Summary Report for:
19-1013.00 - 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.
Sample of reported job titles: Agronomist, Agronomy Research Manager, Agronomy Specialist, Crop Nutrition Scientist, Extension Specialist, Microbiology Soil Scientist, On-Site Soil Evaluator, Research Soil Scientist, Soil Fertility Extension Specialist, Soil Scientist
Tasks | Tools & Technology | Knowledge | Skills | Abilities | Work Activities | Detailed Work Activities | Work Context | Job Zone | Education | Credentials | Interests | Work Styles | Work Values | Related Occupations | Wages & Employment | Job Openings | Additional Information
- Communicate research or project results to other professionals or the public or teach related courses, seminars, or workshops.
- 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.
- Develop new or improved methods or products for controlling or eliminating weeds, crop diseases, or insect pests.
- 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.
- Develop environmentally safe methods or products for controlling or eliminating weeds, crop diseases, or insect pests.
- Investigate soil problems or poor water quality to determine sources and effects.
- Conduct experiments investigating how soil forms, changes, or interacts with land-based ecosystems or living organisms.
- Conduct research to determine best methods of planting, spraying, cultivating, harvesting, storing, processing, or transporting horticultural products.
- Investigate responses of soils to specific management practices to determine the effects of alternative practices on the environment.
- Develop methods of conserving or managing soil that can be applied by farmers or forestry companies.
- Study ways to improve agricultural sustainability, such as the use of new methods of composting.
- Investigate responses of soils to specific management practices to determine the use capabilities of soils and the effects of alternative practices on soil productivity.
- Identify degraded or contaminated soils and develop plans to improve their chemical, biological, or physical characteristics.
- Develop ways of altering soils to suit different types of plants.
- Identify or classify species of insects or allied forms, such as mites or spiders.
- Provide advice regarding the development of regulatory standards for land reclamation or soil conservation.
- Study insect distribution or habitat and recommend methods to prevent importation or spread of injurious species.
- 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 regarding causes of bee diseases or factors affecting yields of nectar or pollen.
Tools & Technology
Tools used in this occupation:
- Atomic absorption AA spectrometers
- Augers — Hand augers
- Benchtop centrifuges — High speed centrifuges
- Circulating baths — Circulating water baths
- Conductivity meters
- Desktop computers
- Digital cameras
- Drying cabinets or ovens — Laboratory drying ovens
- Electron microscopes
- Fluorescent microscopes — Epifluorescence microscopes
- Gel documentation systems — Gel electrophoresis systems
- Gel dryers
- Global positioning system GPS receiver — Global positioning system GPS receivers
- Handheld thermometer — Soil thermometers
- Hydrometers — Soil analysis hydrometers
- Inductively coupled plasma ICP spectrometers — Inductively coupled plasma atomic emission spectrometers ICP-AES
- Infra red or ultra violet absorption analyzers — Infrared gas analyzers
- Infrared imagers — Infrared cameras
- Ion chromatographs
- Laboratory balances — Precision balances
- Laboratory beakers — Glass beakers
- Laboratory box furnaces — Laboratory muffle furnaces
- Laboratory flasks — Erlenmeyer flasks; Glass flasks
- Laboratory graduated cylinders — Graduated glass cylinders
- Laboratory mills — Laboratory grinders
- Laboratory mixers
- Laminar flow cabinets or stations — Laminar flow hoods
- Light absorption meters — Canopy analyzers
- Mass spectrometers
- Microplate readers — Microtiter plate readers
- Moisture meters — Soil moisture neutron probes
- Multipurpose or general test tubes — Laboratory test tubes
- Notebook computers — Laptop computers
- Orbital shaking water baths — Hot water shaking baths
- Organic carbon analyzers
- Particle size measuring apparatus — Laser particle sizers
- Permeability or porosity estimation apparatus — Porometers
- Personal computers
- Personal digital assistant PDAs or organizers — Personal digital assistants PDA
- pH meters — Digital pH meters; pH indicators
- Photometers — Flame photometers; Luminometers
- Polarizing microscopes
- Portable data input terminals — Dataloggers
- Precipitation or evaporation recorders — Lysimeters
