Author: Bell, Lindsay W; Biddulph, Ben
Organisation: Agricultural Science
Published: June 2009
There is concern about the declining number and quality of people entering careers in agricultural science, a situation which may reduce the human capacity to support agricultural industries in the future. The perceptions and experiences of some early career agricultural scientists may provide some insights into how the appeal of a career in agricultural science might be improved. We surveyed 24 early-career agricultural scientists to investigate why they chose to study agricultural science, and their perceptions of the advantages and disadvantages of that choice. Four main reasons for pursuing a career in agricultural science were given by respondents: a connection with agriculture (80%); an interest in science and learning (68%); the real-world applications of job possibilities (35%); and lifestyle benefits (30%). The main disadvantages were perceived to be: low pay (64%); the lack of continuity in the career path (50%); and tenure or job security (36%). The main advantages of the career choice included job satisfaction and flexibility, personal satisfaction, diversity of work opportunities, and an agreeable lifestyle. This research indicates that people working in agriculture generally chose to do so for personal satisfaction rather than remuneration. However, the results do raise issues of job security and continuity, which may deter some from either entering or continuing a career in agricultural science. Improving the appeal of agricultural science as a career seems to depend on creating greater awareness among rural school leavers and their advisors about what agricultural science involves as a profession. Moreover, providing greater continuity and clarity of career path is also likely to contribute to its appeal. Universities, professional organisations, and research and development agencies all have a stake in helping to achieve this.