Do you want a high paying job?

More and more people are earning college degrees. As of 2011, close to one out of every three people over 25 held a bachelor’s degree, according to a U.S. Census bureau release, whereas as recently as 1998 fewer than one-quarter of people this age had this level of education. Because more are college-educated, this makes it so that “just any” degree will not necessarily suffice for some people anymore. People are starting to see that if they’re going to invest all that hard-earned money, not to mention time and energy, into obtaining a degree, it should be into one that will likely lead to ample job opportunities and higher earnings power.

The Census Bureau reports that a bachelor’s degree holder typically earns $2.4 million over his or her lifetime. Some degrees, like those in education, typically result in lower lifetime earnings than this benchmark. Other degrees, however, generally allow graduates to earn more than this benchmark.

This year’s 2015 graduates will earn a variety of different degrees, ranging from the old favorites like business, to degrees like biomedical engineering and software design, which have become increasingly popular in recent years. Using Census data, coupled with an employer survey analysis by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, a list of college majors that will likely lead to the highest earning for 2015 grads (Source: USA Today).

  1. Engineering - Average starting salary: $62,998 with an average lifetime earnings of $3.4 million
  2. Computer science - Average starting salary: $61,287 with an average lifetime earnings of $3.1 million
  3. Math and sciences - Average starting salary: $56,171 with an average lifetime earnings of $2.6 million for science grads and $3.1 million for math grads
  4. Business - Average starting salary: $51,508 with an average lifetime earnings of $2.6 million
  5. Agriculture and natural resources - Average starting salary: $51,220 with an average lifetime earnings of $2.6 million

Why is the Agriculture and Natural Resource degree so valuable?

It is estimated that by 2050, the world's population will surpass 9 billion people. This growth in population, especially in the middle class, will increase global demand for beef, as people become more able to afford to add meat, milk, and eggs to their diets. To meet this need, global beef production will need to increase by 43%.

The future of beef rests on two options: more animals or more innovation. Today, there are nearly 1.67 billion cattle and water buffalo. Without innovation, we will need an additional 710 million to meet the demand. We can continue to raise cattle and water buffalo as we do today, but this will lead to unsustainable increases in herd sizes and resource use.

Through innovation, however, farmers and ranchers around the world can raise fewer than 1.7 billion cattle and water buffalo in 2050, produce 43% more beef, and free the industry's environmental footprint of beef production(Source: Elanco Animal Health). If we want to produce more beef with fewer resources, we need young brilliant scientists.

What is the bottom line?

  • The beef cow cull rate was 9% in 2014. That is the lowest level since 2005 and is the last time the cowherd increased in size.
  • Carcass weights have increased more than 30 pounds in the past three years and are forecast to increase another 8 pounds in 2015 due to lower costs of gains.
  • Tighter cattle supplies in 2015 will continue to be a supportive factor for prices in 2015.
  • Milk futures averaged $20/cwt. in 2014 but are currently averaging $15/cwt. for 2015. Will lower prices reverse dairy herd expansion?
  • The forecast for 2015 domestic beef demand is 2% higher, due mostly to continued gains in ground beef demand and additional per capita disposable income.
  • The forecast for grocery and restaurant performance – as it relates to the beef complex – is steady at best.
  • Growing pork and broiler production will limit beef price increases and jeopardize retail demand growth.
  • Expect retail gasoline prices from $1.80 to $2.80/gal., and diesel prices in a $2.80 to $4.00 gal. range.
  • 550 lb. steer – the calf market is going to benefit from an improved forage situation, cheaper grain prices, and record margins for cattle feeders and stocker operators last year. The 2015 average price forecast is $260/cwt. Expect early year highs near $290 and the lows around $235. Calf values are at the higher end of a long-term trading range and are forecast to trend lower during the next three to five years.
  • Bred Females – The demand for bred females will stay historically strong in 2015. The market is projected to average $2,500/hd. – driven by record cow-calf margins and improving forage conditions. The bred females purchased in 2015 can still have returns that are positive even considering the fact calf prices are projected to decline going into the next few years as the industry expands (Source: CattleFax).

For more information about cattle production, visit or or contact your county extension office.