Wednesday, December 19, 2007


"The combination of quantitative training and applied work makes agricultural economics graduates an extremely well-prepared source of employees for private industry. That's why American Express has hired over 80 agricultural economists since 1990."
- David Edwards, Vice President-International Risk Management, American Express

While in graduate school, and deciding upon the traditional course work in economic theory vs agricultural and applied economics, my advanced micro theory instructor ( from a course taken at the University of Kentucky) posed the following scenario. He said

‘ You can choose to be a consumer of economics, or you can be a producer of economics.’

Phrased differently, he was asking, at what level of mathematical abstraction do you want to work. Do you want to use mathematical tools to model and solve problems of economic significance,( a consumer of economics) or do you want to develop the mathematical tools to be used by other economists to build models and solve problems ( a producer of economics).

Perhaps it is also a question of basic vs. applied research. I want to see application and results. I want answers to questions now. I don’t want to wait 10+ years for my ideas to either catch on or be forgotten.

To quote, from Johns Hopkins University’s applied economics program home page:

“Economic analysis is no longer relegated to academicians and a small number of PhD-trained specialists. Instead, economics has become an increasingly ubiquitous as well as rapidly changing line of inquiry that requires people who are skilled in analyzing and interpreting economic data, and then using it to effect decisions ………Advances in computing and the greater availability of timely data through the Internet have created an arena which demands skilled statistical analysis, guided by economic reasoning and modeling.”

Ultimately I chose a graduate program in Agriculture with an emphasis in Agricultural Economics. I had some trepidation at first, thinking that it may have a limited focus. Actually, it lead to encounters with the same theoretical and quantitative tools presented in traditional graduate work in economics, and also provided additional opportunities for application (such as natural resource and energy economics or biotechnology). At my institution, I was able to take additional courses in crop science and genetics to tailor a secondary emphasis in Agronomy. I also had the opportunity to take courses in applied economics and finance from the MBA program.

To quote from the American Agricultural Economics Association:

“Nearly one in five jobs in the United States is in food and fiber production and distribution. Fewer than three percent of the people involved in the agricultural industries actually work on the farm. Graduates in agricultural and applied economics or agribusiness work in a variety of institutions applying their knowledge of economics and business skills related to food production, rural development and natural resources”

1 comment:

agEconomist said...

Cornell University offers a program in Applied Economics and Management very similar to my course of study.

They actually allow a minor field outside of the field of applied economics ( I took courses that would consitute a minor concentration in Agronomy) With regard to employment opportunities in applied/agricultural economics, their graduates have been very well placed. This is a testament to the quality of their program, and the opportunities that are open to students of applied and agricultural economics.