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Career profile Soil Scientist

Also known as Agronomist, Agronomy Specialist, Crop Nutrition Scientist, Extension Specialist, Microbiology Soil Scientist, On-Site Soil Evaluator, Research Soil Scientist, Soil Fertility Extension Specialist, Soil Scientist

Soil Scientist

Also known as Agronomist, Agronomy Specialist, Crop Nutrition Scientist

Interests Profile
  • Investigative
  • Realistic
  • Artistic
Pay Range
$39,650 - $117,450 (annual)
Required Skills
  • Active Learning
  • Reading Comprehension
  • Speaking
Knowledge Areas
  • Biology
  • Computers and Electronics
  • Chemistry
Core tasks
  • 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.
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What does a Soil Scientist do?

Soil 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.

In addition, Soil Scientists may classify and map soils and investigate effects of alternative practices on soil and crop productivity.

What kind of tasks does a Soil Scientist perform regularly?

Soil Scientists are often responsible for overseeing or executing some or all of the following tasks:

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Study soil characteristics to classify soils on the basis of factors such as geographic location, landscape position, or soil properties.
  • Conduct research to determine best methods of planting, spraying, cultivating, harvesting, storing, processing, or transporting horticultural products.
  • Develop improved measurement techniques, soil conservation methods, soil sampling devices, or related technology.
  • Provide advice regarding the development of regulatory standards for land reclamation or soil conservation.
  • 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.
  • Conduct experiments investigating how soil forms, changes, or interacts with land-based ecosystems or living organisms.
  • Develop ways of altering soils to suit different types of plants.

The above responsibilities are specific to Soil Scientists. More generally, Soil Scientists are involved in several broader types of activities:

Working with Computers
Using computers and computer systems (including hardware and software) to program, write software, set up functions, enter data, or process information.
Analyzing Data or Information
Identifying the underlying principles, reasons, or facts of information by breaking down information or data into separate parts.
Updating and Using Relevant Knowledge
Keeping up-to-date technically and applying new knowledge to your job.
Making Decisions and Solving Problems
Analyzing information and evaluating results to choose the best solution and solve problems.
Processing Information
Compiling, coding, categorizing, calculating, tabulating, auditing, or verifying information or data.

What is a Soil Scientist salary?

The median salary for a Soil Scientist is $66,120, and the average salary is $73,040. Both the median and average roughly describe the middle of the Soil Scientist salary range, but the average is more easily affected by extremely high or low salaries.

Many Soil Scientists earn significantly more or less than the average, due to several factors. About 10% of Soil Scientists earn less than $39,650 per year, 25% earn less than $51,420, 75% earn less than $87,560, and 90% earn less than $117,450.

Between the years of 2020 and 2030, the number of Soil Scientists is expected to change by 10.1%, and there should be roughly 2,300 open positions for Soil Scientists every year.

Median annual salary
$66,120
Typical salary range
$39,650 - $117,450
Projected growth (2020 - 2030)
10.1%

What personality traits are common among Soil Scientists?

Interests

Career interests describe a person's preferences for different types of working environments and activities. When a person's interest match the demands of an occupation, people are usually more engaged and satisfied in that role.

Compared to most occupations, those who work as a Soil Scientist are usually higher in their Investigative and Realistic interests.

Soil Scientists typically have very strong Investigative interests. Investigative occupations frequently involve working with ideas, and require an extensive amount of thinking. These occupations can involve searching for facts and figuring out problems mentally.

Also, Soil Scientists typically have strong Realistic interests. Realistic occupations frequently involve work activities that include practical, hands-on problems and solutions. They often deal with plants, animals, and real-world materials like wood, tools, and machinery. Many of the occupations require working outside, and do not involve a lot of paperwork or working closely with others.

Values

People differ in their values, or what is most important to them for building job satisfaction and fulfillment.

Compared to most people, those working as a Soil Scientist tend to value Achievement, Independence, and Recognition.

Most importantly, Soil Scientists very strongly value Achievement. Occupations that satisfy this work value are results oriented and allow employees to use their strongest abilities, giving them a feeling of accomplishment.

Second, Soil Scientists strongly value Independence. Occupations that satisfy this work value allow employees to work on their own and make decisions.

