Ag teachers never have the same day twice. One day they might be in a classroom or laboratory, the next visiting students in the field, preparing teams for a FFA Career Development Event, or leading a community service activity with their FFA Chapter.
Agricultural educators are often on extended contracts, which means they get paid during the summer months and have the potential to earn a significantly higher salary than other teachers.
Agricultural education prepares students to be problem solvers, leaders, entrepreneurs and agriculturalists through the use of its three-circle model. Classroom and laboratory instruction, leadership development, and experiential learning all combine to offer students a well-rounded education that will prepare them for college and the workforce, as well as teach them how to be educated consumers.
Because ag education has evolved greatly in the last 25 years, ag programs may look different from school to school. Today, there are over 11,000 middle and high school ag teachers, in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. This number does not include the hundreds of ag teachers in community and technical colleges or adult farm management instructors.
Agriculture teachers teach a variety of subjects. From small animal science to crop technology, many agriculture programs focus on the needs of their communities. Agriculture teachers have advisory boards who meet to discuss what classes are important for students to take. Do you live in an area with a lot of beef cattle operations? You'll likely teach large animal science. Do you live in an urban area? Then you will most likely teach horticulture and small animal care courses. Agriculture teachers also teach agriscience and other courses that incorporate and focus on STEM principles. The following is a list of classes that current ag teachers are teaching. Keep in mind that you do not have to be an expert in all these areas. You may teach three or four different classes a year, or as many as 14.
The average starting salary for an agriculture teacher is $42,071. Teacher salaries vary from state to state, even school district to school district. Compensation also depends on your level of education, as well as your classroom experience. The total compensation package for an ag teacher will vary by state and school district. The package may include health and retirement benefits, vacation time, sick days, and extra-curricular duties. Many agriculture teachers are also paid on extended contracts because of the amount of extra work they put in during the summer months for Supervised Agricultural Experience (SAE) visits, professional development, fairs, livestock shows, leadership events, etc.
To become an agriculture teacher, you have to attend a four-year institution and major in agricultural education (or the equivalent degree at that particular university), in order to be licensed to teach in your state. Many state departments of education have additional requirements, like pursuing a Master's degree, in order to secure a teaching certificate. For more information about your state's specific requirements, click here.
There are many different postsecondary institutions that offer agricultural education degrees. It is important to take into account the location of the school, goals and mission of the program, and the success rates of recent graduates. You don't have to attend a school just because it is close to home. Many students go out of state to pursue their degree. Just make sure you are certified in the state you would like to teach in. Many states vary in their requirements for teachers. Some states honor teaching certificates from other states, while others do not. You can also attend a community college and later transfer to a four-year degree institution, if that fits your needs. Click here to find a program that best suits you.
Each school's undergraduate program is unique. The best way to determine if the program is a good fit for you is to visit the campus and talk to those majoring in agricultural education, or a recent ag ed graduate from that school. Having an ag education major does provide you with a diverse background in agriculture, as well as education. You will take classes related to human relations and diversity, as well as general teaching method courses. You will also take agriculture-specific classes like animal science, crops, welding, horticulture, natural resources, along with a variety of science-related courses. You will graduate with a vast knowledge of agriculture in a wide variety of areas.
The agriculture industry is constantly changing, so it is very important for agriculture teachers to stay up-to-date on all of the new advancements and information regarding the agriculture industry. Each state's agriculture teachers association, as well as the National Association of Agricultural Educators offer a wide array of professional development options to help teachers stay current in the classroom. These opportunities include things like workshops on small engines or panel discussions with other agriculture teachers on best practices in the classroom. Once you become an agriculture teacher, the opportunities to learn and collaborate with others is endless.
Depending on which state you are certified to teach in, you may be eligible to teach agriculture at the middle school level. Middle school agriculture programs are becoming increasingly popular in many states and provide a unique opportunity for students to learn about agriculture at a younger age. Most traditional agriculture programs work with students in grades 7-12.
The best person to begin the conversation with is your agriculture teacher, or an agriculture teacher that you know personally. If your school does not have an ag program, or you just want to learn more about the profession, visit our school finder page. Here you will find the contact information and websites for ag education degree programs all over the United States. Other good resources might be state FFA officers or agriculture teachers from other schools near you.
Each state's department of education maintains a listing of current, available teaching positions, in all subject areas. Most listings are available online through each state department of education's website. Teach Ag maintains a listing of links that will direct you to these websites, and often to the place where agricultural education jobs, in particular, are listed. Click here to access that list.
Agriculture teachers consider themselves a family group. They help each other out, which is one of the most rewarding parts of being an agriculture teacher. The relationships you build with other ag teachers by going to workshops, conventions, conferences, and other professional opportunities are great ways to give and receive support. Many states have mentoring programs for new agriculture teachers. These mentors will guide you through your first few years on the job and help you become more successful.
Each state has its own professional agriculture teachers association, along with other organizations for teachers of all subjects. The National Association of Agricultural Educators (NAAE) is the national professional organization for agriculture teachers. NAAE provides leadership, advocacy, and professional development for agriculture teachers across the United States. NAAE has a board of directors, which is comprised of current agriculture teachers, who conduct business related to the ag education profession. Undergraduate and graduate ag education majors can join NAAE for $10 a year. This membership provides you with liability insurance for when you are in the classroom, along with scholarship, internship, and professional development opportunities. For more information about NAAE click here.
The sky is truly the limit with an ag education degree. While most graduates work in schools or postsecondary settings, many go on to pursue careers in other areas. Ag education majors have a background in communications, agriculture, leadership, and human relations, which prepares them for a multitude of career options. Ag education graduates are employed in every field across the world, from government positions to business and industry. Even George Strait majored in ag education.
Absolutely not! Since agriculture is such a broad subject, we need individuals with all experiences and backgrounds to become agriculture teachers. Urban agriculture is also gaining in popularity, along with agriculture programs in urban school districts. There are agriculture programs in both Chicago and New York City, along with many other large cities in the United States. The things you must possess are a strong work ethic, willingness to learn, dependability, and a passion for working with young people in a school setting.
It is important to be as well-rounded as possible when preparing for postsecondary education. If possible, enroll in your school’s ag program and join the FFA chapter. If your school does not have an ag program, take classes in math, science, speech, and theater. You will want to take courses that will help you learn to express yourself and articulate your thoughts. Talk with your teachers to see if you can teach agriculture lessons to elementary school students. Whenever possible, take on leadership roles that will help you develop your public speaking, teamwork, problem solving, and creative skills.
Currently, there is a national shortage of agriculture teachers. Many states have more agriculture teaching positions available than teachers to fill the positions. The National Teach Ag Campaign Parent Resources page has information about certification requirements and job demand in your state.
There are many different options available to you to pay for your degree. Many state and local organizations offer scholarships. Check with your guidance counselor about your scholarship opportunities. Also, call your state department of education and the postsecondary institution you are planning to attend for more scholarship information and opportunities. The National Association of Agricultural Educators (NAAE) also offers an Upper Division Scholarship for student-teachers. You can also find information here about financial aid, loans, scholarships, and federal loan forgiveness. Many states offer loan forgiveness once you begin teaching, as long as you are able to meet certain requirements.