Agricultural & Horticultural
The agricultural and horticultural industry is responsible for managing some of Australia’s natural resources in a variety of ways.
Agricultural encompasses a breadth of produce including:
- Grains and plant produce
- Dairy produce
- Animal meat and related produce
- Cotton and wool produce
The agriculture industry is divided into two core areas:
- Growers: including crops, which could be grown outdoors or using indoor/covered growing techniques.
- Farmers: including sheep, cattle, poultry, deer and other livestock such as chickens.
Australia plays a big role internationally in the export of agricultural services and products, especially across beef, lamb, wool, cotton and sugar. Around 70% of all Australian farmed produce is exported globally.
The horticultural industry encompasses:
- Fruit and vegetables produce
- Nuts and seeds
- Flowers, turf and nursery products
The industry operates in a competitive domestic and international market, is very labour intensive and mostly seasonal.
Horticultural roles can be divided into two areas:
- Production: supporting the growth and production of seasonal plants and natural resources for sale/export.
- Amenity: supporting the growth and production of plants for recreational/residential purposes.
Both the agricultural and horticultural industries are reliant on seasonal work due to the nature of the services and products they work with. It can be a demanding but incredibly satisfying industry to build a career in!
What You Could Do
Roles across the industry are extremely varied and include a mix of low-skilled, entry-level roles, highly-skilled roles, and professional roles requiring in-depth and specialised knowledge/expertise.
Here’s a look at some of the top jobs you could pursue:
- Agricultural Consultant: Agricultural consultants work with farmers to address various issues or concerns, such as improving crop or livestock production, dealing with weeds or pests, improving soil health, and managing business processes. Agricultural consultants usually work across various locations, providing individualised and tailored support to farmers and businesses who need their expertise.
- Animal Nutritionist: Animal nutritionists act as dietitians for animals and livestock, creating healthy meals that meet the dietary requirements of animals in their care. They review different factors, including the activities the animal is involved in (for example, milk production, reproduction, egg-laying). Animal nutritionists work alongside veterinarians, farmers and other animal professionals. Animal nutritionists can work in farming, zoos, livestock feed manufacturers, and other environments concerned with the care of animals.
- Farm Manager: Farm managers are responsible for overseeing the day-to-day functions of an agricultural business. This can include administrative responsibilities, hiring experienced staff, and managing budgets and project management. It also involves a range of practical responsibilities such as selecting crops and livestock, harvesting and selling crops and responding to pests and other environmental factors. Farm managers work almost exclusively on farms, where they may also live either seasonally or full-time. Some farm managers may own the business, or families may hire them to manage the intense management of a family farm/agricultural business.
- Sustainability Consultant: Sustainability consultants help agricultural clients find sustainable solutions to their problems and business processes. This means drawing on ideas from science, business, and other disciplines to source outcomes that preserve environmental diversity and integrity and ensure the land is prosperous for generations to come. Sustainability consultants may work with individual farms and businesses, or they may work for local/national government departments, providing expertise and guidance to support policy development across the sector.
- Horticulturist: A Horticulturist is responsible for the successful growth and production of different plant species. They may also coordinate research programs for selective crops. Horticulturists need to have extensive knowledge about a wide variety of trees, flowers, vegetables, nuts, bushes, and fruits – particularly native plants – and which ones grow well in what conditions. They also need excellent seasonal knowledge to understand when and where to plant certain species and how to diagnose issues with the growth or production of certain plant species.
These job roles are only just scratching the surface!
The best way to learn more and help form decisions about the roles available and what you might be suited for is to conduct as much research as you can and build a profile from there.
Graduate Outcomes & Gender Split
While a degree is crucial for every role or career pathway into the agricultural and horticultural industry, it can help to know what employment from this route looks like.
The Graduates Outcome Survey tracks graduate employment across different industry sectors.
