Are you Next?

By: Matt Patton, CATA Executive Director

Agricultural Education has consistently grown our own. For the most part, CATA leadership, California Department of Education (CDE) state staff, and university educators, at one time, all taught at the high school level. In addition, many community college instructors cut their teeth at the secondary level. Therefore, intrinsic knowledge of secondary agricultural education is advantageous to excel in such positions.

Traditionally, people who fill those positions have made a conscious decision and sacrificed to qualify for those jobs.

43% of current CDE state staff will be eligible for retirement in the next five years. The last five years have seen the retirement or Faculty Early Retirement Program (FERP) of five university professors and the expansion of almost the same number of positions.

CATA needs annual leaders to step up at the state, regional, and sectional levels.

The question is, who among us will be next to answer the call to help lead our profession into the next decade? 

The vast majority of positions mentioned above require prerequisite qualifications. Therefore, planning is needed to be eligible to apply for such a position.

CATA office at all levels requires that members have at least two years of paid membership and be in good standing. CATA state officer candidates must have served on the governing board as a Regional President, Division Chair, or Division Chair-Elect. 

Joining the California Department of Education is a time-consuming endeavor. Applicants must take an assessment and be vetted. Assessment tests are reviewed on the 20th of every month, and results are generally posted at the beginning of the following month. If an applicant’s assessment needs to be modified or adjusted, more time is required. To be considered for a state staff job, the process must be initiated a month before posting. If working at the state staff level is something that you are remotely interested in, get on the list and maintain eligibility just in case.

Foreseeably with the expansion of free community college for all, enrollment will also increase. As a result, the demand for qualified instructors will also increase. Typically, some iteration of a master’s degree is required to teach at the post-secondary level. Online programs, night classes, and summer programs are good ways to obtain a master’s degree and maintain current employment.

Most university tenure track positions require doctorate work for eligibility. Fortunately, there are now several options for distant learning to earn doctoral degrees. Numerous individuals in our ranks have recently received their doctorates, many of whom did so without relocating or changing their day jobs. Big kudos to those individuals for investing in themselves and making sacrifices that will benefit ag education for years to come. With retirements and expansions looming, more high school and community college agricultural teachers will need to obtain additional degrees to ensure teacher training at the university is based on actual classroom experience.

Anyone with any interest in any of the careers mentioned above should reach out to someone currently in one of those positions. People that have successfully navigated the process are a great resource to determine a path forward. Meeting the criteria for some of these jobs can take years. Prior planning is essential to be ready when the opportunity presents itself.

For more information about the California Agricultural Teachers’ Association, visit

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