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Agricultural Workers

What Agricultural Workers Do

Agricultural workers maintain crops and tend to livestock.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uSZVN7JaJmQ

Work Environment

Agricultural workers usually perform their duties outdoors in all kinds of weather.

How to Become an Agricultural Worker

Agricultural workers typically receive on-the-job training. A high school diploma is not needed for most jobs as an agricultural worker; however, a high school diploma typically is needed for animal breeders.

Pay

The median annual wage for agricultural workers was $25,840 in May 2019.

Job Outlook

Overall employment of agricultural workers is projected to grow 1 percent from 2019 to 2029, slower than the average for all occupations. Despite increased demand for crops and other agricultural products, employment growth is expected to be tempered as agricultural establishments continue to use technologies that increase output per farmworker.

Agricultural workers maintain crops and tend to livestock. They perform physical labor and operate machinery under the supervision of farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers.

Duties

Agricultural workers typically do the following:

  • Harvest and inspect crops by hand
  • Irrigate farm soil and maintain ditches or pipes and pumps
  • Operate and service farm machinery and tools
  • Spray fertilizer or pesticide solutions to control insects, fungi, and weeds
  • Move shrubs, plants, and trees with wheelbarrows or tractors
  • Feed livestock and clean and disinfect their pens, cages, yards, and hutches
  • Examine animals to detect symptoms of illnesses or injuries and administer vaccines to protect animals from diseases
  • Use brands, tags, or tattoos to mark livestock in order to identify ownership and grade
  • Herd livestock to pastures for grazing or to scales, trucks, or other enclosures

The following are examples of types of agricultural workers:

Agricultural equipment operators use a variety of farm equipment to plow and sow seeds, as well as maintain and harvest crops. They may use tractors, fertilizer spreaders, balers, combines, threshers, and trucks. These workers also operate machines such as conveyor belts, loading machines, separators, cleaners, and dryers. Workers may make adjustments and minor repairs to equipment.

Animal breeders use their knowledge of genetics and animal science to select and breed animals that will produce offspring with desired traits and characteristics. For example, they breed chickens that lay more eggs, pigs that produce leaner meat, and sheep with more desirable wool. Others breed and raise cats, dogs, and other household pets.

To know which animals to breed and when to breed them, animal breeders keep detailed records. Breeders note animals’ health, size, and weight, as well as the amount and quality of the product they produce. Animal breeders also track the traits of animals’ offspring.

Some animal breeders may consult with farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers about their livestock.

Crop, nursery, and greenhouse farmworkers and laborers perform numerous tasks related to growing and harvesting grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and other crops. They plant, seed, prune, irrigate, and harvest crops, and pack and load them for shipment.

Farmworkers also apply pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers to crops. They repair fences and some farm equipment.

Nursery and greenhouse workers prepare land or greenhouse beds for growing horticultural products such as trees, plants, flowers, and sod. They also plant, water, prune, weed, and spray the plants. They may cut, roll, and stack sod; stake trees; tie, wrap, and pack plants to fill orders; and dig up or move field-grown shrubs and trees.

Farm and ranch animal farmworkers care for live animals, including cattle, sheep, pigs, goats, horses, poultry, finfish, shellfish, and bees. These animals usually are raised to supply meat, fur, skins, feathers, eggs, milk, or honey.

These farmworkers may feed, herd, brand, weigh, and load animals. They also keep records on animals; examine animals to detect diseases and injuries; and administer medications, vaccinations, or insecticides.

Many workers clean and maintain animal housing areas every day. On dairy farms, animal farmworkers operate milking machines.

Agricultural workers held about 902,900 jobs in 2019. Employment in the detailed occupations that make up agricultural workers was distributed as follows:

Farmworkers and laborers, crop, nursery, and greenhouse 566,500
Farmworkers, farm, ranch, and aquacultural animals 245,400
Agricultural equipment operators 70,300
Agricultural workers, all other 12,300
Animal breeders 8,400

The largest employers of agricultural workers were as follows:

Crop production 55%
Animal production and aquaculture 27
Support activities for agriculture and forestry 6
Wholesale trade 4

Agricultural workers usually perform their duties outdoors in all kinds of weather.

Agricultural workers’ jobs can be difficult. To harvest fruits and vegetables by hand, workers frequently bend and crouch. They also lift and carry crops and tools that may be heavy.

Injuries and Illnesses

Agricultural work can be dangerous. Although agricultural workers risk exposure to pesticides sprayed on crops or plants, improper exposure can be controlled if workers follow appropriate safety procedures. Tractors and other farm machinery can cause serious injuries, so workers must be constantly alert. Additionally, agricultural workers who work directly with animals risk being bitten or kicked.

Work Schedules

Many agricultural workers have seasonal work schedules. Seasonal workers typically work longer periods during planting or harvesting times or when animals must be sheltered and fed.

Some agricultural workers, called migrant farmworkers, move from location to location as crops ripen. Their unsettled lifestyles and periods of unemployment between jobs can cause stress.

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of agricultural workers.

Occupation Job Duties Entry-Level Education Median Annual Pay, May 2019

Agricultural and Food Science Technicians

Agricultural and food science technicians assist agricultural and food scientists.

Associate’s degree $41,230

Farmers, Ranchers, and Other Agricultural Managers

Farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers run establishments that produce crops, livestock, and dairy products.

High school diploma or equivalent $71,160

Forest and conservation workers

Forest and Conservation Workers

Forest and conservation workers measure and improve the quality of forests.

High school diploma or equivalent $31,770

Grounds maintenance workers

Grounds Maintenance Workers

Grounds maintenance workers ensure that the grounds of houses, businesses, and parks are attractive, orderly, and healthy.

See How to Become One $30,890

Veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers

Veterinary Assistants and Laboratory Animal Caretakers

Veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers handle routine animal care and help scientists, veterinarians, and others with their daily tasks.

High school diploma or equivalent $28,590

Animal Care and Service Workers

Animal care and service workers attend to animals.

High school diploma or equivalent $24,990

For more information about agricultural workers, visit

Association of Farmworker Opportunity Programs

For more information about careers in agriculture, visit

AgExplorer, National FFA Organization

New Farmers, U.S. Department of Agriculture

CareerOneStop

For career videos on agricultural workers, visit

Agricultural equipment operators

Animal breeders

Farmworkers, farm and ranch animals

O*NET

Agricultural Equipment Operators

Agricultural Workers, All Other

Animal Breeders

Farmworkers and Laborers, Crop

Farmworkers and Laborers, Crop, Nursery, and Greenhouse

Farmworkers, Farm, Ranch, and Aquacultural Animals

Nursery Workers


Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Agricultural Workers,
at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/farming-fishing-and-forestry/agricultural-workers.htm (visited ).


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Kate Williams

Kate Williams is a business communications expert and is the editor of Job Affirmations. She is a professional resume writer and has studied Myers-Briggs personality types and how they influence career choice. Job Affirmations has hundreds of job descriptions categorized by the 16 Myers-Briggs types, by career interests and work values. Kate also shares her best writing tips including the proper formatting of emails and cover letters You'll find positive affirmations for work, inspirational quotes, career vision boards for your best year ever.

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