Careers Service Occupations

Agriculture

Agriculture, Horticulture, Forestry and Fisheries

About

The agri-food sector employs 4 million people, with agriculture accounting for nearly 500,000 employees.

The main areas of work cover everything from land management and production, to animal welfare and environmental industries.  

According to the Agriculture in the United Kingdom 2020 statistics from DEFRA, in 2019, the agri-food sector contributed £127billion to the economy, or 6.4% of the national GVA. Of this, agriculture contributed £10.4billion.

Investment in technology is increasing in this sector, with companies and researchers developing smart farming technologies such as drones, robotics and 3D printing. Changes in agriculture mean more opportunities for graduates.

Careers advice

  • Prospects – environment and agriculture
  • National Careers Service – animal, plant and land-related job profiles
  • DeLacy Executive – graduate careers advice from Agri-Business recruitment specialists
  • grow – horticulture careers information and news
  • Agsites – websites related to agriculture, horticulture, fisheries and the outdoor world

Professional bodies

These represent people working in the sector, providing training and networking opportunities. They often provide careers support for students and graduates. 

They also provide development for people already working in the sector. Follow them on LinkedIn, or visit their websites for news, contacts, work experience and vacancies.

The main professional associations for this sector include:

Agriculture

Farmers' Unions include the National Farmers' Union and National Farmers' Union of Scotland

Horticulture, forestry and fisheries

Sector skills and government departments

Find professional bodies outside the UK on GoinGlobal by selecting ‘Professional and Personal Networking’ on each of the individual country guides. 

Making contacts

Making contacts is useful for success in this sector. Gaining insight and arranging work experience comes through networking and speculative applications. You could start with:

  • social media, particularly LinkedIn and Twitter – useful for contacts, employers and finding opportunities
  • connecting with our alumni on LinkedIn. Find out what they did after graduation and how they got there, and contact them for advice and inspiration.

Events

Recruitment fairs, open days, talks and events give insights and opportunities to make contacts. Regular events organised by the Careers Service include Employer & Sector Insights and Recruitment Events.

Related sectors

You may also be interested in Environment or Veterinary and Animal Care.

Roles

The following job profiles include descriptions of typical duties, entry requirements and case studies.

Agriculture

Agricultural consultant

Agronomist

Animal nutritionist

Farm manager

Field trials officer

Land-based engineer

Plant breeder/geneticist

Soil scientist

Horticulture, forestry and fisheries 

Amenity horticulturist

Arboriculturist

Commercial horticulturist

Fish farm manager

Fisheries officer

Forest/woodland manager

Horticultural consultant

Gaining Experience

Relevant work experience in this sector is crucial in developing expertise and demonstrating your motivation and commitment.

Use background information and role profiles to research the work experience and entry requirements for the role you're interested in.

Many students gain experience in this sector through volunteering.

Not all opportunities are advertised. You may need to contact organisations for work experience using a speculative approach.

Advertised opportunities

University resources

Go Volunteer offer a variety of volunteering projects to Newcastle University students, such as Grow Volunteer and Heaton Food Garden.

Search for vacancies and set up personalised email alerts on MyCareer. For additional sources of work experience, see Internships, placements & shadowing.

UK opportunities include:

See also the links under Finding Jobs which may also advertise work experience and/or seasonal vacancies.

Overseas opportunities include:

Speculative approach

Speculative applications are when you contact organisations directly, not in response to an advertised vacancy. They can be a useful way to approach employers who don’t offer formal internship or placement schemes. 

They can also help find opportunities in a specialised field or specific location. 

Find companies that interest you and get in touch, always with a named contact where possible. Be specific about why you are writing to them and what you’re looking for.

Show your enthusiasm for the sector and highlight any relevant skills. Don’t give up if you don’t get a reply – follow up with a polite phone call or email a week or so later to show that you’re keen.

For more advice on how to approach companies, see targetjobs: Discover hidden internships: the art of speculative applications. 

Finding companies

Agriculture

Gaining hands-on experience with animals or crops on a farm is essential for agricultural roles. Many students use family connections to gain this experience. Those without existing connections could start making contacts through:

Projects and competitions

The Student Initiative Fund offers grants of up to £500 to help students deliver innovative, extra-curricular projects. Projects must have a community, social or cultural benefit. Speak to the Careers Service for more details.

See Awards & Competitions for additional opportunities to develop skills.

Training

  • LANTRA – sector skills council listing training and qualifications
  • Kew – horticulture, plant science and conservation training
  • University of the Highlands & Islands – offer short fishing and marine courses for the fisheries sector, based in Shetland

Related sectors

You may also be interested in the gaining experience sections on Veterinary and Animal Care and Environment.

Finding Jobs

Competition is strong, especially for entry-level positions. Use the following resources to find advertised vacancies and also research employers for speculative applications.

Search for vacancies on MyCareer. Log in to sign up for personalised email alerts.

Vacancy sites

Overseas

Careers Abroad offers opportunities in sustainable development, biological and zoological research, conservation etc.

AGCareers.com lists opportunities worldwide.

See also International jobs for additional resources.

Specialist recruitment agencies

  • Agricultural & Farming Jobs - specialises in agriculture, farming, horticulture, fresh produce, food, animal health, veterinary, equestrian, machinery and engineering
  • De Lacy - consultancy agency for the agriculture, horticulture, countryside and primary food business sectors
  • Horticruitment UK - advertises worldwide and UK horticultural jobs

Finding companies