- Radarbased surveillance systems — Ground penetrating radar GPR; Light detection and ranging LIDAR systems; Synthetic aperture radar SAR
- Rapid amplification or complementary deoxyribonucleic acid ends RACE technology products — Polymerase chain reaction PCR equipment
- Reciprocating shaking water baths — Reciprocating shaker water baths
- Refrigerated and heated reach in environmental or growth chambers — Laboratory growth chambers
- Refrigerated benchtop centrifuges — Refrigerated microfuges
- Sample holders — Sample containers
- Soil core sampling apparatus — Calibrated soil scoops; Soil augers
- Soil testing kits — Heat flux plates
- Spectrofluorimeters or fluorimeters — Fluorimeters; X ray fluorescence XRF spectrometers
- Spectrometers — Gamma ray spectrometers
- Test sieves — Laboratory sieves
- Tissue culture incubators — Cell tissue culture incubators
Technology used in this occupation:
- Analytical or scientific software — European Soil Erosion Model EUROSEM; PC-Progress HYDRUS; SAS software ; Water Erosion Prediction Project WEPP (see all 16 examples)
- Categorization or classification software — GAEA Technologies WinSieve
- Computer aided design CAD software — Autodesk AutoCAD software
- Data base user interface and query software — Microsoft Access ; National Soil Information System NASIS; PedonCE; SoilVision Systems SoilVision software (see all 7 examples)
- Map creation software — ESRI ArcGIS software ; Geographic information system GIS software ; Leica Geosystems ERDAS IMAGINE
- Object or component oriented development software — R
- Office suite software — Microsoft Office software
- Presentation software — Microsoft PowerPoint
- Spreadsheet software — Microsoft Excel
- Word processing software — Microsoft Word
Hot Technology — a technology requirement frequently included in employer job postings.
- Biology — Knowledge of plant and animal organisms, their tissues, cells, functions, interdependencies, and interactions with each other and the environment.
- English Language — Knowledge of the structure and content of the English language including the meaning and spelling of words, rules of composition, and grammar.
- 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.
- 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.
- Computers and Electronics — Knowledge of circuit boards, processors, chips, electronic equipment, and computer hardware and software, including applications and programming.
- Administration and Management — Knowledge of business and management principles involved in strategic planning, resource allocation, human resources modeling, leadership technique, production methods, and coordination of people and resources.
- Customer and Personal Service — Knowledge of principles and processes for providing customer and personal services. This includes customer needs assessment, meeting quality standards for services, and evaluation of customer satisfaction.
- Reading Comprehension — Understanding written sentences and paragraphs in work related documents.
- Science — Using scientific rules and methods to solve problems.
- Active Learning — Understanding the implications of new information for both current and future problem-solving and decision-making.
- Complex Problem Solving — Identifying complex problems and reviewing related information to develop and evaluate options and implement solutions.
- Critical Thinking — Using logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions or approaches to problems.
- Speaking — Talking to others to convey information effectively.
- Active Listening — Giving full attention to what other people are saying, taking time to understand the points being made, asking questions as appropriate, and not interrupting at inappropriate times.
- Judgment and Decision Making — Considering the relative costs and benefits of potential actions to choose the most appropriate one.
- Writing — Communicating effectively in writing as appropriate for the needs of the audience.
- Monitoring — Monitoring/Assessing performance of yourself, other individuals, or organizations to make improvements or take corrective action.
- Systems Analysis — Determining how a system should work and how changes in conditions, operations, and the environment will affect outcomes.
- Systems Evaluation — Identifying measures or indicators of system performance and the actions needed to improve or correct performance, relative to the goals of the system.
- Instructing — Teaching others how to do something.
- Learning Strategies — Selecting and using training/instructional methods and procedures appropriate for the situation when learning or teaching new things.
- Operations Analysis — Analyzing needs and product requirements to create a design.
