Options for career progression in farming

Whether you have been brought up within farming or are new to the industry altogether, it is worth taking time to carefully plan the next step of your agricultural career.

The choice of jobs is so varied that knowing what’s available and where to go for advice can be just as important as being able to milk a cow or reverse a tractor and trailer.

The following is a brief summary of some of the main farm-based jobs, outlining the key skills required, likely salaries and tips on how to progress.

It is based on information provided by LANTRA, as well as other sources. It is intended as a guide only and readers should be aware that rates of pay and benefits may vary significantly.

General Farm Worker

Skills and qualifications

An understanding of agricultural plants, animals and basic machinery maintenance is useful, plus basic health and safety, numeracy and IT skills. Like most farm-based jobs, workers must be physically able to work outdoors on a range of tasks, and be self-motivated as tasks often require working alone.

No specific qualifications are required, but college courses or apprenticeships may be useful ways of getting started and progressing in this career (see career progression).

Salary and benefits

Pay varies depending on age, experience and farm type. Workers aged 16 can earn at least £7239 a year, increasing to £9795 by age 19 and £14,986 over 19. Experienced farm workers may earn up to £19,000.

Accommodation and the opportunity for overtime at peak periods are often available.

Career progression

With experience farm workers can gain promotion to supervisor or unit manager on larger farms. Gaining more skills and training improves progression chances.

Those wishing to go into farm management should consider an agricultural or related degree course (see below).

Specialist farm management companies, such as Velcourt and Sentry, offer management training programmes and defined career progression routes. Courses often include farm-based practical instruction, formal classroom instruction and residential personal development courses.

Agricultural colleges run many relevant courses, which provide qualifications such as: BTEC First Certificate and Diploma in agriculture; BTEC National Award, Certificate and Diploma in agriculture; Level 1, 2 and 3 Awards, Certificates and Diplomas in work-based agriculture; Diploma in Environmental and Land-based Studies.

Most training combines practical, work-based experience and classroom training. Apprenticeship programmes are also available, providing paid (£95 to £170 a week) structured training.

Specific contacts

Velcourt Farm Management Training Scheme, 01526 830469 www.velcourt.co.uk/employment/velcourt-mts

Sentry Farming, 0845 345 8058 www.sentry.co.uk

UK. Landex (an association of land-based colleges) www.landex.org.uk

Diploma in Environmental and Land-based studies www.diplomaelbs.co.uk and http://ypdirect.gov.uk/diplomas/subjects/


Farm Manager

Skills and qualifications

Farm managers usually have an agriculture-related qualification and a good level of technical knowledge backed up by several years’ practical farming experience.

Farm careerQualifications relevant to a farm manager include: Level 3 Diploma in Agriculture; BTEC Level 3 Certificate or Diploma in agriculture; a degree in agriculture or a related subject, (normally requires at least two A level grades, with chemistry and biology preferred); postgraduate courses, which require a relevant first degree or HNC/HND together with relevant work experience; Fertiliser Advisors Certification and Training Scheme.

Farm managers should be skilled in: business management and IT, leadership and decision making, people management, business acumen and strategic vision, and have an ability to cope with responsibility and stress.

Salary and benefits

Starting salaries are typically around £20,000 a year, increasing to £30,000 with experience. An experienced manager on a large farm may earn over £50,000.

Living and working on a farm makes for a great lifestyle often with valuable benefits such as rent-free accommodation, a farm vehicle and possible pension scheme.

Career progression

Farm managers often move around the country and sometimes overseas to gain experience. Continuing Professional Development is essential to keep up to date with the latest developments in agriculture, technology, policy and health and safety legislation.

As a general strategy, farm managers need to be active and known outside the farm business in societies and learning groups. As part of that, managers should keep in touch with their old university/college.

They should also build on qualifications and their track record of business competence and professionalism. A willingness to move area is important.

Potential follow-on careers from farm management include technical sales, consultancy and teaching, or agricultural advice.

