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Career Profile: Soil and Plant Scientists

Conduct research in breeding, physiology, production, yield, and management of crops and agricultural plants or trees, shrubs, and nursery stock, their growth in soils, and control of pests; or study the chemical, physical, biological, and mineralogical composition of soils as they relate to plant or crop growth. May classify and map soils and investigate effects of alternative practices on soil and crop productivity.

Salary and Outlook

According to the US Department of Labor, there are 19,100 people employed as soil and plant scientists in the United States. The median annual salary is $66,750. Entry level employees earn approximately $39,980 per year and senior employees earn approximately $126,950 per year.

Estimates do not include other potential benefits such as health insurance, overtime pay, or retirement benefits that may be offered by employers.

Job Duties

  • Identify degraded or contaminated soils and develop plans to improve their chemical, biological, or physical characteristics.
  • Develop new or improved methods or products for controlling or eliminating weeds, crop diseases, or insect pests.
  • Provide advice regarding the development of regulatory standards for land reclamation or soil conservation.
  • Study soil characteristics to classify soils on the basis of factors such as geographic location, landscape position, or soil properties.
  • Develop improved measurement techniques, soil conservation methods, soil sampling devices, or related technology.
  • Conduct research to determine best methods of planting, spraying, cultivating, harvesting, storing, processing, or transporting horticultural products.
  • Develop environmentally safe methods or products for controlling or eliminating weeds, crop diseases, or pests.
  • Study ways to improve agricultural sustainability, such as the use of new methods of composting.
  • Consult with engineers or other technical personnel working on construction projects about the effects of soil problems and possible solutions to these problems.
  • Perform chemical analyses of the microorganism content of soils to determine microbial reactions or chemical mineralogical relationships to plant growth.
  • Develop ways of altering soils to suit different types of plants.
  • Conduct experiments investigating how soil forms, changes, or interacts with land-based ecosystems or living organisms.
  • Survey undisturbed or disturbed lands for classification, inventory, mapping, environmental impact assessments, environmental protection planning, conservation planning, or reclamation planning.
  • Plan or supervise waste management programs for composting or farming.
  • Research technical requirements or environmental impacts of urban green spaces, such as green roof installations.
  • Conduct experiments regarding causes of bee diseases or factors affecting yields of nectar or pollen.
  • Identify or classify species of insects or allied forms, such as mites or spiders.
  • Study insect distribution or habitat and recommend methods to prevent importation or spread of injurious species.
  • Plan or supervise land conservation or reclamation programs for industrial development projects.
  • Conduct research into the use of plant species as green fuels or in the production of green fuels.
  • Communicate research or project results to other professionals or the public or teach related courses, seminars, or workshops.
  • Develop methods of conserving or managing soil that can be applied by farmers or forestry companies.
  • Provide information or recommendations to farmers or other landowners regarding ways in which they can best use land, promote plant growth, or avoid or correct problems such as erosion.
  • Conduct experiments to develop new or improved varieties of field crops, focusing on characteristics such as yield, quality, disease resistance, nutritional value, or adaptation to specific soils or climates.
  • Investigate soil problems or poor water quality to determine sources and effects.
  • Investigate responses of soils to specific management practices to determine the use capabilities of soils and the effects of alternative practices on soil productivity.
  • Conduct experiments to investigate the underlying mechanisms of plant growth and response to the environment.

Career List

Job Outlook


Total Current Jobs:
19,100
Annual Openings:
2,100
Increase in Openings by 2031:
9%
Annual Salary Range:
$39,980 - $126,950
Education Requirements:
Bachelor's degree