Complete Guide to an Online Agriculture Degree
This page provides information about 114 online agriculture degrees available at the associate, bachelor's, master's, doctoral, and certificate levels. Agriculture is the study of plant and soil structures as well as the techniques of food and animal production. Those who hold degrees in agriculture may apply their studies to a wide range of careers, including engineering, food science, federal government, organic food production, advocacy, public policy, education, and more.
Students pursuing degrees in agriculture should verify that their colleges and universities have received both institutional accreditation and programmatic accreditation for the agriculture degrees offered. The predominant accrediting agency for agriculture degrees is the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, the agricultural, bioengineering, and environmental branch of the ABET. Students attending programs accredited by this agency can be sure that they are receiving a high quality education.
Comprehensive List of Accredited Online Schools - Agriculture Degrees (36)
Online Agriculture Degree Overview & Career Information
Agriculture degrees are available across all levels of higher education. Associate degrees in agriculture allow students to pursue positions as agricultural and food science technicians as well as apply their credits to a future bachelor's degree. Bachelor's degrees in agriculture allow graduates to pursue careers in engineering, food science, and may be used towards graduate degrees. Master's and doctoral degrees prepare students for independent research, employment in leadership positions, and professorship in higher education.
An associate's degree in agriculture usually comes in the form of a 60-credit, 2-year Associate in Science or Associate of Applied Science, although an Associate of Arts in Agriculture may also be available. Family farmers or homesteaders who may not yet be committed to a full, four-year bachelor's degree can pursue an associate's degree, where students learn the basic knowledge of plant and soil science as well as specific agricultural techniques. Adults can also seek associate's degrees in order to improve their professional prospects, for example to become a food science technician. A potential student may be someone interested in agriculture and farming who will ultimately seek employment in other sectors. Courses may include Insects and Related Forms, Introductory Botany, Horticulture Pathology Lab, Pesticide Certification, Backyard Homesteading, and more. Specialized associate degree programs include sustainable food and farming, agribusiness, and animal management. Many universities have schools of agriculture which offer associate degrees as well as bachelor's and certificates. Associate degrees in agriculture can also be found a local community colleges. Applicants to associate degree programs need a high school degree or equivalent; certain programs require a minimum 2.0 GPA and SAT or ACT scores.
A Bachelor of Science degree in agriculture can be completed in 120 to 180 credits, or four years at a university or college. Those with an associate degree in agriculture may choose to transfer credits to a university and complete their bachelor degree in an additional two years of study. A bachelor's degree in agriculture prepares students for careers in local food and green businesses, urban agriculture, permaculture, herbal medicine, and related jobs in farm-based education, public policy, and community development and advocacy. Students who want to pursue careers in other fields but have an interest in agriculture or wish to homestead can choose agriculture as a second major. Applicants to a bachelor's degree program need a high school degree or equivalent and standardized test scores- either the ACT or SAT depending on the school. Each program may have different minimum requirements for high school GPA and test scores. Coursework will be similar to those taken at the associate's degree level, with additional general education courses, fieldwork requirements, and a final capstone project, depending on the school. Coursework includes business and communication, humanities, arts, math, social sciences, physical sciences, and a certain minimum of upper-division agriculture courses. In addition to these requirements, students take a number of electives of their choice to reach the full number of credits.
The Master of Science degree in Agriculture is a two-year graduate level program. A master's degree prepares graduates for conducting research, innovating and improving systems in plant science, production, use of natural resources, and environmental issues. Related programs and specializations include agricultural economics, sustainable agriculture, food science, environmental and natural resource economics, plant health and management. To enter a graduate program, students must have completed a bachelor's degree with a minimum GPA and graduate test scores (GRE) as established by the school. Graduate level coursework may include engineering management, food sciences, horticulture, natural resource sciences, animal science, soil sciences, statistics, plant pathology, and crop sciences. Master's degree programs also require a final research thesis or examination. In preparation for the final thesis students take courses in methodology and field analysis. Master's degree holders are further prepared to pursue high-level leadership, research, and education positions in diverse agriculture career fields.
