Home' The Good Universities Guide : The Good Universities Guide 2017 Contents AGRICULTURE 73
What majors can I study?
The following are just some of the majors you can study in this
What you’re in for
Agriculture is a small but varied field — certainly not just for future
farmers. Perceptions that jobs in the field are scarce (and poorly
paid) may have contributed to low enrolment numbers, but the
reality is that many students may not even know what these jobs
are or what constitutes agriculture.
Although agriculture is a highly specialised field of study, it
actually offers some very diverse options. Some courses cover
the ‘basics’ — such as crop and animal science — but many
explore areas that show students how to create a profitable
business. This means that agriculture and related courses often
incorporate subject areas such as computing and IT, economics,
engineering and marketing. Much falls under the broad banner of
‘agriculture’, and it can suit those with interests and skills that
range from farming and production to business and science.
This is essentially a vocational field of study, so you should
expect that most agriculture specialisations will prepare you for
work in relevant jobs and industries. Workers in agriculture
cultivate and manage natural resources, most commonly in
primary industries such as forestry, dairy, cattle, aquaculture,
livestock and crop management, and other niche industries such
as organic farming and winemaking.
For more information about careers in the industry, check out the
Australian Institute of Agricultural Science and Technology
website at www.aginstitute.com.au.
Other fields of study likely to appeal to someone interested in
agriculture include environmental studies, science, and business
and management. Veterinary science is an option for those with
interests in animals and medicine.
Courses and specialisations
So, what should you study? Agriculture itself is concerned with
the cultivation of land, but this is only one of a wide range of
specialisations offered in the field. Winemaking is self-
explanatory, as are forestry and fisheries, but arboriculture (the
cultivation of trees and shrubs) and agronomy (the applied study
of soil science) are less likely to be common vocabulary for
prospective students. We recommend doing some careful
research into different courses and the related careers before
making your choice.
Some courses are more suitable if you’re good at science (such
as plant genetics). Others are better for the business-minded,
with a focus on applying management principles to various
agricultural sub-sectors, such as rural management and forestry
management, or preparing students for roles closer to the
commercial end of the agricultural industries (agribusiness, for
instance). The variation in focus makes your choice of course
very important. Look at both the title of the course and the course
outline to make sure you get what you want. The best of them will
usually balance a focus on basic science or business with the
‘nitty gritty’ of industry production, process and technology.
Where to study
There should be a range of opportunities for practical work in
most, if not all, specialisations. Look through course outlines to
see how much time you’ll spend on fieldwork and in work
placements and internships throughout the course. In addition to
off-campus practical learning, many institutions boast facilities
that simulate the industry environment or projects — expect to
find anything from indoor riding arenas and swamps to farms and
vineyards. Make sure the facilities suit your specialisation before
making your choice.
Courses in this field are scattered widely across the country —
many are at regional universities or rural campuses of
metropolitan universities, although you’ll still find a good selection
in the city. Note that some specialisations will be better suited to
study in particular parts of the country, such as tropical agriculture
in the north.
Entry difficulty is not typically a deciding factor, as most courses
are fairly accessible. Some will require or allow students to live on
campus. Certain programs skip formal prerequisites, while others
will require subjects like English, mathematics and various
To compare entry difficulty at different institutions, see the ‘How
tough is it to get in?’ tables in Section 4.
Climate change and the continually rising global population are
projected to threaten the world’s food supply. As a result,
agriculture and land management are set to become more
relevant in the future — even though enrolment numbers are
among the lowest of all fields of study.
In a bid to strengthen agricultural education, new national
standards were released in 2015 following consultation with
industry, academics and graduates. Part of the Agriculture
Learning and Teaching Academic Standards (AgLTAS) project,
the standards will help to raise the profile of agricultural education
and ensure graduates hold the skills and knowledge needed by
Crop and pasture science
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