Bureau of Labor Statistics

Agricultural Workers

agricultural workers image
Agricultural workers maintain crops and tend to livestock.
Quick Facts: Agricultural Workers
2020 Median Pay $28,900 per year
$13.89 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education See How to Become One
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training See How to Become One
Number of Jobs, 2019 902,900
Job Outlook, 2019-29 1% (Slower than average)
Employment Change, 2019-29 9,200

Summary

What Agricultural Workers Do

Agricultural workers maintain crops and tend livestock.

Work Environment

Agricultural workers usually do their tasks outdoors in all kinds of weather. Most work full time, and some work more than 40 hours per week.

How to Become an Agricultural Worker

Most agricultural workers do not need a formal educational credential to enter these occupations; however, animal breeders typically need a high school diploma. Agricultural workers typically receive on-the-job training.

Pay

The median annual wage for agricultural workers was $28,900 in May 2020.

Job Outlook

Overall employment of agricultural workers is projected to grow 1 percent from 2019 to 2029, slower than the average for all occupations. Despite increased demand for crops and other agricultural products, employment growth is expected to be tempered as agricultural establishments continue to use technologies that increase farmworkers' productivity.

State & Area Data

Explore resources for employment and wages by state and area for agricultural workers.

Similar Occupations

Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of agricultural workers with similar occupations.

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

Learn more about agricultural workers by visiting additional resources, including O*NET, a source on key characteristics of workers and occupations.

What Agricultural Workers Do

Agricultural workers
Agricultural workers operate farm machinery.

Agricultural workers maintain crops and tend livestock. They perform physical labor and operate machinery under the supervision of farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers.

Duties

Agricultural workers typically do the following:

  • Plant, inspect, and harvest crops
  • Irrigate farm soil and maintain ditches or pipes and pumps
  • Operate and service farm machinery and tools
  • Apply fertilizer or pesticide solutions to control insects, fungi, and weeds
  • Move plants, shrubs, and trees with wheelbarrows or tractors
  • Feed livestock and clean and disinfect their cages, pens, and yards
  • Examine animals to detect symptoms of illnesses or injuries and administer vaccines to protect animals from diseases
  • Use brands, tags, or tattoos to mark livestock ownership and grade
  • Herd livestock to pastures for grazing or to scales, trucks, or other enclosures

The following are examples of types of agricultural workers:

Agricultural equipment operators use a variety of farm equipment to plow and sow seeds, as well as to maintain and harvest crops. They may use machines such as tractors, balers, conveyor belts, fertilizer spreaders, and threshers. Workers also may adjust and make minor repairs to the machines and equipment.

Animal breeders select animals that will mate and produce offspring with desired traits and characteristics. For example, they breed chickens that lay more eggs, pigs that produce leaner meat, and sheep with more desirable wool. Others breed and raise cats, dogs, and other household pets.

To know which animals to breed and when to breed them, animal breeders keep detailed records. Breeders note an animal’s health, size, and weight, as well as the amount and quality of its product or byproduct. Animal breeders also track the traits of animals’ offspring.

Some animal breeders consult with farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers about their livestock.

Crop, nursery, and greenhouse farmworkers and laborers perform numerous tasks related to growing and harvesting grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and other crops. They plant, seed, prune, irrigate, and harvest crops, and pack and load them for shipment.

Farmworkers also apply fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides to crops. They repair fences and some farm equipment.

Nursery and greenhouse workers prepare land or greenhouse beds for growing horticultural products, such as trees, plants, flowers, and sod. They also plant, water, prune, weed, and spray the plants. They may cut, roll, and stack sod; stake trees; tie, wrap, and pack plants to fill orders; and dig up or move field-grown shrubs and trees.

Farm and ranch animal farmworkers care for live animals, including cattle, sheep, pigs, goats, horses, poultry, finfish, shellfish, and bees. These animals usually are raised to supply meat, skins, feathers, eggs, milk, or honey.

Farmworkers may feed, herd, brand, weigh, and load animals. They also keep records on animals; examine animals to detect diseases and injuries; and administer medications, vaccinations, or insecticides.

Many workers clean and maintain animal housing areas every day. On dairy farms, animal farmworkers operate milking machines.

Work Environment

Agricultural workers
Many agricultural workers have seasonal work schedules.

Agricultural workers held about 902,900 jobs in 2019. Employment in the detailed occupations that make up agricultural workers was distributed as follows:

Farmworkers and laborers, crop, nursery, and greenhouse 566,500
Farmworkers, farm, ranch, and aquacultural animals 245,400
Agricultural equipment operators 70,300
Agricultural workers, all other 12,300
Animal breeders 8,400

The largest employers of agricultural workers were as follows:

Crop production 55%
Animal production and aquaculture 27
Support activities for agriculture and forestry 6
Wholesale trade 4

Agricultural workers usually do their tasks outdoors in all kinds of weather.