Lastly, Soil Scientists strongly value Recognition. Occupations that satisfy this work value offer advancement, potential for leadership, and are often considered prestigious.

Psychological Demands

Each occupation brings its own set of psychological demands, which describe the characteristics necessary to perform the job well.

In order to perform their job successfully, people who work as Soil Scientists must consistently demonstrate qualities such as integrity, analytical thinking, and attention to detail.

Below, you'll find a list of qualities typically required of Soil Scientists, ranked by importance:

Integrity
Job requires being honest and ethical.
Analytical Thinking
Job requires analyzing information and using logic to address work-related issues and problems.
Attention to Detail
Job requires being careful about detail and thorough in completing work tasks.
Persistence
Job requires persistence in the face of obstacles.
Dependability
Job requires being reliable, responsible, and dependable, and fulfilling obligations.

What education and training do Soil Scientists need?

Many Soil Scientists have earned a graduate degree. For example, they may require a master's degree, and some require a doctoral degree, such as a Ph.D., M.D., or J.D..

Soil Scientists may need some on-the-job training, but most candidates will already have the required skills, knowledge, work-related experience, and/or training.

Educational degrees among Soil Scientists

  • 60.4% earned a Bachelor's degree
  • 26.8% earned a Master's degree
  • 12.8% earned a doctorate or professional degree

Knowledge and expertise required by Soil Scientists

Soil Scientists may benefit from understanding of specialized subject areas, such as biology, computers and electronics, or chemistry knowledge.

The list below shows several areas in which most Soil Scientists might want to build proficiency, ranked by importance.

Biology
Knowledge of plant and animal organisms, their tissues, cells, functions, interdependencies, and interactions with each other and the environment.
Computers and Electronics
Knowledge of circuit boards, processors, chips, electronic equipment, and computer hardware and software, including applications and programming.
Chemistry
Knowledge of the chemical composition, structure, and properties of substances and of the chemical processes and transformations that they undergo. This includes uses of chemicals and their interactions, danger signs, production techniques, and disposal methods.
Mathematics
Knowledge of arithmetic, algebra, geometry, calculus, statistics, and their applications.
Education and Training
Knowledge of principles and methods for curriculum and training design, teaching and instruction for individuals and groups, and the measurement of training effects.

Important Abilities needed by Soil Scientists

Soil Scientists must develop a particular set of abilities to perform their job well. Abilities are individual capacities that influence a person's information processing, sensory perception, motor coordination, and physical strength or endurance. Individuals may naturally have certain abilities without explicit training, but most abilities can be sharpened somewhat through practice.

For example, Soil Scientists need abilities such as category flexibility, oral comprehension, and written comprehension in order to perform their job at a high level. The list below shows several important abilities for Soil Scientists, ranked by their relative importance.

Category Flexibility
The ability to generate or use different sets of rules for combining or grouping things in different ways.
Oral Comprehension
The ability to listen to and understand information and ideas presented through spoken words and sentences.
Written Comprehension
The ability to read and understand information and ideas presented in writing.
Oral Expression
The ability to communicate information and ideas in speaking so others will understand.
Written Expression
The ability to communicate information and ideas in writing so others will understand.

Critical Skills needed by Soil Scientists

Skills are developed capacities that enable people to function effectively in real-world settings. Unlike abilities, skills are typically easier to build through practice and experience. Skills influence effectiveness in areas such as learning, working with others, design, troubleshooting, and more.

Soil Scientists frequently use skills like active learning, reading comprehension, and speaking to perform their job effectively. The list below shows several critical skills for Soil Scientists, ranked by their relative importance.

Active Learning
Understanding the implications of new information for both current and future problem-solving and decision-making.
Reading Comprehension
Understanding written sentences and paragraphs in work-related documents.
Speaking
Talking to others to convey information effectively.
Science
Using scientific rules and methods to solve problems.
Critical Thinking
Using logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions, or approaches to problems.

What is the source of this information?

The information provided on this page is adapted from data and descriptions published by the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration under the CC BY 4.0 license. TraitLab has modified some information for ease of use and reading, and the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment, and Training Administration has not approved, endorsed, or tested these modifications.

If you have any questions or suggestions about this information, please send a message.