Extension Education Minor Provides a Pathway to Career Success
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NC State University’s Extension Education minor has grown to a record-setting 29 students, increasing from just 2 students in 2018. The minor is open to all academic majors and current students are majoring in Animal Science, Communications – Public Relations, Agricultural Science, Agricultural Education, Agribusiness Management, Environmental Sciences, Elementary Education STEM Concentration, Poultry Science, Nutrition Science, Horticulture, Crop and Soil Science, among others. Faculty and campus leaders attribute the growth of this minor to North Carolina’s Extension professionals whom students admire as career mentors as well as the university’s cutting-edge, research-based curriculum.
When asking undergraduate students why they chose Extension as a career path, they commend the many Extension Professionals they have witnessed serving their local communities, and the students want to replicate their success.
One student who completed Extension Education courses is now a successful Extension 4-H Youth Development Agent in Alamance County. Sarah Maddry graduated in Agricultural Business Management in 2020 and is currently pursuing her Master’s Degree in Agriculture and Extension Education. She describes how the Extension Education courses have helped her in her current role this way: “One of the most beneficial parts about Extension Education classes is they directly correlate with my job. Program planning and evaluation are a huge part of an Extension Agent’s work. Taking classes that provide you with effective tools and resources to use really strengthens your Extension program. In Extension, things are always changing, whether it be your clientele, resources, or technology. Extension Education classes help you stay on top of those ever-changing demands so you can better serve your community.”
Dr. Ben Chapman, professor, and department head echoes the sentiment that Extension professionals themselves are the best advocates for their careers: “We firmly believe that this unprecedented undergraduate interest in the minor is influenced by the exceptional work of Extension professionals in North Carolina. Undergraduate students appreciate the work of Extension professionals in their local communities, and these students are seeking career opportunities where they can make a positive difference.”
The Extension Education minor is an important part of the curriculum for the
Department of Agricultural and Human Sciences. The department provides academic majors in Agricultural Science and Agricultural Education, in addition to master’s and doctoral degrees. According to Dr. Joseph Donaldson, an NC State faculty member who coordinates the Extension Education Minor, the curriculum “has been developed to create career-ready graduates.” In fact, faculty have worked to “align the curriculum with the professional competencies, such as program planning, evaluation, communications, volunteer leadership, and other competencies that research has shown are essential for Extension professional success,” said Donaldson.
The minor provides preparation for Extension careers in North Carolina and beyond. “Extension professionals have challenging and rewarding careers as they engage with their communities,” according to Susan Kelly, Assistant Extension Director for County Operations for NC State Extension. She continued: “Extension is a unique public agency because we advance agriculture, the environment, human health and well-being, youth, and communities while creating prosperity for all North Carolinians.”
Nationally, the Cooperative Extension System is working to recruit and retain a high-performing workforce that helps individuals, families, farmers, and communities to innovate. In line with this, Dr. Rich Bonanno, Associate Dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Director of NC State Extension, and Vice Provost for Outreach and Engagement, shares, “Every day, North Carolina’s Extension professionals provide solutions that improve the quality of life for farmers, families, youth, and communities. The Extension Education Minor is certainly helping us to connect with talented, well-prepared graduates who will be exemplary Extension professionals.”
To learn more about actual Extension professional job vacancies in North Carolina, visit the NC State Extension Job Vacancy website.
To learn more about actual Extension professional job vacancies throughout the United States, visit the Extension Jobs website which includes career opportunities in Extension, outreach, research, and higher education.
Note: Gabrielle “Gabby” Whorley is a current M.S. of Agricultural and Extension Education student who plans to graduate in May of 2023. She is a native of Caldwell county and is a first-generation college student. She completed the Extension Education minor in 2021 in conjunction with her B.S. in Animal Science.
Resources: Donaldson, J. L., Warner, W., Bruce, J., Morgan, J., Edwards, H. C., & Vaughan, R. (2022). Aligning instruction with extension professional competencies for an enhanced undergraduate extension education minor. Journal of Human Sciences and Extension, 10(3), 12.