A total of 221 students studying agricultural science took part in the Irish Farmers Journal student survey on the jobs market in November 2023.

Representing the future workforce, it is important to get students’ opinions on the farming sector and what they consider important when selecting careers.

When students who intend to work off-farm were asked what salaries they expect to earn, 11% of female students selected the highest salary bracket of “over €45,000”, compared to 39% of males.

This indicates female agricultural science students expect to earn less than their male peers.

Fifty-eight per cent of student participants in the survey were female and 42% were male.

Future plans

It is positive news for the industry and companies looking to hire recent graduates as 98% of students in the survey responded “yes” to staying in the agricultural industry after they finish college.

In terms of their plans for immediately after college, 24% of students said they want to further their education by going on to do a master’s or PhD. Nineteen per cent said they are hoping to do a graduate programme, with 24% looking for a job within the industry.

Twelve per cent said they want to travel with 17% hoping to go straight into farming. See Figure 2.

Figure 3 shows that for those who intend to go into farming immediately after college, 78% believe they will need to farm part-time and get an off-farm job as well. Nineteen per cent said they will be farming full-time and 3% said other.

Student expectations

When looking for a job after college, 38% of students said career progression is the most important factor to them, see Figure 4.

Thirty per cent of students indicated it was the salary. The students rated job stability at 11% and finding a job related to their degree as 15% in terms of importance. Getting a job with a hybrid working structure was the least important factor for 6% of responses.

In terms of pay, there was a mixed response.

Fifty-six per cent of students said they feel that graduate jobs in the agricultural industry are on par with other industries regarding salaries, and 44% said no.

Figure 5 presents an overview of students’ salary expectations for graduate roles for those intending to work off-farm.

Females have indicated they expect to get paid less than male respondents in the highest earning bracket of over 45,000.

Overall, the majority of students are expecting to earn €30,000 to €35,000 in graduate roles.

Funding college

The majority of students in the survey are funding their college expenses with a part-time job, see Figure 6. Twenty-nine per cent are relying solely on their parents’ support, 17% are working a summer job and 2% are having to take out a loan from a bank or credit union.

Agricultural science students have a bright view on farming in Ireland, as 57% of respondents in the survey said “positive” when indicating their outlook of farming, see Figure 7.

Student opinions

Some students (anonymously) gave their opinions on the future of jobs in the agriculture industry.

Student one

“The agri industry is moving in a direction where the EU is not wanting the land to be farmed and all the schemes are moving in this direction. Not enough agricultural products are being pushed by the Government or the EU.

“It’s concerning as an agri student looking for an undergraduate programme or possibly doing a master’s (trying to decipher), where the job sector for agri students will be in the next few years.

Irish farmers, especially sheep and beef farmers, have a very bleak outlook and rely on CAP payments. Does a new graduate pursue their interests or go in the direction the Government is moving?”

Student two

“I hope to see more women in the agricultural sector.”

Student three

“Great variety of jobs both in industry and in farm, plenty of job vacancies at the moment.”

Student four

“Big demand for the services that all the different agricultural companies provide.

“As farming evolves and becomes more specialised, regulated and technologically reliant, farmers will become more and more reliant on service providers for advice and support on how best to operate their farms and remain compliant with regulations, etc.

“This will fuel a requirement for employees in providing services and products required by the industry.”

Student five

“There are plenty of opportunities for research and development work given the current and future challenges facing the agricultural industry, but farming needs to be made more appealing to young farmers, as the only draw to go farming is a passionate love for the job.”

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