Career: 4-H Agent

Hay Everyone!

I’m back once again to report on a career in the equine industry. You’ve probably noticed we host many events in conjunction with the New Jersey 4-H program. I’ve always thought being a 4-H agent would be fun. You get to interact with kids and horses all the time! What’s not to like about that job description? I decided to take a deeper dive into the life of a 4-H agent. Keep reading for an interview with Carol Ward, a 4-H agent in Somerset County.

Ms. Ward earned her degrees from the University of Connecticut and Clemson University before joining the 4-H program in New Jersey. See what you think of a career as a 4-H agent.

Lord Nelson (LN): What does your typical day at work look like?

Ms. Ward (Ms. W): I have no typical day. That is what I like about my job. One day, I may be in the office fielding questions, writing a newsletter or blog or filling out reports. Another day I may be with 100 4-H Campers, or 50 4-H Dairy Show youth at a State Show or Dairy Judging Contest in a barn or fairgrounds. Yesterday I was at the Horse Park of New Jersey recognizing one of our 4-H youth. My days are not typical in time frame either- I do work during the day (mostly 8:30 – 4:30) and then again at night 2 to 3 nights a week. I meet with committees to plan events like a Horse Clinic for the Summer. I also work at least one weekend or more a month because my clientele are in school during the day. Therefore, our programs, events and contests are held at night and on weekends.

LN: What is your favorite part of the job?

Ms. Ward: I really enjoy seeing how our 4-H members achieve their goals. Just yesterday I was talking with the State 4-H Equestrian and asked her what she has been doing since I had not seen her for a year. She is now a professional rider working with her own horse and getting paid to train horses other people own. She also gives lessons to youth who were just like her a few years ago; learning to ride. Since she is starting her own business, she is also getting a business degree at a local community college. I told her how proud I was to know that 4-H had some role in her success and that I was very happy for her. That is our reward for a job well done- Seeing our members succeed.

Ms. Ward celebrating and recognizing a 4-H member.

LN: What is your least favorite part of the job?

Ms. Ward: Completing reports!

LN: If someone were considering a similar career path, what advice would you offer to them?

MS. W: Take a wide variety of classes in college and continue to be a lifelong learner. I knew I wanted to be a 4-H Agent, so even though I was an Animal Science Major, I also took classes in soils, crops, sociology, psychology, educational design and evaluation. I already had the public speaking experience from being a 4-H member and giving presentations and oral reasons during judging contests, but if you want to be in a public position like this you also need experience writing and public speaking. You need to be a jack of all trades.

LN: What made you decide to pursue a career as an extension agent and how did you establish yourself within this field?

Ms. W: I was a 4-H member in Connecticut in the dairy project and went to 4-H Horse Camp with my horse and was a horse camp counselor and a 4-H Fair Association President and then I was selected as one of four teens to represent Connecticut at the National 4-H Dairy Conference in Madison, Wisconsin. That is when I decided I would like to do what those 4-H professionals were doing. I wanted to help run fun, educational events for kids.

Ms. Ward at the Evening of Science and Celebration.

LN: Why did you choose to work in 4-H rather than another part of the extension system?

Ms. W: I prefer to work with youth and adults who work with youth.

LN: Is there anything I’ve missed that you would like to share?

Ms. W: I was an Animal Science Major in college and many people would say to me- “Oh, you must want to be a veterinarian?” I would say “NO- I want to be a 4-H Agent.” My point is there are many things you can do with an Animal Science degree instead of being a veterinarian.

LN: Thank you for taking the time to visit with me today Ms. Ward!

Ms. W: It was my pleasure Lord Nelson. It’s always fun to chat with you.

I hope you enjoyed this glimpse into the career of a 4-H agent. If you’re anything like me you’ve probably attended many events run, at least in part, by 4-H agents. I think if I were to go back and start my life over again, I would consider being a 4-H agent. Working with youth sounds like a fun way to spend my days.

Until Next Time.

Your Friend,

Lord Nelson

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