Kaitlyn Davis (left) and Amber Coleman represent the Animal Sciences Department at last year’s Spring Fest at Purdue University.
Kaitlyn Davis (left) and Amber Coleman represent the Animal Sciences Department at last year’s Spring Fest at Purdue University.
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — A good education is the first step toward a career in the agricultural industry. The Animal Sciences Department at Purdue University houses more than 600 undergraduates who want to learn, study and research pressing issues.

With six different concentrations within the degree, there are a variety of options for incoming students.

“We have pre-vet, biosciences, behavior/wellbeing, animal agribusiness, animal production and animal products,” said Ashley York, coordinator of student services. “Students pick one concentration that interests them.”

Upon graduation, there are many paths available for students to travel down — from careers in production agriculture to vet school.

Last year, 15 percent of undergraduates pursued graduate school, and 20 percent continued their education in veterinary medicine.

“It’s a really good time to be in agriculture right now,” said Paul Ebner, associate professor of animal sciences. “All types of agriculture, from agronomy to animal sciences. We generally don’t have problems placing students.

“A very large percentage goes on to work in agriculture-related field. If you look at the plans of study, we have animal production and product plans of study. Those people that go into production are very employable. They are very sought after graduation.”

Real-World Learning

Purdue ag students are sought after because of their ability to gain real-world experience through classes, extracurricular activities, student work, research and internships.

Ebner, an adviser for the Purdue Heifer International Chapter, sees students passionate about extracurricular activities at each meeting.

“It was started by two animal sciences students, and it’s grown to be a very active club,” said Ebner about the club. “They raise money for Heifer International, but they also raise awareness of food insecurity issues here.

“This year, they are doing a lot of work with local hunger issues and working with food agencies in the Lafayette community.”

There are more than 15 other animal science-related clubs, including Block and Bridle, a livestock showing club, and Animal Sciences Mentors.

The mentors are a group of upper classman who help make the transition from high school to college easier for freshmen.

“If you talk to the students, a lot of them say when they got here it felt really big,” Ebner said. “But we do a whole bunch of activities to make it feel very small. Professors are very accessible. If you take a class in animal sciences, it’s going to be taught by a professor.

“We are always around. We try to make it smaller so people are comfortable, and they get the most out of their four years here.”

The philosophy of open communication allows students to make connections and network with professors.

“Even after their four years, it is interesting to see the connections that they have made through college,” York noted.

Research Opportunities

“Most of the classes are very applicable and help you be familiar with what is happening in the real world,” Ebner said. “They can also do undergraduate research. They can work at the farm. We really stress things like internships.”

It’s important to have good grades, but employers also want to see that students take away work-related experiences at college, Ebner said. Employers want to know what concepts students have learned at internships and during research.

“There are more research opportunities than the students probably even know,” Ebner said. “It’s very easy to get involved in undergraduate research. You find an area of research that’s interesting to you and talk directly to the professor.”

“I’ve probably had 20 or 25 do projects in my lab, and some of them have been authors on publications, which is a big deal for undergraduates,” he said.

To learn more about the opportunities available at Purdue’s animal sciences program, visit www.ag.purdue.edu/ansc.