Agricultural Communications

What Is It?:

Agricultural Communications at Illinois is the only program in the country that interweaves the study of agricultural, consumer, and environmental sciences with that of journalism, advertising, public relations, marketing, multimedia communications, and more. Students access scholarships, internships, study abroad, career services, professional development, and research opportunities offered by the two colleges that sponsor this major—the College of ACES and the College of Media.

Ag Comm graduates build careers in advertising and branding; print, broadcast and online journalism; multimedia communication; media planning; public relations and promotions; corporate communications; and sales. They work for Fortune 500 companies, media groups, advertising and public relations agencies, government entities, universities, and nonprofit organizations. Many are communication strategists for organizations that strive to achieve food security and international development. 

Concentrations:

The Ag Comm curriculum combines scientific expertise and communications competence. 

  • The minor in Food and Environmental Systems: The Ag Comm curriculum includes a built-in minor in Food and Environmental Systems, which provides scientific and technical grounding. Students take coursework in a variety of scientific and technical subject matter areas, enabling them to develop strengths in animal or crop sciences, food science and human nutrition, natural resources, environmental sciences and policy, agricultural and consumer economics, human development and family studies, or agricultural engineering and technology. 

Students choose one of two communication concentrations—Advertising and Journalism—which they apply to subject areas related to food, feed, fiber, renewable energy, natural resource management, rural development, law and policy—locally and globally. Students learn more than skills—they become experts in communication strategy. 

  • Advertising: Students who choose the Advertising concentration are exposed to the creative and account dimensions of advertising within businesses, agencies, and the media. They explore consumer psychology as it relates to food, agriculture, energy, and the environment, and build core competencies (knowledge, experience, analytical skills) necessary in advertising professions. Students are introduced to the structure, issues, and language of the industry; learn the tools of the industry; and apply these tools to solve real world advertising problems related to agriculture and the environment. 
  • Journalism: Those who opt for the Journalism concentration are prepared for careers in varied media outlets, including newspapers, magazines, radio, TV, online and social media. Students investiages and report on important and often critical agricultural and environmental issues. Courses teach students the nuances of communicating agricultural and environmental topics to various audiences using traditional, online, and emerging media. Students get real-world experience working with faculty in small laboratory classes that are, in effect, working newsrooms. The stories they produce are broadcast on UI-7, the public access, educational cable TV channel operated by the University, and by the Illinois Public Media, the public radio and television outlet are of the College of Media. Stories are routinely published in outlets such as the Daily Illini, the independent student newspaper, and the News-Gazette, the local newspaper serving the Champaign-Urbana community. 

Courses That Introduce the Major:

  • ACES 101Contemporary Issues in ACES or MDIA 100Orientation to the College of Media
  • AGCM 110—Intro to Ag & Env Comm
  • ADV 150—Introduction to Advertising
  • JOUR 200—Introduction to Journalism
  • AGED 220—Communicating Agriculture

Possible Career Opportunities:

This curriculum prepares students for a wide variety of positions in agricultural and environmental sciences that require expertise in communications. Over the past decade, graduates with Ag Comm degrees have served, among others, as: 

  • Advertising specialists 
  • Agency account executives
  • Agricultural editors, journalists, and reporters for the traditional and online media
  • Communications specialists
  • E-content editors
  • Environmental communication specialists
  • Event planners
  • Extension educators
  • Farm and news broadcasters
  • Graphic designers
  • Marketing and sales representatives
  • Marketing communications managers
  • Media planners and buyers
  • Photojournalists
  • Public relations managers and associates
  • Publishing managers
  • Social media coordinators and content managers
  • Strategic communication planners
  • Trade association representatives and directors

Enhancing Your Academic Experience:

  • Participating in undergraduate research
  • Applying for a study abroad experience
  • Utilizing resources of The Career Center
  • Joining a Registered Student Organization (RSO) related to this major, such as:
    • American Advertising Federation at the University of Illinois: offers professional development opportunities in advertising through a nationally accredited organization.
    • Illini Agricultural Communicators of Tomorrow: helps members develop professional skills and relationships in the communications industry, while growing friendships with peers and those interested in agricultural and environmental communications and other related professions.
    • JAMS of the College of Media: unites students across majors in the College of Media.  Students of all years and majors – even those outside the College of Media –  are welcome to join to gain more knowledge about the college, work on a variety of different media projects, form new friendships with a diverse group of students, and enrich leadership skills.

Related Skills:

  • Communication ability
  • Dealing with general public
  • Improvising
  • Investigation
  • Promotions
  • Public speaking
  • Radio and television appearances
  • Surveying information
  • Working well under stress

Further Information:

For more information on what you can do with a major in Agricultural Communications, visit The Career Center’s webpage: What Can I Do With This Major.

There are several professional organizations dedicated to Agricultural Communications.  Their websites might be able to provide a glimpse in the world of public relations, publishing, and leadership education.  These organizations include Public Relations Society of America, American Society of Newspaper Editors, and National FFA Organization.

For more information on the classes needed for a degree in Agricultural Communications, visit Undergraduate Programs.

For more information about the Agricultural Communications Program, please contact Lulu Rodriguez, Director (lulurod@illinois.edu); Leia Flure, Instructor (lweston2@illinois.edu); or Trent Nelson, Academic Advisor (tnnelson@illinois.edu).