Agricultural workers’ jobs may be difficult. To harvest fruits and vegetables by hand, workers frequently bend and crouch. They also lift and carry crops and tools that may be heavy.

Injuries and Illnesses

Agricultural work may be dangerous. Although agricultural workers may be exposed to pesticides applied on crops or plants, the risk is minimized if workers follow safety procedures. Tractors and other farm machinery may cause serious injuries, so workers must stay alert. Additionally, agricultural workers who deal directly with animals risk being bitten, kicked, or stung.

Work Schedules

Most work full time, and some work more than 40 hours per week. Because living crops and animals need constant care, workers’ schedules may vary to include early mornings, weekends, and holidays.

Many agricultural workers have seasonal schedules. Seasonal schedules typically include longer periods of work during planting or harvesting or when animals must be sheltered and fed.

Some agricultural workers, called migrant farmworkers, move from location to location as crops ripen. Their unsettled lifestyles and periods of unemployment between jobs may cause stress.

How to Become an Agricultural Worker

Agricultural workers
Agricultural workers typically receive on-the-job training once they are hired.

Most agricultural workers do not need a formal educational credential to enter these occupations; however, animal breeders typically need at least a high school diploma. Agricultural workers typically receive on-the-job training.

Education

Agricultural workers typically need no formal educational credential. However, animal breeders typically need a high school diploma, and some jobs require postsecondary education.

Training

Many agricultural workers receive short-term on-the-job training of up to 1 month. Employers instruct them on how to use simple farming tools and complex machinery while following safety procedures. Agricultural equipment operators may need more extensive training before being allowed to operate expensive farming equipment.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Some agricultural workers, especially those who operate equipment, need a valid driver’s license. Agricultural workers who handle pesticides might need a pesticide applicator license. And in a few states, certain types of animal breeders must be licensed. Check with your state licensing boards for more information. 

Important Qualities

Dexterity. Agricultural workers need excellent hand-eye coordination to harvest crops and operate farm machinery.

Listening skills. Agricultural workers must listen carefully to ensure that they understand instructions from farmers and other agricultural managers and supervisors.

Mechanical skills. Agricultural workers must be able to operate complex farm machinery. They also occasionally do routine maintenance on the equipment.

Physical stamina. Agricultural workers must have physical endurance because they do laborious tasks repeatedly.

Physical strength. Agricultural workers must be strong enough to lift heavy objects, including tools and crops.

Other Experience

Animal breeders sometimes need work experience interacting with livestock. Ranch workers may transition into animal breeding after they become more familiar with animals and learn how to handle them.

Some agricultural equipment operators might need work experience on a farm or operating heavy equipment.

Advancement

Agricultural workers may advance to crew leader or other supervisory positions. The ability to speak both English and Spanish is helpful for agricultural supervisors.

Some agricultural workers aspire to become farmers, ranchers, or agricultural managers or to own their own farms and ranches. Knowledge of produce and livestock may provide an excellent background for becoming buyers or purchasing agents of farm products. Those who earn a college degree in agricultural science could become agricultural or food scientists.

Pay

Agricultural Workers

Median annual wages, May 2020

Total, all occupations

$41,950

Farming, fishing, and forestry occupations

$29,670

Agricultural workers

$28,900

 

The median annual wage for agricultural workers was $28,900 in May 2020. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $23,930, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $39,990.

Median annual wages for agricultural workers in May 2020 were as follows:

Animal breeders $40,770
Agricultural equipment operators 32,750
Agricultural workers, all other 30,140
Farmworkers, farm, ranch, and aquacultural animals 29,130
Farmworkers and laborers, crop, nursery, and greenhouse 28,660

In May 2020, the median annual wages for agricultural workers in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Wholesale trade $29,260

Most work full time, and some work more than 40 hours per week. Because living plants and animals need constant care, workers’ schedules may vary to include early mornings, weekends, and holidays.

Many agricultural workers have seasonal work schedules. Seasonal schedules typically include longer periods of work during planting or harvesting or when animals must be sheltered and fed.

Some agricultural workers, called migrant farmworkers, move from location to location as crops ripen. Their unsettled lifestyles and periods of unemployment between jobs can cause stress.

Job Outlook

Agricultural Workers

Percent change in employment, projected 2019-29

Total, all occupations

4%

Agricultural workers

1%

Farming, fishing, and forestry occupations

0%

 

Overall employment of agricultural workers is projected to grow 1 percent from 2019 to 2029, slower than the average for all occupations.

Despite increased demand for crops and other agricultural products, employment growth is expected to be tempered as agricultural establishments continue to use technologies that increase farmworkers’ productivity.

Employment of agricultural equipment operators is projected to increase 11 percent from 2019 to 2029, much faster than the average for all occupations, and faster than any other type of agricultural worker. Increased use of mechanization on farms is expected to lead to more jobs for agricultural equipment operators relative to farmworkers and laborers.