- Mathematics — Using mathematics to solve problems.
- Coordination — Adjusting actions in relation to others' actions.
- Quality Control Analysis — Conducting tests and inspections of products, services, or processes to evaluate quality or performance.
- Time Management — Managing one's own time and the time of others.
- 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.
- Category Flexibility — The ability to generate or use different sets of rules for combining or grouping things in different ways.
- Deductive Reasoning — The ability to apply general rules to specific problems to produce answers that make sense.
- Inductive Reasoning — The ability to combine pieces of information to form general rules or conclusions (includes finding a relationship among seemingly unrelated events).
- Information Ordering — The ability to arrange things or actions in a certain order or pattern according to a specific rule or set of rules (e.g., patterns of numbers, letters, words, pictures, mathematical operations).
- 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.
- Problem Sensitivity — The ability to tell when something is wrong or is likely to go wrong. It does not involve solving the problem, only recognizing there is a problem.
- Near Vision — The ability to see details at close range (within a few feet of the observer).
- Originality — The ability to come up with unusual or clever ideas about a given topic or situation, or to develop creative ways to solve a problem.
- Speech Clarity — The ability to speak clearly so others can understand you.
- Fluency of Ideas — The ability to come up with a number of ideas about a topic (the number of ideas is important, not their quality, correctness, or creativity).
- Speech Recognition — The ability to identify and understand the speech of another person.
- Flexibility of Closure — The ability to identify or detect a known pattern (a figure, object, word, or sound) that is hidden in other distracting material.
- Mathematical Reasoning — The ability to choose the right mathematical methods or formulas to solve a problem.
- Number Facility — The ability to add, subtract, multiply, or divide quickly and correctly.
- Perceptual Speed — The ability to quickly and accurately compare similarities and differences among sets of letters, numbers, objects, pictures, or patterns. The things to be compared may be presented at the same time or one after the other. This ability also includes comparing a presented object with a remembered object.
- Selective Attention — The ability to concentrate on a task over a period of time without being distracted.
- Analyzing Data or Information — Identifying the underlying principles, reasons, or facts of information by breaking down information or data into separate parts.
- Processing Information — Compiling, coding, categorizing, calculating, tabulating, auditing, or verifying information or data.
- Updating and Using Relevant Knowledge — Keeping up-to-date technically and applying new knowledge to your job.
- Getting Information — Observing, receiving, and otherwise obtaining information from all relevant sources.
- Interacting With Computers — Using computers and computer systems (including hardware and software) to program, write software, set up functions, enter data, or process information.
- Documenting/Recording Information — Entering, transcribing, recording, storing, or maintaining information in written or electronic/magnetic form.
- Communicating with Supervisors, Peers, or Subordinates — Providing information to supervisors, co-workers, and subordinates by telephone, in written form, e-mail, or in person.
- Identifying Objects, Actions, and Events — Identifying information by categorizing, estimating, recognizing differences or similarities, and detecting changes in circumstances or events.
- Making Decisions and Solving Problems — Analyzing information and evaluating results to choose the best solution and solve problems.
- Organizing, Planning, and Prioritizing Work — Developing specific goals and plans to prioritize, organize, and accomplish your work.
- Interpreting the Meaning of Information for Others — Translating or explaining what information means and how it can be used.
- Establishing and Maintaining Interpersonal Relationships — Developing constructive and cooperative working relationships with others, and maintaining them over time.
- Thinking Creatively — Developing, designing, or creating new applications, ideas, relationships, systems, or products, including artistic contributions.
- Communicating with Persons Outside Organization — Communicating with people outside the organization, representing the organization to customers, the public, government, and other external sources. This information can be exchanged in person, in writing, or by telephone or e-mail.
- Estimating the Quantifiable Characteristics of Products, Events, or Information — Estimating sizes, distances, and quantities; or determining time, costs, resources, or materials needed to perform a work activity.
- Scheduling Work and Activities — Scheduling events, programs, and activities, as well as the work of others.
