If you haven’t heard yet, the website Yahoo! Education posted an article in January titled “College Majors That Are Useless” that put a burr under the saddle of every rancher, farmer and ag scientist from Maine to Modesto.

In the article, three of the five majors were ag-related. Agriculture had the dishonor of being “Useless Degree No. 1,” followed by Fashion Design, Theater, Animal Science and Horticulture.

Not only was the article an insult (the tone alone made ag students look like slow-witted hayseeds), but it was also laughable in its lack of credible research.

For starters, the author cited one major source, the U.S. Department of Labor, an agency whose data are used like Cliff Notes by lazy journalists.

He also added input from a lone author who likewise disparaged certain degrees. The article rightfully set off an explosion of responses from bloggers, economists and ag professors.


Rebuttals came in from university experts at Minnesota, Georgia, Texas Tech and Cal State Chico, each making a fervent case of how today’s economics, supply shortages, consolidation, new technology, growing populations and global demand for food and commodities are the best indicators for a growing ag industry.

My favorite citation: A Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce study showing experienced grads in animal science with a 3.5 percent unemployment rate – one of the lowest among college grads.

What really tells me a different story though, is the enthusiasm and ambition you see among today’s ag students who attend the NCBA Trade Show, the Range Beef Cow Symposium and other events like them.

When I talk to those students, I don’t detect anxiety or cautiousness about the job market. I see sharp kids who know how to work, have deep appreciation for the land and love to be around animals and livestock.

They care deeply about their futures, not to mention the legacy of ag production handed down to them by older generations.

When they speak of their education and training, they speak boldly. They’re well versed in how to defend and promote the industry to consumers, and they’re as savvy as any urbanite when it comes to social media.

Which leads me back to the Yahoo! article. Obviously being listed as a “useless major” isn’t really a cause for worry.

Not when you consider how the Yahoo! piece was based largely on an earlier Newsweek Daily Beast report naming the “20 Most Useless Degrees.”

Topping that list at No. 1: Journalism.  end_mark



David Cooper