Agriculture, natural resources ranked among highest paying degrees for 2015

According to a recent USA Today article, agriculture and natural resources ranks fifth among the college majors that will likely lead to the highest earnings for 2015 graduates. The others in the top five are, in order, engineering, computer science, math and sciences, and business.

According to the article, students who graduate with a degree in agriculture and natural resources will have a projected average starting salary of $51,220 and average lifetime earnings of $2.6 million. As is the case with other top majors, those who obtain management positions generally have the highest earnings over a lifetime — around $800,000 more than the typical college graduate.

The article drew from census data and an employer survey analysis conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers.

At the University of Delaware’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR), enrollment is up by (insert stats) and graduates are thriving in careers that are as diverse as they are interesting.

Notable CANR graduates

Mary Ellen Setting, who serves as deputy secretary of the Maryland Department of Agriculture, studied entomology and applied ecology at CANR.

Setting said she had only a brief introduction to agriculture as a youth, visiting the King Street Farmers Market in Wilmington and through deliveries of fresh eggs, fruit and vegetables to her house by a local framer.

Other than that, Setting had very little background in the field when she chose to study entomology at UD.

“Coming to the University of Delaware in the entomology department, that’s really where I got my main introduction to agriculture,” said Setting, who majored in entomology and applied ecology, learning things like wildlife management and ornithology along the way.

Michael Balick graduated with an undergraduate degree in horticulture and plant science from CANR, focusing on ornamental horticultre and plant agriculture.

Through his degree, Balick spent 37 years traversing the globe and studying herbs with medicinal properties within indigenous cultures, co-founded the New York Botanical Garden’s Institute of Economic Botany with Sir Ghillean Prance, and received his doctorate in biology from Harvard University.

Balick currently serves as vice president for botanical science and director and philecology curator of the Institute of Economic Botany at the New York Botanical Garden.

Of his time at UD, Balick said he enjoyed spending time at Longwood Gardens with the Longwood Graduate Program and that he was given the freedom to explore the things in which he was interested, satisfying his curiosity about the different aspects of the plant world.

“Education for me at the University of Delaware was about identifying my passion and sailing in that direction with the encouragement of so many fine professors and a wonderful student body, to whom I am really grateful,” said Balick. “I’d encourage everyone to find something in life that they’re fascinated with and go full speed ahead in that direction because in the end it’s not a job you’re searching for, it’s a career, and it’s just so satisfying to work on something that brings excitement to you on a daily basis. I would say horticulture and agriculture and plant science allow you the freedom to do just that.”

Robin L. Talley received a bachelor of science degree with distinction and graduated cum laude in agricultural economics in 1984. She went on to receive her master of business administration degree from UD in 1996 and serves as the district director for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Farm Service Agency. She was the recipient of the 2013 George M. Worrilow Award, presented by the CANR Ag Alumni Association to those who have exhibited outstanding service to the field.

Rachel Acciacca is a Veterinary Corps officer in the U.S. Army and was an Honors Program student who studied animal science as a pre-veterinary major in CANR.

Acciacca said she enjoyed her time at UD, and said that CANR helped set her on the road to success. “The close-knit community at CANR was very supportive and encouraging,” she said. “I still remember individual professors who went out of their way to support me and prepare me for veterinary school. Everyone there was always so approachable, and I truly felt that they were dedicated to seeing me succeed.”

For any UD students currently interested in applying to veterinary school after graduation, Acciacca said, “Don’t ever doubt your ability to become a veterinarian — if you want it badly enough, you will make it happen. Work hard, seek out many different types of animal or veterinary-related experience you can, and keep your mind open. It’s a lot of work, but it’s a blast and I wouldn’t trade my job for anything.”