Doctoral candidates in agriculture are preparing for careers as scholars in regards to food, land, and animal production. Ph.D programs usually require both a bachelor's and master's degree upon entry to the program; minimum GPA requirements vary per program. Doctorate's usually require 90 graduate course credits beyond the bachelor degree, towards which master's level classes can be counted. These classes include agriculture courses, graduate statistics, multidisciplinary courses, and research credits. Doctoral degrees are completed with a final dissertation of independent research which must be defended before an academic board. The duration of the doctorate program depends on how long the student takes to complete and defend their dissertation. Specialized areas of study and research include agribusiness, agricultural marketing, animal science and nutrition, entomology, integrated pest management, soil and environmental science, and more. Graduates with a Ph.D will be able to conduct research on a focused problem while relating the issue to the agricultural system as a whole, also being able to communicate technical information and explain complex agricultural issues through scientific publications, verbal presentations, and lectures.
Certificate programs in agriculture may be the perfect choice for professionals looking for a career change, high school graduates not ready to go to college full-time, those with a general interest in food, farming, and sustainable living. Certificate programs are less of a time commitment than associate degrees, and take anywhere from a year to 18 months, depending on how long the student takes to complete the credit requirements. Students explore the theoretical and practical implications of agriculture, as well as specialized courses to fit their particular interests within the field. Courses available include Botany for Gardeners, Community Food Systems, Integrated Pest Management, Sustainable Agriculture, Urban Agriculture, and more.
The Importance of an Accredited Online Agriculture Degree
Making sure a program and school are accredited is essential for the degree to be recognized by employers and fellow academic institutions whether for employment, transfer, or graduate degree purposes. Institutions of higher education are accredited by either regional or national accreditation, the former being more prestigious and the latter reserved for more vocational programs. Regional accreditation is administered by seven agencies and divided by geographic region.
Program-specific accreditation is important depending on the field because employers may limit their recognition of degrees to those with both institutional and program accreditation. Agricultural, biological, bioengineering, and environmental programs are accredited by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers (ASABE). ASABE is one of the 33 branches of ABET which is the accrediting agency for engineering, computing, engineering technology, and applied science degree programs. Accreditation is decided by ASABE members who work in academia, industry, government, among other related fields. According to the ASABE website, "the accreditation process is used by universities, colleges and specific degree programs to clarify instructional goals and objectives, enhance program content and improve program delivery."
Careers in Agriculture
A degree or certificate in agriculture prepares students for a wide range of careers in local food and green businesses, urban agriculture, permaculture, herbal medicine, and related jobs in farm-based education, public policy, and community development and advocacy. Agricultural and food scientists need at least a bachelor degree from an accredited institution, and many hold graduate degrees. They work in universities, scientific research and development, and food production or manufacturing facilities. Food science technicians aid scientists in their work by applying chemicals to plants or performing tests, and need an associate's degree with on-the-job training as necessary. Agricultural engineers also need bachelor degrees, usually in agricultural engineering or bioengineering, and may work for the federal government, provide engineering contracting or consultation services, or work for agricultural machinery manufacturers.
- Agricultural and Food Science Technicians. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Accessed July 20, 2016. http://www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/agricultural-and-food-science-technicians.htm.
- Agricultural and Food Scientists. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Accessed July 20, 2016. http://www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/agricultural-and-food-scientists.htm.
- Agricultural Engineers. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Accessed July 20, 2016. http://www.bls.gov/ooh/architecture-and-engineering/agricultural-engineers.htm.
- ASABE Accreditation. ASABE. Accessed July 20, 2016. http://www.asabe.org/news-public-affairs/education-and-outreach/accreditation-activies.aspx.
- Farmers, Ranchers, and Other Agricultural Managers. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Accessed July 20, 2016. http://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/farmers-ranchers-and-other-agricultural-managers.htm.
- College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences Master of Science in Agriculture. Washington State University. Accessed July 20, 2016. http://msag.wsu.edu/.
- Agriculture. Casper College. Accessed July 20, 2016. http://www.caspercollege.edu/agriculture.
- B.S. in Agricultural Sciences – Online. Oregon State University ECampus. Accessed July 20, 2016. http://ecampus.oregonstate.edu/online-degrees/undergraduate/ag/.
- Certificate in Organic Agriculture. University of Georgia. Accessed July 20, 2016. http://organic.uga.edu/.
- Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) Degree. West Texas A&M University. Accessed July 20, 2016. http://www.wtamu.edu/academics/agriculture-graduate-program-phd-ms.aspx.
- SUSTAINABLE FOOD & FARMING ASSOCIATE OF SCIENCE DEGREE. UMassAmherst - Stockbridge School of Agriculture. Accessed July 20, 2016. https://stockbridge.cns.umass.edu/SFF-AS.