Here’s a look at some graduate outcomes for agricultural studies:
- Agriculture and environmental studies Graduates in Full-Time Employment: 67.4%
- Agriculture and environmental studies Graduates in Employment Overall: 84.4%
Keep in mind that this doesn’t account for graduates working part-time and/or who may have continued to higher studies; these are promising percentages!
*Figures from 2020 survey results.
The gender split across the industry depends on the segment of the sector you work within. The agricultural and horticultural industry has typically been very male-dominated, but this is beginning to shift.
Recent statistics indicate the split for the agricultural and horticultural industry is:
Current surveys in the sector indicate the median salaries for full-time roles in this industry as:
- Agricultural Consultant: $78,000 to $103,999
- Farm Hand/Assitant Roles: $47-$55,000
- Farm Manager Roles: $76-$93,000
- Horticulturist Roles: $64-$85,000
- Horticultural Assistant Roles: $43-$58,000
Salaries can be pretty varied, with lower expectations for entry-level roles.
Salaries are also determined by several factors, including:
- The segment of the industry you work within.
- Your job title and seniority.
- The amount of experience you have.
- Location, some rural areas may pay less than roles in main cities.
According to the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment, there are around 89,400 agricultural businesses across Australia.
Labour and farmhand professionals are a key input to the agriculture industry, and recent reports indicate that employment has fallen by 25% over the past three decades.
Australian farms employed 326,000 workers on average during 2018 and 2019, including full-time, part-time, casual and contract employees.
The Department advises that variations in employment on Australian farms result from changes in the use of casual and contract labour throughout the year.
Agricultural and horticultural farms tend to use relatively large amounts of casual and contract labour at crucial times of the year, while broadacre and dairy farms tend to use this kind of labour more consistently through the year.
Although traditional employment may be declining, technological advances, an increased focus on developing sustainable practices, and the need for more innovative farming developments mean the sector is opening up new job roles and career pathways all the time. The industry is definitely growing, just in different ways to those that it may have seen historically.
Qualifications and Entry Pathways
For some professional roles, a bachelor degree can set you up well with the foundation of theory and knowledge to help you build a successful career in the industry.
Degree pathways you could pursue include:
- Bachelor of Agricultural Sciences
- Bachelor of Applied Data Analytics (Agriculture)
- Bachelor of Agriculture and Environmental Science
- Bachelor of Science (Advanced)
- Bachelor of Science (Animal Science)
- Bachelor of Viticulture & Oenology
For some pathways, vocational education and training (VET) courses can offer specialised and valuable springboards into agricultural and horticultural careers.
Relevant qualifications you could pursue include:
- Certificate III in Agriculture
- Certificate IV in Agriculture
- Diploma of Applied Agronomy
- Diploma of Agriculture
- Diploma of Organic Farming
Other pathway options might include:
- Scoring an apprenticeship or traineeship: You can start a school-based apprenticeship or traineeship from Yr 9 and work to gain industry-specific qualifications alongside your certificate of education and work experience.
- Work experience once you leave school: If you leave school at 16, you can apply for work experience and school-leaver programs in entry-level positions and work your way up over time. Many organisations will also support you to gain further professional qualifications. You’ll need a robust skill set and good grades in Maths and English as a minimum.
Requirements will depend on the type of role you want and the company – so make sure you do some research.
Whatever your circumstances, grades or preferred way forward – there’s a qualification pathway that will work for you.
Best Places to Study
Where you choose to study will be dependent on a range of factors, but some universities are rated higher than others for specific subjects.
Some of the best-rated universities for agricultural studies include:
- University of Western Australia
- University of Sydney
- University of Melbourne
- University of Adelaide
- University of New South Wales
- Monash University
- University of Newcastle
- Deakin University
- University of South Australia
Where to Learn More
You can find out more about different pathways through professional bodies and organisations advocating for careers in the sector.
Some good places to start include:
And many more!
Each state will also have several professional organisations that can help you learn more about the industry, network, and develop your career.