Federal agricultural consultants are employed by the USDA to assist county extension officers and supervisors in planning, developing, and coordinating national, regional, and state extension programs. They are headquartered in Washington, D.C. County agricultural agents may be employed jointly by the Department of Agriculture and the agricultural college in each state.
County agents may also specialize, especially in those counties employing more than two or three agents. Many counties with diverse agricultural businesses and farms will often have five or more agents. A single county may employ specialists in fruit and grain production, dairy, poultry production, farm machinery, pest control, soils, nursery management, conservation, and livestock.
While your college's career services office may be of some help in finding a job, you will need to apply to the director of the extension service at the agricultural college in the state in which you hope to work. If a job vacancy is available, the director of the extension service will screen the qualifications of the various applicants and submit the names to a board or council responsible for making the final selection.
Competent consultants, as a rule, are promoted fairly rapidly and early in their careers. The promotions may be in the form of positions of higher responsibility within the same county, reassignment to a different county within the state, or an increase in salary. Many agents, after moving through a succession of more demanding extension jobs, join the staff at the state agricultural college. Many directors of extension services began their careers in this way.
It is also possible to branch out to other areas. Agricultural consultants often go into related jobs, especially those in industries that specialize in agricultural products. The training they have received and their background in agriculture makes them excellent candidates for many jobs in the agricultural industry.
Tips for Entry
Use social media such as LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter to stay up to date on industry developments, network, and learn about job openings. There are many agricultural-related groups on LinkedIn that can provide networking opportunities and information on trends in the field.
Participate in agriculture-related internships or part-time jobs that are arranged by your college’s career services office.
Conduct information interviews with agricultural consultants and ask them for advice on preparing for and entering the field.