- Developing Objectives and Strategies — Establishing long-range objectives and specifying the strategies and actions to achieve them.
- Monitor Processes, Materials, or Surroundings — Monitoring and reviewing information from materials, events, or the environment, to detect or assess problems.
- Training and Teaching Others — Identifying the educational needs of others, developing formal educational or training programs or classes, and teaching or instructing others.
- Monitoring and Controlling Resources — Monitoring and controlling resources and overseeing the spending of money.
- Coordinating the Work and Activities of Others — Getting members of a group to work together to accomplish tasks.
- Developing and Building Teams — Encouraging and building mutual trust, respect, and cooperation among team members.
- Guiding, Directing, and Motivating Subordinates — Providing guidance and direction to subordinates, including setting performance standards and monitoring performance.
- Judging the Qualities of Things, Services, or People — Assessing the value, importance, or quality of things or people.
- Evaluating Information to Determine Compliance with Standards — Using relevant information and individual judgment to determine whether events or processes comply with laws, regulations, or standards.
- Provide Consultation and Advice to Others — Providing guidance and expert advice to management or other groups on technical, systems-, or process-related topics.
- Coaching and Developing Others — Identifying the developmental needs of others and coaching, mentoring, or otherwise helping others to improve their knowledge or skills.
Detailed Work Activities
- Prepare scientific or technical reports or presentations.
- Research diseases or parasites.
- Conduct research of processes in natural or industrial ecosystems.
- Analyze biological samples.
- Research hydrologic features or processes.
- Research impacts of environmental conservation initiatives.
- Advise others about environmental management or conservation.
- Develop sustainable industrial or development methods.
- Advise others about land management or conservation.
- Classify organisms based on their characteristics or behavior.
- Direct natural resources management or conservation programs.
- Survey land or properties.
- Plan natural resources conservation or restoration programs.
- Develop agricultural methods.
- Research crop management methods.
- Research geological features or processes.
- Develop environmental sustainability plans or projects.
- Research sustainable agricultural processes or practices.
- Collaborate with technical specialists to resolve design or development problems.
- Electronic Mail — 96% responded “Every day.”
- Face-to-Face Discussions — 70% responded “Every day.”
- Freedom to Make Decisions — 56% responded “A lot of freedom.”
- Structured versus Unstructured Work — 50% responded “A lot of freedom.”
- Telephone — 56% responded “Every day.”
- Duration of Typical Work Week — 59% responded “More than 40 hours.”
- Importance of Being Exact or Accurate — 38% responded “Extremely important.”
- Indoors, Environmentally Controlled — 48% responded “Once a week or more but not every day.”
- Work With Work Group or Team — 63% responded “Very important.”
- Impact of Decisions on Co-workers or Company Results — 44% responded “Important results.”
- Contact With Others — 56% responded “Contact with others most of the time.”
- Coordinate or Lead Others — 41% responded “Very important.”
- Time Pressure — 42% responded “Once a month or more but not every week.”
- Letters and Memos — 44% responded “Once a week or more but not every day.”
- Deal With External Customers — 48% responded “Very important.”
- Frequency of Decision Making — 52% responded “Once a month or more but not every week.”
- Outdoors, Exposed to Weather — 37% responded “Once a week or more but not every day.”
- Responsibility for Outcomes and Results — 48% responded “Moderate responsibility.”
- Responsible for Others' Health and Safety — 33% responded “High responsibility.”
- Spend Time Sitting — 41% responded “More than half the time.”
- Level of Competition — 42% responded “Moderately competitive.”
- Indoors, Not Environmentally Controlled — 44% responded “Once a week or more but not every day.”
- Importance of Repeating Same Tasks — 31% responded “Important.”
- In an Enclosed Vehicle or Equipment — 41% responded “Once a week or more but not every day.”
