What do Soil and Plant Scientists Do?
Often focusing on crops and agriculture, soil and plant scientists are those who perform research on the general life cycle and physiology of plants. Broad areas of focus include breeding, yield and production, and the management of plant life including shrubs, trees, and nursery flora. Scientists in this specific field study the biological and chemical properties of soil, the impact and control of pests, and may even develop new or improved methods of crop management.An 8% growth rate is expected in this profession between the years 2012 and 2022, or about 670 new job openings each year. This number represents an average between states forecasting large increases (California, Kansas) and those expecting little or no positive change (New Mexico, New Hampshire).
Soil and Plant Scientists Skills and Attributes
As is the case with many such occupations, reasoning and comprehension are critical to your success as a soil and plant scientist. Written expression is considered important as well, as you will need the ability to clearly communicate ideas and information to colleagues and other professionals. Other noteworthy attributes and talents can include critical thinking and complex problem-solving abilities, categorical flexibility and informational ordering skills.
Soil and Plant Scientists Duties
The list of potential tasks and duties is long and wide-ranging, but often focuses on improving the life cycle of agricultural plants and crops. You will engage in everything from conducting scientific research and experiments on soil and plant life to investigating the causes and effects of pests and other natural threats. Some of the more specific job duties also include:
- Collecting and analyzing biological samples
- Developing or improving on agricultural practices and processes
- Researching geological and hydrologic characteristics and features
- Performing surveys of property or expanses of land
- Creating reports, presentations, and other scientific documents
Soil and Plant Scientists Tools and Technology
Scientists with this type of professional focus utilize a variety of specialized tools and software applications in order to achieve their goals. You should be prepared to work with photometers, gel electrophoresis and documentation systems, soil core-sampling scoops and augurs, and radar-based tracking systems. Some of the particular software common to this field includes:
- Computer-aided design suites such as AutoDesk
- Map-creation programs like GIS, ESRI ArcGIS, and Erdas Imagine
- Database query and user interface software including NRCS PEDON, Soils Explorer, and NASIS
- General scientific and analytical applications like 3DMapper, GEOEAS, GSLIB, and EPIC
Education and Training for Soil and Plant Scientists
While job training and previous work experience are not usually required for employment in this field, higher education often is necessary. You should be prepared with a Bachelor’s degree, and your focus should be on the following types of educational programs:
- General agriculture and horticultural plant breeding
- Plant and horticultural sciences
- Soil chemistry, sciences, and microbiology
- Viticulture and enology
Soil and Plant Scientists Salary
The state in which you work will have bearing on how much you’re likely to earn as a plant and soil scientist. For example, the top 10% of earners are expected to take home upwards of $100,000 per year. By contrast, the bottommost 10% generally should expect to pull in just under $36,000 annually according to the national average.
Soil and Plant Scientists Jobs by Geography
Those states featuring the greatest concentration of plant and soil scientists include California, Iowa, Kansas, Massachusetts and Illinois. Many states offer limited opportunity in this sector, such as Louisiana, Wyoming, Alaska and South Carolina. However, it’s worth noting that in the ten-year span from 2012 to 2022, appreciable growth is forecasted in each of the current top five states as well as Delaware, Colorado, Tennessee, and Oregon.