Why agriculture and food science?

How can we sustainably grow enough food to feed the world?

Agriculture graduates  have a relatively high employment rate. Photograph: iStockphoto/Getty

Agriculture graduates have a relatively high employment rate. Photograph: iStockphoto/Getty

 

Agriculture is moving centre stage. Consume less meat? Grow and eat more plants? Protect the environment? These are among the most discussed and urgent topics in the conversation about climate change and how we need to change our behaviours. How can we sustainably grow enough food to feed the world without collapsing the very ecosystems that we need to survive?

Agriculture students can expect to learn about chemistry, biology, economics, business, management, plants and animals, and graduates are more likely to work in research and development, food production and global food production than they are to plough a field.

Starting in 2019, UCC, in collaboration with food and agricultural development authority, Teagasc, is introducing a new agricultural science degree.

The new course is expected to have a particular focus on dairy farming but students will also learn about farm management, business and technology. Students will also complete a work placement. Based in the UCC’s school of biological, earth and environmental studies, the course has been in development for more than two years.

UCD’s agriculture course sits alongside the BSc in food science, which focuses on creating graduates to work in Ireland’s export-intensive and growing food sector, while there’s also a BSc in human nutrition, a level eight forestry course, a dairy business course and an equine science course to prepare graduates for work in the horse industry.

WIT offers a full-time four-year level 8 Bsc in Agricultural Science.  Graduates will have a strong background in the areas of science, food, agriculture, the environment, business and quality assurance. In their third year students can choose between a farm placement or an industrial placement. In addition to the above, WIT also offers a level 8 programme in Land Management in Agriculture, Forestry and Horticulture and level seven courses in Forestry and Agriculture.

Level seven courses are also available at CIT and Letterkenny IT, as well as a level eight course at Dundalk IT.

Requirements

Some agriculture and food science courses require students to have a laboratory science subject (agricultural science, biology, chemistry, physics, physics and chemistry) in their Leaving Cert.

Points at UCD fell from 455 to 451 last year and, with students now having the option to study agriculture in Cork, they’re likely – but, of course, not guaranteed – to fall again.

Agriculture, forestry, fisheries and veterinary science graduates have the second-lowest starting salaries, earning just €29,736 within nine months of graduation, according to a survey carried out by the Higher Education Authority. Only arts and humanities graduates have lower starting salaries.

Agriculture graduates do, however, have a relatively high employment rate straight out of their undergraduate degree course, with 79 per cent in employment or about to start a job, and 16 per cent in further study or training.