Specific contacts

Institute of Agricultural Management, 01275 843825 www.iagrm.org.uk

British Institute of Agricultural Consultants, 01795 830100 www.biac.co.uk

Fertiliser Advisors Certification and Training Scheme, 01335 343945 www.factsinfo.org.uk

BASIS, 01335 343945 www.basis-reg.com




Dairy herdsman

Skills and qualifications

Like shepherds, no set qualifications are required, but a dairy herdsman will typically have several years’ practical experience and some formal agricultural training. Relevant agricultural qualifications are similar to those listed above for shepherds, but tailored to the dairy sector.

Other useful training includes: artificial insemination of cattle, foot trimming, first aid, health and safety, transportation of livestock, safe use of veterinary medicines.

Salary and benefits

Herdsman wages vary depending on the amount of responsibility and size of the herd. Starting salaries are normally at least £22,000 a year and with experience this can increase to £45,000.

Rent-free accommodation and a vehicle are often provided and some employers may provide other benefits, such as pension scheme or free farm produce.

Career progression

Practical experience is important, especially when getting started in the sector. Farm management or jobs in allied dairy industries are possible progression routes, although new training (eg sales) may be required.

DairyCo provides practical advice, training and business tools for dairy farmers, through its knowledge transfer service. This includes discussion groups, benchmarking (Milkbench+) and workshops focussing on business management.

Kite Consulting also offers a two-year management training programme, designed to produce dairy herd managers capable of managing 500+ cow herds within 5 years. All trainees must have a minimum of an NDA or NVQ3, although ideally candidates will have a Higher National Diploma or degree in agriculture or a similar discipline.

Specific contacts

DairyCo, 024 7669 2051 www.dairyco.org.uk

Kite Consulting Dairy Manager Scheme, 01461 700228 www.kiteconsulting.com/_Attachments/resources/160_s4.pdf

Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers, 0845 458 2711 www.rabdf.co.uk

Assured Dairy Farms, 01387 247967 www.ndfas.org.uk


Skills and qualifications

No specific qualifications are required, but shepherds should have some form of agricultural training, supported by practical experience – as a lambing assistant, for example.

Relevant agricultural qualifications include: Level 3 Diploma in Agriculture; BTEC Level 3 Certificate or Diploma in agriculture; a degree in agriculture or a related subject; postgraduate courses, which require a relevant first degree or HNC/HND together with relevant work experience; Advanced Apprenticeship in Agriculture.

Other useful training includes: shearing skills, foot trimming, ATV driving, first aid, health and safety, transportation of livestock, safe use of sheep dip, safe use of veterinary medicines.

Salary and benefits

Salaries vary depending on the flock size and level of responsibility, but typically start at around £18,000 a year. With experience this can increase to £23,000-25,000.

Rent-free accommodation and a farm vehicle are often provided.

Career progression

The more technical knowledge and practical skills you can develop, the more opportunities are likely to present themselves. Experienced shepherds can go on to manage larger flocks within the UK or abroad, while others may go into allied industries (eg, sheep feed specialist, red meat food sector, farmers’ markets), sales, research and policy development.

It is therefore important to keep up-to-date with market trends, farm policy, animal health, nutritional advice, and health and safety legislation.

The Institute for Animal Health runs a number of courses for people associated with the health of farm animals and provides information on control of diseases such as bluetongue.

Specific contacts

National Sheep Association, 01684 892661 www.nationalsheep.org.uk

EBLEX, 0870 242 1394 www.eblex.org.uk

Institute for animal health, www.iah.ac.uk

Meat Training Council, 01908 231062 www.meattraining.org.uk

Machinery technician

Skills and qualifications

Machinery technicians need a high level of mechanical skill and ability to apply information from technical manuals. Patience and an ability to solve problems under pressure are needed, along with a strong health and safety awareness.

Many enter this career through an apprenticeship. Entry requirements vary, but most employers expect four GCSEs (A*-C) or equivalent, including English, maths and science or technology, plus IT skills. Most of the large manufacturers provide apprentice training.

Useful qualifications include: Diploma in work-based land-based service engineering at Level 2 or 3; Level 3 BTEC National Award, Certificate and Diploma in land-based technology; NPTC Level 2 Certificate of Competence in land-based machine maintenance.

Salary and benefits

Apprentice technicians may start on a salary of £8000 to £10,000 a year, depending on age, increasing to around £30,000 for an experienced technician, or nearer £40,000 for diagnostic technicians with advanced skills.

