How to get a job in the environment and agriculture sector

Kieren Jacobs
Team GradAustralia
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Do you have a green thumb? Are you interested in creating large-scale solutions to agricultural challenges that could provide higher-quality food to millions of people? Is it your goal to develop a career that makes a positive impact on the environment? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then perhaps a career in the environment and agriculture sector is for you. In this article, we’ll cover who the main graduate employers are and how you can get involved.

How do I find a job in the environment and agriculture sector?

As a graduate, it’s possible to find junior positions in larger agricultural businesses such as GrainCorp, Devondale Murray Goulburn, and John Deere. You may also find employment on a range of specialty farms, or with companies that are involved in crops, farming machinery, and the transportation of agricultural produce. A good place to start in your search is the GradAustralia directory of agriculture positions for grads. You can also check out the Future Farmers Network.

There are also a range of graduate programs relevant to the environment and agriculture within the public sector. These programs are listed on the websites for the federal Department of Agriculture and Resources and the Department of the Environment and Energy, as well as their state equivalents.

Do you need a related degree?

This really depends on the type of role you’d like to pursue. Certain jobs in the agriculture and environment sector, such as those related to engineering or biotechnology, will require you to possess a specific academic pedigree (for example, a degree in civil engineering or biology). Similarly, most commercial roles in this sector tend to go to graduates with backgrounds in business, finance, accounting, or other related disciplines.

However, the niche nature of many agricultural and environmental positions makes on-the-job training quite common. This is good news if your own academic background doesn’t meet the requirements of more technical roles. For example, while a degree in geography is beneficial for a fisheries officer, it’s not considered a job requirement. However, if you would like to submit a more competitive application, you might consider postgraduate degrees in this field, such as a Masters of Conservation or Masters of Farming Practices.

Which skills will employers want?

Employers ordinarily prioritise candidates with relevant practical skills or academic training; the ability to work well within teams that are often geographically dispersed; a genuine interest in issues related to the environment or food production; business acumen; and more general attributes, such as good communication skills, diligence, and affability.

Where can you get work experience?

Perhaps the best, and most popular, way to get work experience is to volunteer for organisations involved in agriculture or the environment. This shows your dedication to the sector while also allowing you to develop useful practical skills. Some organisations worth looking into include the Australian Conservation Foundation, Bushcare, or Conservation Volunteers Australia.

If you’re more interested in farm experience, you could look into Willing Workers on Organic Farms (WWOOF), an organisation that allows volunteers to work on farms in return for free food and accommodation.

Which professional qualifications are recognised in the sector?

One of the best ways to enhance your standing within the agriculture and environment sector is to join a relevant professional organisation. In Australia, the primary professional organisations include AusBiotech, which represents businesses and individuals involved in the life sciences industry; the Environment Institute of Australia and New Zealand, which supports environmental practitioners from a range of backgrounds; and the Australian Institute of Agricultural Science and Technology (AIAST), which provides membership to agricultural and natural resource management professionals.

Currently, the preeminent professional qualification available to environment and agriculture professionals is the AIAST’s Certified Practicing Agriculturalist (CPag) scheme. To acquire and maintain their CPag status, applicants must earn a set number of professional development points each year. They can do this via activities such as publishing research papers, achieving new academic goals (such as the completion of a PhD), attending conferences, and completing relevant short courses.

Get ahead in your job search in the environment and agriculture sector by developing your industry and workplace skills, gaining voluntary or paid work experience and joining a relevant professional organisation. To search for internships and graduate jobs, visit our industry job search page at GradAustralia.