Turn Your Passion for Swine into a Rewarding Career

03:04PM Jul 18, 2019
Dr. Jodi Sterle
( Sara Brown )

The opportunities to pursue a career in animal science are far-reaching. Although many undergraduate students enter the field of animal science because they are interested in veterinary medicine, Jodi Sterle, professor of animal science at Iowa State University, says the opportunities don’t stop there.

From international trade to nutrition, and from sales and policy to association work, Sterle says there are many ways someone can take an interest in animal science and find a rewarding career that pays well.

When should students who might be interested in graduate school start preparing? Joel DeRouchey, professor of animal science at Kansas State University, says the time to start is now. 

“Get exposure to the swine industry – whether that’s through your family business, youth programs such as 4-H or national junior swine associations, industry internship work experiences, and/or undergraduate research,” DeRouchey says.

Sterle agrees and says spending time around researchers and learning more about the research process is a wise move.

“Get into a lab and do some research or work on a research farm, especially if you are interested in animal science,” Sterle says. “The more science the student can take as an undergraduate, the better.”

Meeting with current graduate students is helpful, too, says Jerry Shurson, professor of animal science at the University of Minnesota. Get to know other students who are working in a similar area of interest and ask them about their experiences and challenges.

“Participate in as many industry internships and study abroad programs as possible,” Shurson adds. “Build a network of professional contacts in the industry and explore "shadowing" opportunities to learn what they do.”

Of course, part of that preparation is becoming academically ready for graduate school by taking challenging science courses in high school and college. Shurson recommends reading and practicing writing as often as possible.

More from Farm Journal's PORK:

Unpopular County Fair Opinion

Emerging Technology, Emerging Leaders

The Most Important Faces of the Swine Industry

5 Lessons FFA Taught Your Mother

CORRECT how to prepare for grad school