Careers in agriculture are diverse, rewarding, and in demand. USDA offers employment opportunities for students and recent graduates to work in the agricultural, science, technology, math, environmental, management, business, and other fields. Visit our USDA Agencies Career Grid (PDF, 79 KB) to see which agencies employ your field of interest. From the classroom to the workplace, the USDA supports student engagement, recruitment, retention, and agricultural workforce development.
Fast Facts on Careers in Agriculture
- More than 200 career options in research, production, processing, and distribution
- > 57,000 new jobs in agriculture-related fields created annually
- > 21 million people employed in agriculture-related fields
- USDA has more than two dozen agencies and offices with nearly 100,000 employees who serve the American people at more than 4,500 locations across the U.S. and abroad
Start your career at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The USDA offers federal internship and employment opportunities for current students, recent graduates, recent veterans, and those with advanced degrees. There are three pathway opportunities.
The Pathways Internship Program provides year-round paid work experiences for current degree-seeking high-school, undergraduate, and graduate students. Interns may work during the summer, fall, spring or year-round and are eligible for non-competitive conversion upon program completion.
The Pathways Recent Graduates Program is for graduates within two years of degree or certificate completion, and for veterans within 6 years of obtaining a degree. Fellows are placed in a one-year career development program that may be non-competitively converted upon completion of program requirements.
The Presidential Management Fellows Program is the flagship leadership development program for advanced degree candidates. In addition to salary and benefits, fellows earn a two-year appointment that may be converted to a permanent appointment.
The OneUSDA internship program is a comprehensive developmental program intended to provide students with experience in a dynamic work environment that will enhance their educational goals and shape their career choices. As part of the Federal Pathways Program, the OneUSDA Internship will provide students a way to explore serving their country through a career in government while gaining work experience in agriculture, natural resources, rural development, and other career fields.
The USDA/1890 National Scholars Program is a partnership between USDA and the 1890 historically black land-grant colleges and universities (PDF, 1.2 MB). The program provides full tuition, fees, books, room and board to students pursuing degrees in agriculture, food, natural resource sciences, or related academic disciplines. When the student has completed the academic and summer work requirements of the scholarship, USDA may at its discretion convert the student to a permanent employee without further competition.
The U.S. Youth Conservation Corps (YCC) is a summer youth employment program that engages young people, ages 15 to 18, in meaningful work experiences in national parks, forests, wildlife refuges, and fish hatcheries. Youth are engaged in fun, exciting work projects designed to develop an ethic of environmental stewardship and civic responsibility. Projects include building and repairing trails; preserving and repairing historic buildings; removing invasive species; helping with wildlife and land research; and leading environmental education.
Accomplishment in the Great Outdoors
“It’s hard work, but it’s also fun work,” said one student from Fort Washington, Maryland, who joined dozens of teens from around the country for a summer trailbuilding project with the Youth Conservation Corps.
Third-Party Internship Programs
USDA partners with a wide variety of organizations to provide students the opportunity to work with our 19 agencies and gain practical experience in different fields. Each of these programs provide differing benefits for students. Recruitment and selection is completed by the host programs.
Working with the World Food Prize, USDA offers exceptional college students the opportunity to collaborate with scientists and policymakers through paid fellowships at USDA research centers and offices across the United States. Fellows help analyze agricultural and economic policy; assist in the management of food, nutrition and rural development programs; and take part in groundbreaking field and laboratory-based research. Fellows also participate in a weeklong symposium hosted by the USDA in Washington, D.C. Named for Henry A. Wallace and George Washington Carver, two of American leaders in agricultural science and policy who made significant strides toward ending hunger, the Wallace-Carver Fellowship seeks to educate, inspire and train the next generation of agricultural leaders.
Next Generation Economist
"I am thrilled to have broadened my experience with USDA," said Grant Gustaffson, a 2017 USDA Wallace-Carver Fellow who was placed at the USDA Economic Research Service. "I analyzed and compiled a literature review of diverse economic journal articles to contribute to new research on the intersection between rural labor markets, entrepreneurship, and development."
The Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU) is a nonprofit organization that advocates on behalf of Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs) representing more than 493 member institutions across the United States. The HACU National Internship Program places students in federal and corporate internships. USDA has partnered with the HACU for more than 24 years to provide over 2,700 college students with paid spring, summer, or fall internships at various USDA offices in Washington, D.C. as well as field offices. The program gives undergraduate and graduate students valuable professional experience in the federal sector. Students are recruited based on academic performance, leadership, and community service.
Gaining Knowledge, Gainful Employment
Keven Valentin parlayed his HACU internship into a USDA employment as a Commodity Procurement Financial Analyst with the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service. “As I look back on my experience as a HACU intern working at AMS, I really appreciate the way the program works with USDA and other organizations. HACU placed me in an organization and position that matched my educational background. Working with the Commodity Procurement staff turned out to be a great fit for me.”
The CAPAL program provides agencies with highly qualified internship candidates representing groups that are currently under-represented within the federal workforce. CAPAL interns hail from a diverse set of the country’s most prominent universities including UC Berkeley, University of Chicago, University of Pennsylvania, and Harvard University.
Intern Spotlight Maki O’Bryan ’17
Maki O’Bryan studied political science at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. In 2017, she interned at the USDA Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights.
TMCF supports and represents students attending HBCUs across the country. This program accepts undergraduate students with at least a sophomore standing, graduate, and professional students. Applicants must maintain at least a 3.0 G.P.A. with strong verbal and written communication skills. They must able to demonstrate strong initiative and drive, in the following fields: science, technology, engineering, agriculture, mathematics, or business.
Discover your career! Did you know that agriculture is much more than farming? These are just some of the careers in the food, agriculture, natural resources, and human sciences. For more stories watch this series of ag career video interviews produced by the Utah State University Extension, Agriculture in the Classroom.
National FFA and Discovery Education have joined forces to help explore the many careers in agriculture. Learn more about which career may be right for you through videos, career pages, and an interactive Career Finder tool.