Ag Career Profile: Agricultural Statistician

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For most folks, a career in government comes by chance rather than pursuit, and that is exactly how Kimberly McDaniel became an agricultural statistician with the National Agricultural Statistics Service 28 years ago. She works out of the Eastern Mountain Regional Field Office in Louisville, Ky.

Generally, a statistician does data analysis. Kim has worked in every section of NASS over the years, but now focuses on surveys coordination.

Her primary job is to coordinate the efforts of National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) field enumerators and territory supervisors, who collect data on behalf of NASS. That may include organizing training workshops and sending out regular communications about why and how data should be collected. Kim said managing information flow in and out of the office is a good way to describe her main role.

Kim was raised on a cash grain and cotton farm in the Arkansas Delta. She did not have a clear career direction but started studying business and found that she loved the economics classes. Still not sure what she would do with an economics degree, a professor encouraged her to study agricultural economics.

“I am grateful to the professor that pointed me in the direction of agriculture,” said Kim. “It was something I talked about all the time.”

Nearing graduation, a relative told her about a job opportunity with NASS. Kim picked up her life from the University of Missouri and headed to Kentucky when she landed the job.

In addition to having great bosses and excellent benefits, Kim’s favorite part of her job is the ability to work with different people.

“There are many interesting people in this field,” said Kim. “People are sincere and try to do the best they can in their jobs. There is also a lot of variety from day to day. I have loved learning about different types of agriculture over the years. I knew nothing about tobacco and found it amazing.”

When asked what she would have done differently to prepare for this career, Kim said teaching skills would have been helpful.

“Those skills are a gift, and I had not taught anyone anything before I started this job,” she said.

Her advice to young people is to decide what lifestyle they want. Kim suggests students research income levels of different jobs before college and learn what the profession could do for them. She also advises students to get a mentor and select courses of study that have flexibility. Kim said her agricultural economics education was very helpful.

“I love my job, I love learning, and I do it to serve agriculture.”  

By Jennifer Elwell, TeachKYAg

Ag CareersJennifer Elwell