Smaller farms that sell their products directly to consumers through venues such as farmer’s markets might create some new opportunities for agricultural workers. These direct-to-consumer farms have grown in popularity, and farmers at these operations may hire agricultural workers as an alternative to expensive machinery.

Job Prospects

Despite limited employment growth, about 132,400 openings for agricultural workers are projected each year, on average, over the decade.

Most of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.

Prospects are expected to be best for those who can speak both English and Spanish.

Employment projections data for agricultural workers, 2019-29

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Occupational Title

Agricultural workers

SOC Code
Employment, 2019902,900
Projected Employment, 2029912,100
Percent Change, 2019-291
Numeric Change, 2019-299,200
Employment by Industry
Occupational Title

Animal breeders

SOC Code45-2021
Employment, 20198,400
Projected Employment, 20298,100
Percent Change, 2019-29-3
Numeric Change, 2019-29-300
Employment by IndustryGet data
Occupational Title

Agricultural equipment operators

SOC Code45-2091
Employment, 201970,300
Projected Employment, 202978,300
Percent Change, 2019-2911
Numeric Change, 2019-298,000
Employment by IndustryGet data
Occupational Title

Farmworkers and laborers, crop, nursery, and greenhouse

SOC Code45-2092
Employment, 2019566,500
Projected Employment, 2029587,900
Percent Change, 2019-294
Numeric Change, 2019-2921,400
Employment by IndustryGet data
Occupational Title

Farmworkers, farm, ranch, and aquacultural animals

SOC Code45-2093
Employment, 2019245,400
Projected Employment, 2029225,100
Percent Change, 2019-29-8
Numeric Change, 2019-29-20,300
Employment by IndustryGet data
Occupational Title

Agricultural workers, all other

SOC Code45-2099
Employment, 201912,300
Projected Employment, 202912,700
Percent Change, 2019-293
Numeric Change, 2019-29400
Employment by IndustryGet data

State & Area Data

Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS)

The Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS) program produces employment and wage estimates annually for over 800 occupations. These estimates are available for the nation as a whole, for individual states, and for metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas. The link(s) below go to OES data maps for employment and wages by state and area.

Projections Central

Occupational employment projections are developed for all states by Labor Market Information (LMI) or individual state Employment Projections offices. All state projections data are available at www.projectionscentral.com. Information on this site allows projected employment growth for an occupation to be compared among states or to be compared within one state. In addition, states may produce projections for areas; there are links to each state’s websites where these data may be retrieved.

CareerOneStop

CareerOneStop includes hundreds of occupational profiles with data available by state and metro area. There are links in the left-hand side menu to compare occupational employment by state and occupational wages by local area or metro area. There is also a salary info tool to search for wages by zip code.

Similar Occupations

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of agricultural workers.

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION 2020 MEDIAN PAY
Agricultural and food science technicians Agricultural and Food Science Technicians

Agricultural and food science technicians assist agricultural and food scientists.

Associate's degree $41,970
Farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers Farmers, Ranchers, and Other Agricultural Managers

Farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers run establishments that produce crops, livestock, and dairy products.

High school diploma or equivalent $68,090
Forest and conservation workers Forest and Conservation Workers

Forest and conservation workers measure and improve the quality of forests.

High school diploma or equivalent $30,640
Grounds maintenance workers Grounds Maintenance Workers

Grounds maintenance workers ensure that the grounds of houses, businesses, and parks are attractive, orderly, and healthy.

See How to Become One $32,220
Veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers Veterinary Assistants and Laboratory Animal Caretakers

Veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers handle routine animal care and help scientists, veterinarians, and others with their daily tasks.

High school diploma or equivalent $29,930
Animal care and service workers Animal Care and Service Workers

Animal care and service workers attend to or train animals.

High school diploma or equivalent $26,370

Contacts for More Info

For more information about agricultural workers, visit

Association of Farmworker Opportunity Programs

For more information about careers in agriculture, visit

AgExplorer, National FFA Organization

New Farmers, U.S. Department of Agriculture

CareerOneStop

For career videos on agricultural workers, visit

Agricultural equipment operators

Animal breeders

Farmworkers, farm and ranch animals

O*NET

Agricultural Equipment Operators

Agricultural Workers, All Other

Animal Breeders

Farmworkers and Laborers, Crop, Nursery, and Greenhouse

Farmworkers, Farm, Ranch, and Aquacultural Animals

Last Modified Date: Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Agricultural Workers,
at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/farming-fishing-and-forestry/agricultural-workers.htm (visited July 22, 2021).

Telephone: 1-202-691-5700 www.bls.gov/ooh Contact OOH

View this page on regular www.bls.gov

Permanently disable mobile site