When you're from a long line of ranchers, leaving for college is a pretty big deal. You may be the first in your family to have the opportunity, but university life is a different world from the farm. What’s more, even if your beloved equine companion is cared for while you’re away, you may not know which career path to choose. Having experienced this confusion first-hand, I’d like to offer a few degree options that can help on the ranch and may not seem obvious to those headed towards higher education.
Bachelor of Business Administration
Believe it or not, farms and ranches need business-savvy leaders. While it may sound like you’re trying to take the lead from a friend or family member, a B.B.A. can put you in the support role to ensure that your ancestral home remains profitable and successful for a long time to come. You can work with ranch hands, managers and trainers or breeders in a direct role. Try something like supply-chain management, where you’ll make sure everything gets to where it needs to go. After a long day, you can still head out to the farm for catch-up meetings and a good long ride.
A B.B.A. opens a variety of doors that can make you an invaluable asset. You’ll learn how to work with other businesses to negotiate deals for what you need and what your own business produces. You may even find yourself negotiating mergers and buyouts of other farms, combining business acumen with the experience and empathy for others you’ve learned through caring for foals, mares, and colts.
Family Nurse Practitioner
The role of family nurse lends itself well to dealing with the rigors of hard work. And no, it’s not just women who become nurses. A family nurse practitioner ensures that everyone in the area remains healthy, and the empathy you’ve learned at home will definitely come in handy in this role. When you return after receiving your education, you’ll be the “doc” keeping everyone fit and ready for work.
An FNP helps the community as well as his or her primary place of business. Many rural areas are without a certified doctor or nurse of any kind, and improving care in these healthcare “deserts” can go a long way towards promoting growth. Telemedicine is on the rise, and you’ll be the onsite point of contact when an expert hand is needed for tricky medical concerns. You won’t just be stitching wounds and giving shots, however, you’ll be seen as the go-to person for everything from helping with births to alleviating back pain.
Doctor of Optometry
Eye care is just as important and understaffed in rural regions. As a doctor of optometry, you can prescribe glasses and contacts for everyone in the community. While not as glamorous as being the local doctor, your business can easily become a home for local FNPs and other caregivers as you build it up over the years. You may even work with local veterinarians to diagnose cataracts before they lead to blindness or create glasses for horses and other important animals.
All three of these roles allow you to give back to the community that raised you without returning to your old job on the ranch or farm. They keep you close to home, but you can stay far enough away that returning is more of an adventure and a blessing than a chore. If some of your family aren’t convinced that college is the right thing for you, perhaps thinking that you’re more valuable taming and training horses, this list might just tip their opinion when they consider all you’ll have to offer when you return after completing your education.