will increasingly be more important because of an improving economy compared to the period reflected in the previous five-year report.

“We’ve certainly seen dramatic increases in the number of employers seeking our graduates at our annual fall-semester career fair, which is the largest in the nation,” said Gaul. “Last fall we had a record 269 employers attend. Employers conducted 799 interviews on campus the day after our career day and 1,650 for the academic year.”

“The report includes good advice that students should seek internships during college,” said Gaul. “We recently surveyed our students on their summer internships and found they were overwhelmingly positive on the quality of their experiences. Eighty-five percent rated their mentors as excellent or very good. About 73 percent participated in internships based in Iowa.”

Gaul said internships often are a feeder system for full-time jobs. “We’ve found that many students completing internships are offered full-time positions. For students who weren’t seniors about to graduate, nearly 74 percent received offers to return to work for their employers the next summer.”

The national report emphasizes the importance of students being geographically mobile when looking for work. That, too, is an important part of the story for graduates in agriculture and life sciences, said Gaul, although he added that 73 percent of recent graduates start their careers in the state of Iowa.

The USDA began issuing five-year employment outlooks in 1980. This year is the second time that Gaul has served as a consultant for the report.

The report, Employment Opportunities for College Graduates in Food, Agriculture, Renewable Natural Resources, and the Environment, United States, 2015–2020, is available at


Mike Gaul, Agriculture and Life Sciences Career Services, (515) 294-4725,
Ed Adcock, Agriculture and Life Sciences Communications Service, (515) 294-2314,