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The University of Tennessee | Institute of Agriculture

Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics

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Future Looks Bright for Ag & Resource Economics Grads

Students who graduate with a bachelor’s degree in Agricultural and Resource Economics will be entering their job field with one of the lowest unemployment rates and one of the higher starting salaries among college graduates. In fact, USDA published findings that indicate there will be more job openings than can be filled by these graduates—they’re in demand.

According to USDA, an average of 35,400 new U.S. graduates with expertise in food, agriculture, renewable natural resources, or the environment are expected to fill 61% of the expected 57,900 average annual openings: that’s 22,500 short of the projected jobs available annually.

Even among Agriculture and Natural Resources majors, agricultural economics and food science majors earn the most, according to Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce analysis of U.S. Census Bureau.

“Last year, bachelor degree graduates in Agricultural and Resource Economics averaged a starting salary of $45,000: that’s the second highest on campus,” says Delton Gerloff, department head of the University of Tennessee’s Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics.

“When our starting salaries are combined with one of the lowest unemployment rates, it gives our graduates a great opportunity to excel in job placement,” says Gerloff. “Our students continue to be hired in well-paying jobs in such areas as banking, finance, natural resources, management, and marketing in both the public and private sectors.”

The USDA study also revealed that graduates who have completed internships or have relevant work experiences are more likely to be hired. 2014 graduate, Peyton Fair, demonstrates this as her Farm Credit Scholars internship in Washington, D.C. led to a career upon graduation. “This program puts student success at the forefront and I am grateful to UT and Farm Credit Mid-America for the excellent partnership that allowed me to be where I am today. I believe that the Farm Credit Scholars program embodies the spirit of UT and exemplifies the Ag Econ department’s commitment to the future of the agricultural industry,” says Fair.


UT’s Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics is bustling as enrollment has doubled since last year. The department offers students:

  • Two undergraduate majors (Food & Agricultural Business; and Natural Resource & Environmental Economics);
  • Master of Science Program with a major in Agricultural & Resource Economics (concentrations in Agricultural Economics; and Natural Resource Economics; AND a dual MS/MBA Program); and a
  • PhD Program in Natural Resources with a concentration in Natural Resource Economics.

“Our faculty members are driven to make students’ learning experiences meaningful and applicable. Each of our majors has an assigned departmental faculty advisor who teaches in the classroom. To provide current and relevant classroom teaching material, our faculty members continue to excel in research,” says Gerloff.

In a recently released global ranking of Agricultural Economics departments, UT was ranked 31st nationally and 78th globally for the number of Regional Science Journal Publications. This high level of research is incorporated into the curriculum and into hands of Extension personnel who can then send it throughout the state to help Tennesseans.