According to the United States Census Bureau, Beltsville has a total area of 6.6 square miles (17.2 km²), all of it land.
There were 5,690 households out of which 32.4% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 49.0% were married couples living together, 13.5% had a female householder with no husband present, and 32.8% were non-families. 23.0% of all households were made up of individuals and 5.1% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.74 and the average family size was 3.27.
In Beltsville the population is spread out with 23.6% under the age of 18, 10.3% from 18 to 24, 34.5% from 25 to 44, 22.6% from 45 to 64, and 8.9% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 35 years. For every 100 females there were 94.5 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 91.8 males.
The median income for a household in Beltsville is $57,722, and the median income for a family was $66,087. Males had a median income of $40,914 versus $35,645 for females. The per capita income for the CDP was $24,679. About 5.5% of families and 7.2% of the population were below the poverty line, including 5.4% of those under age 18 and 7.2% of those age 65 or over.
Industry came to Beltsville in the early 1700s when iron ore was discovered in the area. The Muirkirk Iron Furnace on U.S. 1 was established by Andrew and Elias Elliott, who learned their iron-making skills in Muirkirk, Scotland. They produced some of the best-quality pig iron in the country and supplied the U.S. Army with cannons, shot, wheels, and other iron products during both the Revolutionary and Civil Wars.
By 1730, Post Road (now called Route 1) was the main thoroughfare through Beltsville. Though crude, it made stagecoach travel possible. In 1783, Gabriel Peterson Van Horn established a stage line and built the Van Horn Tavern on Odell Road, where passengers could spend the night as they traveled between Baltimore and Washington. The trip took one and one-half days.
Beltsville boasts a distinguished Revolutionary War hero as its native son. General Rezin Beall, who was born on Turkey Flight Plantation on Old Gunpowder Road in 1723, prevented a British invasion at Drum Point on the Chesapeake Bay with only 100 men. He is credited with the fact that there are no Revolutionary War battlefields in Maryland.
In 1835 one of the first rail lines in the country, the Washington branch of the B&O Railroad, was built through Prince George's County. Coming from Baltimore, the line entered the county at Laurel and ran southwesterly to Bladensburg, then into Washington DC. B&O established a rail stop and freight depot on land purchased from a tobacco farmer named Trueman Belt, and they named the place after him. The new community of Beltsville was doubly blessed, for the Baltimore-Washington Turnpike crossed the rail line there. It soon became a thriving little trading center, eclipsing the older community of Vansville further north on the pike.
As the Federal Government grew, in 1910 the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) began to purchase land in Beltsville for its Agricultural Research Service (ARS), the main in-house research arm of the United States Department of Agriculture. The land now houses the Henry A. Wallace Beltsville Agricultural Research Center (BARC). The first parcel acquired was of the Walnut Grange Plantation with its historic "Butterfly House" The Center eventually encompassed and became the largest and most prominent center of agricultural science research in the world.
There are a number of historic homes and buildings still standing in Beltsville. The oldest home was built in 1773. One of the largest of the older buildings, built in 1880, was the three-story "Ammendale Normal Institute" which was destroyed by fire in 1998. Beltsville has grown because of its location on the Route 1 corridor and because its residents have always been industrious and progressive. With churches of all denominations, schools, activity centers for both children and adults, and civic organizations, it continues to grow and prosper. Through all its growth, however, Beltsville continues to have a small-town feel.
Public elementary schools include:
Public middle schools include:
Public high schools include:
Augsburg Academy, a K-8 school that is affiliated with Augsburg Evangelical Church, opened in 2005. Its curriculum is based on the curriculum of Hillsdale Academy, the K-12 school affiliated with Hillsdale College, Michigan.