Ag School Degrees Useless? Think Again

Students and experts react in retrospect to a 2012 Yahoo! article that listed agriculture as the most useless college major.

By Claire Vath | Photos By Art Meripol

When Murray State Alumni panelist Kelly Brannon broached the topic of the hotly contested 2012 Yahoo! article that listed agriculture as the most useless college major, all the other panelists nodded. They’d all seen the report when it came out. And they all shrugged it off as subjective. The article (found here: http://education.yahoo.net/articles/most_useless_degrees.htm) authored by Terence Loose, was based on a study released by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE, naceweb.org), which surveyed some 1,000 employers on future hiring plans.

Natalia Vega checks the blood smear on her slide in a veterinary technology lab at Murray State University.

Natalia Vega checks the blood smear on her slide in a veterinary technology lab at Murray State University.

The result? An agriculture major ranked No. 1 in terms of “most useless.” To add further insult, rounding out the top five were animal science and horticulture as No. 4 and No. 5, respectively.

Loose cited university programs being cut and fewer farm jobs due to consolidation. The article also quoted a U.S. Department of Labor projection that there will be “64,000 fewer jobs in this field over the next seven years.”

While some shrugged it off, others chose to address Loose’s article, pointing out why the report was inaccurate. Here are a few of our favorite responses:

The Huffington Post featured a response from Allen S. Levine, dean of the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences and Director of the Minnesota Obesity Center, University of Minnesota: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/allen-s-levine/useless-college-majors_b_1217401.html

Dr. Thomas Scott, dean of the College of Agriculture, Forestry and Life Sciences at Clemson University, also weighed in: http://www.clemson.edu/cafls/news_research/news/agricultural_science_majors_hardly_a_useless_pursuit.html

And FFA, an organization designed to point students toward agriculture majors and careers, had this to say: http://nationalffa.wordpress.com/2012/01/20/ag-students-take-heart-your-degrees-arent-useless/

While Loose’s article may have relied largely on one study, a few statistics and a snappy headline to draw in readers to yahoo.com, it was heartening to see those in agriculture stand up for what they believe. And that is what the Murray State alums and current students stand behind: Agriculture education is crucial.

Interestingly, later that same year, the same author posted a “Best and Worst Degrees for Employment,” and agriculture was voted as the No. 3 lowest unemployment area of study. (http://education.yahoo.net/articles/best_and_worst_degrees.htm), which meant, it could be argued, ag was suddenly near the top for most USEFUL of those degrees studied. “Hey, someone’s got to feed the world,” Loose wrote.

<< See the full story, “Major Changes: The New Boom in Ag Education”