Frequently Asked Questions
What can I do with an AFS degree?
Agriculture is Washington state’s number one employer, representing 13 percent of the state’s economy, employing 160,000 people (WSDA). Graduates of the College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences at WSU who have sought employment in this sector historically have a job placement percentage near 100 percent. The AFS degree has been set up to foster skills that employers say they most want – the ability to solve problems, think critically, communicate, present information and work as part of a team – as well as mastery of a specific discipline. In addition, several options in the degree program can lead to jobs outside the agricultural sector itself, for example, becoming a K-12 agriculture or science teacher or working in the communications field.
What is WSU’s projected outlook for job placement and/or for individual ownership of one’s own farm?
The job prospects are excellent throughout Agricultural and Food Systems. Currently, there are more jobs than there are graduates in almost all fields. Historically our college’s job placement is nearly 100 percent for graduates seeking employment in an area related to their major, including folks returning to the family farm. Job prospects for those interested in the Organic Agriculture Systems major may even be stronger, due to the continuing dramatic growth in the industry.
What kinds of jobs do you think students will be best qualified for after completing a major in Organic Agricultural Systems major?
Graduates should be well prepared for a wide variety of careers, as there is quite a bit of flexibility in the program beyond the required core courses. Many folks think first of starting their own farm, but there are also tremendous opportunities with non-profit organizations and government agencies, as well as food processing, marketing, organic certification and product development. This major provides students with plenty of hands-on experiences, giving them the ability to adapt to many different careers.
I’d really like to do an internship during my course of study. Will this be possible in the AFS program?
Internships are key learning experiences for students. They help to tie classroom learning to the ‘real world,’ as well as help develop a professional network for students prior to graduation. We think internships are incredibly important, and require them of all majors in the program. Typically the internship will be done the summer after junior year, however, there is flexibility for alternative times and approaches. It is helpful to talk with your advisor and instructors early on in your acadmeic career if you have specific ideas.
I already have a Bachelor’s degree – how can I also complete a degree in AFS?
A number of people do actually end up completing more than one Bachelor’s degree. However, it is important also to ask if you need another degree. You might perhaps do better looking at getting a Master’s degree, or perhaps only taking a few of the courses you are interested in, rather than enrolling in another degree program. Of course, if you are still interested in another Bachelor’s level degree, your advisor will work with you to identify those courses that you won’t need, and any courses you may be able to transfer in to the program.
For graduate work, take a look at the response further down. For folks who are interested in learning mainly the practice of farming organically, you may be interested in the summer-long Practicum in Organic Agriculture (Soils 480) perhaps coupled with spring term ‘Introduction to Organic Gardening and Farming’ (Soils 101). There are also other courses that are related to business planning for small farms that you may be interested in, for example another program WSU participates in, Cultivating Success.
Do my Advanced Placement/International Baccalaureate/Running Start classes count towards getting a degree in AFS?
Yes, if the courses are comparable to those required in the AFS curriculum, and if WSU accepts the courses as transfer credits. For more in formation please see the Office of Admissions.
I would like to take required classes at a community college before transferring to WSU, however, I don’t know what classes are required.
Take a look at the AFS curricula – that should give you a good idea. Also – it will be very helpful to contact WSU’s "Transfer Center." This should get you started. If you plan to do a full AA, make sure that you work closely with your community college advisor to earn a transfer degree. You can also look at the transferability of individual classes taken in Washington through the Transfer Center’s Cougar TRACS web site.
Will I be able to get a bachelor’s degree in four years?
You should be able to get a bachelor’s degree in AFS in four years from the time you start, assuming you take around 15 credits per semester, and consult with your advisor early on to lay out your program.
Is there a graduate degree offered in association with the Organic Agricultural Systems, currently or planned in future?
WSU has a strong history of graduate education in organic and sustainable agriculture. This education has been a core part of the long history of the research WSU has done in the field. Check out the organic production section of the Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources. However, our graduate education in organic and sustainable agriculture happens through a variety of departments, such as crop science, soil science, horticulture, entomology, as well as other departments. Program coursework and research activities are developed by the individual student, their advisor(s), and thesis committee. We have a great network of more than 50 faculty members who self-identify as working in organic agriculture. A number of folks in this group have began talking about setting up a formal organic agriculture ‘certificate’ program that would appear on students’ diplomas/transcripts in addition to their major area. If you are interested in learning more about graduate work in organic or sustainable agriculture, contact Lynne Carpenter-Boggs (509-335-1553), and other faculty members whose research interests you.
Is there any possibility of distance, Internet, or condensed courses for working professionals to take classes and earn a degree in this program?
Not at this time. However, a number of individual courses in agriculture (as well as some of the general education classes) are taught by WSU faculty in distance format through WSU’s Distance Degree Program.
For the organic major:
There are opportunities for self-learning from a variety of sources, including Appropriate Technology Transfer for Rural Areas (ATTRA), Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN), Newfarm.org. The University of California at Santa Cruz has a teaching manual for organic agriculture posted online as well. WSU’s Distance Degree Program does offer a number of courses from across agriculture, however currently the organic agriculture courses are not available in this format. In the mean time, you might want to look at some of the courses related to organic and sustainable agriculture that are offered in various WA and ID locations through the Cultivating Success Program (of which WSU is a collaborator). Alternatively, you might be interested in the summer Organic Practicum course, if you are interested in hands-on experience with small scale organic production and direct marketing.
What is the educational background of the individuals who developed this program?
A core group of folks who have been primary players in developing this degree have come from Soil Science, Agricultural Education, Agricultural Technology, Agricultural Communications, Crop Science, Horticulture, Entomology, Animal Sciences and Economics. At the faculty level, we each have advanced degrees (mainly PhD) in specialized fields.
Who will be teaching the courses in organic production and systems? Are they trained in sustainable agriculture specifically? What degree, credentials and experience do faculty members need in order to teach courses in this or other similar programs?
Almost all, if not all, of the folks involved in the organic agriculture classes have had a degree in a specific field (not called ‘organic agriculture’), but have worked in sustainable/organic agriculture for a long time – whether as a student or later on. This question gets a bit complicated, as it depends on who is asking and for what reason. If you are considering going into the education field yourself, the Ph.D. background holds some advantages at the university level, but there are many opportunities for people with BS and MS degrees as well.
What will be the teacher to student ratio in this program?
Many of your classes – especially in agriculture – will be relatively small (<30 students, often less than 20). Our faculty members are typically available outside of class in a variety of venues as well. We are quite proud of the accessibility of our faculty to students, both in and out of class. Of course, some of the introductory courses – especially outside the college – can be quite large. Even these, however, are very often divided into smaller laboratory or discussion sections.
Will I have an opportunity to study abroad?
Yes. There are many opportunities to study abroad available through International Programs.
How do I learn about campus life and applying to WSU?
Are there any special scholarships, grants, financial aid available for this course of study?
Yes. Upon applying to the university, you can also apply for scholarships and financial aid. In addition to the possibility of a central WSU scholarship, the College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences gives out over $250,000 in scholarships each year. In subsequent years, there is an annual application process, which is usually due in January. A number of departments also have program-specific scholarships, as well.