Degrees, Could They Be More Useful?
When I saw the article on Yahoo last week, ‘College Majors That Are Useless,’ I was reminded of some thoughts I had last May when it first ran on another site. After digging around my laptop a bit, I finally found some notes I had jotted down.
First and foremost, I do not believe that ‘Agricultural Degrees’ are “useless.” However, unlike many, rather than compose a response that points out the value of such a degree, I was struck with the thought, “could agricultural degrees be MORE useful?”
For that matter, could all degrees be more useful?
Personally, I think a quality and broad education, no matter the “degree” associated with it, is only useful if the person is able and willing to apply what they have learned. (But that is another post.)
For the purpose of this post, I am referring to all agriculturally related degrees: animal science, crop science, soil science, agricultural business, horticulture, etc.
Keeping in mind, that agriculture is an ever-changing industry, constantly developing and implementing new technology, becoming more efficient and modifying production practices; are colleges offering and requiring courses for their degree programs that are relevant?
- Are there courses that should be offered or required to attain a degree?
- Are there required courses that are no longer relevant to a particular degree?
- Are there degrees that should not be offered any more?
- Are there new degrees that should be introduced?
- Should colleges that offer agricultural degrees specialize or try to offer as many degrees as possible?
I remember back, 20+ years ago, when I went off to college to gather the knowledge that I felt would be necessary to increase the likelihood of success being a farmer and rancher. Yes, it took me six years to graduate with a Bachelor of Science degree, but I tailored it to meet the needs that I knew I would have. I took engineering, military science, additional chemistry, calculus, statistics and economics courses.
Many of the introductory courses, specific to agriculture, at both of the universities I attended, I found to be a “waste of time,” for me. I say for me, because I do believe that they were very valuable to those students that did not have an agricultural background and wished to go into the field. Please do not take my previous statement the wrong way. Those introductory courses I saw as a “waste” were due the fact of my being actively involved in running our ranch since childhood, participation in 4-H and having been blessed with an outstanding high school agriculture program and FFA.
Additionally, there were several courses that presented information and methodology that was no longer applicable to current practices and failed to present the most current science methodology.
Having said that, I was very impressed by the upper division courses at both universities I attended (Colorado State and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo) and know that they have played a tremendous role in the success that I have enjoyed.
Finally, we are all aware that certain universities (within regions) are known to excel in certain areas of agriculture. When I was in college, for the west coast, Colorado State excelled in Equine Science, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in Dairy Science and Beef Production, Chico State in Sheep and Beef Production, Fresno State in Swine Production and Viticulture, UC Davis in Veterinary Medicine, and Oregon State in Natural Resources, to list a few. My question is, while each of these schools offered degrees in multiple agricultural fields, are we at a point in time where specializing may be more efficient? Just asking the question, in search of insight from recent graduates, employers and those involved in education at any level.
Perhaps I am one of the few, but I saw the Yahoo article, as offensive as it may have been to some, as a “wake-up” call for those of us in agriculture to evaluate what we are doing to insure that our industry has properly prepared employees, managers and future owners. Are we doing all we can or settling for the “status quo?” Can we do more? Can we do better?
I’m curious, what are your thoughts?