Employers may provide transport, so driving licence is needed.

Career progression

Ongoing training is essential to keep up with changes in technology.

Experienced technicians can go on to a range of roles, including diagnostic technician, master technician, workshop supervisor, service manager and sales representative. Others may go self-employed, move into training as a college lecturer, or take up opportunities with sports clubs, local authorities and specialist equipment servicing companies.

The Land-based Technician Accreditation programme sets out a recognised career path related to pay scales (see the Institution of Agricultural Engineers website).

Specific contacts

Agricultural Engineers’ Association, 0845 644 8748 www.aea.uk.com

British Agricultural and Garden Machinery Association, 01295 713344 www.bagma.com

Engineering and Technology Board, 020 3206 0400 www.etechb.co.uk and www.scenta.co.uk

Institution of Agricultural Engineers, 01525 861096 www.iagre.org

Farm administrator

Skills and qualifications

Strong numeracy, IT, communication and organisational skills. A knowledge of the running and management of a farm, plus ability to handle confidential business matters with discretion.

Most work is office based, although a driving licence and own transport is usually necessary.

Salary and benefits

Salaries range from £14,000 a year for starters, up to £28,000 or more for experienced staff working on large estates. Some farms may provide accommodation on site.

Career progression

Continuing Professional Development is a key part of career progression and training is available to all Institute of Agricultural Secretaries and Administrators members. There are various CPD grades available, with CPD 1 being the entry level required for members to use AIAgSA after their name. In order to maintain this grade CPDm must be completed annually.

Some farm administrators decide to go self-employed or join other administrative/management roles once they have built up enough experience eg, finance clerk, business advisor, personal assistant.

Specific contacts

IAgSA,01926 485543 www.iagsa.co.uk

Institute of Certified Bookkeepers, 0845 060 2345 www.book-keepers.org


Skills & qualifications

No specific qualifications required, although qualifications for operating forest tools and machinery are encouraged, such as: Level 3 NVQ in tree work; Level 2 Certificates of Competence in chainsaw and related operations, all terrain vehicle handling or forest machine operations.

Apprenticeships may be possible and several forestry courses are also available, including: BTEC Introductory Diploma in land and environment; BTEC National Award, Certificate or Diploma in forestry and arboriculture; NPTC Level 2 Certificate and Level 3 Diploma in Forestry and Arboriculture; ABC Awards Level 1 Certificate in practical environmental and conservation skills; Lantra Awards Level 2 Certificate in land-based activities.

Driving licence may be required.

Salary and benefits

Starting salaries for Forestry Commission apprentices are around £13,697 a year, with more experienced works supervisors earning nearer £18,000 a year, up to £24,000.

Career progression

Progression prospects are clearer in large organisations like the Forestry Commission where experienced staff can go on to senior forest worker, works supervisor, or forest officer roles. Others may need to change organisations or go self-employed and contract-out their services. Alternative careers include tree surgeons or forest ranger roles for those with a stronger interest in wildlife.

Voluntary work with organisations such as the National Trust, British Trust for Conservation Volunteers or local wildlife trusts may help get into this sector or progress to a new role.

Specific contacts

Forestry Commission, 0131 334 0303 www.forestry.gov.uk

Institute of Chartered Foresters, 0131 240 1425 www.charteredforesters.org

Arboricultural Association, 01242 522152 www.trees.org.uk

The Royal Forestry Society www.rfs.org.uk

General contacts

LANTRA, 024 7669 6996 or 0845 707 8007 www.lantra.co.uk and www.lantracoursefinder.co.uk or www.afuturein.com

Scottish Agricultural College, 0131 535 4000 www.sac.ac.uk

Grow Your Own Career in Horticulture www.growcareers.info

Farmers Weekly jobs www.fwi.co.uk/jobs

National Council for Work Experience, 0161 277 5267 www.work-experience.org

Countryside Jobs Service, 01947 896007 www.countryside-jobs.com

NFU, 024 76858500 www.nfuonline.com

Graduate careers advice, www.prospects.ac.uk

Continuing Professional Development www.cipd.co.uk/cpd/