- Public Speaking — 48% responded “Once a month or more but not every week.”
|Title||Job Zone Five: Extensive Preparation Needed|
|Education||Most of these occupations require graduate school. For example, they may require a master's degree, and some require a Ph.D., M.D., or J.D. (law degree).|
|Related Experience||Extensive skill, knowledge, and experience are needed for these occupations. Many require more than five years of experience. For example, surgeons must complete four years of college and an additional five to seven years of specialized medical training to be able to do their job.|
|Job Training||Employees may need some on-the-job training, but most of these occupations assume that the person will already have the required skills, knowledge, work-related experience, and/or training.|
|Job Zone Examples||These occupations often involve coordinating, training, supervising, or managing the activities of others to accomplish goals. Very advanced communication and organizational skills are required. Examples include librarians, lawyers, sports medicine physicians, wildlife biologists, school psychologists, surgeons, treasurers, and controllers.|
|SVP Range||(8.0 and above)|
Percentage of Respondents
|Education Level Required|
This occupation may require a background in the following science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) educational disciplines:
Interest code: IR
- Investigative — 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.
- Realistic — 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.
- Integrity — Job requires being honest and ethical.
- Attention to Detail — Job requires being careful about detail and thorough in completing work tasks.
- Dependability — Job requires being reliable, responsible, and dependable, and fulfilling obligations.
- Achievement/Effort — Job requires establishing and maintaining personally challenging achievement goals and exerting effort toward mastering tasks.
- Initiative — Job requires a willingness to take on responsibilities and challenges.
- Analytical Thinking — Job requires analyzing information and using logic to address work-related issues and problems.
- Cooperation — Job requires being pleasant with others on the job and displaying a good-natured, cooperative attitude.
- Independence — Job requires developing one's own ways of doing things, guiding oneself with little or no supervision, and depending on oneself to get things done.
- Persistence — Job requires persistence in the face of obstacles.
- Adaptability/Flexibility — Job requires being open to change (positive or negative) and to considerable variety in the workplace.
- Innovation — Job requires creativity and alternative thinking to develop new ideas for and answers to work-related problems.
- Leadership — Job requires a willingness to lead, take charge, and offer opinions and direction.
- Stress Tolerance — Job requires accepting criticism and dealing calmly and effectively with high stress situations.
- Self Control — Job requires maintaining composure, keeping emotions in check, controlling anger, and avoiding aggressive behavior, even in very difficult situations.
- Concern for Others — Job requires being sensitive to others' needs and feelings and being understanding and helpful on the job.
- Achievement — Occupations that satisfy this work value are results oriented and allow employees to use their strongest abilities, giving them a feeling of accomplishment. Corresponding needs are Ability Utilization and Achievement.
- Independence — Occupations that satisfy this work value allow employees to work on their own and make decisions. Corresponding needs are Creativity, Responsibility and Autonomy.
- Recognition — Occupations that satisfy this work value offer advancement, potential for leadership, and are often considered prestigious. Corresponding needs are Advancement, Authority, Recognition and Social Status.
Wages & Employment Trends
|Median wages (2015)||$28.87 hourly, $60,050 annual|
|Employment (2014)||18,000 employees|
|Projected growth (2014-2024)||Average (5% to 8%)|
|Projected job openings (2014-2024)||7,300|
|Top industries (2014)|
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics 2015 wage data and 2014-2024 employment projections . "Projected growth" represents the estimated change in total employment over the projections period (2014-2024). "Projected job openings" represent openings due to growth and replacement.
Job Openings on the Web
Sources of Additional Information
Disclaimer: Sources are listed to provide additional information on related jobs, specialties, and/or industries. Links to non-DOL Internet sites are provided for your convenience and do not constitute an endorsement.
- Agricultural and food scientists . Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor. Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition.
- American Society of Agronomy (ASA) , 5585 Guildford Rd., Madison, WI 53711. Phone: (608) 273-8080. Fax: (608) 273-2021.
- Crop Science Society of America (CSSA) , 5585 Guildford Rd., Madison, WI 53711. Phone: (608) 273-8080. Fax: (608) 273-2021.
- Soil Science Society of America (SSSA) , 5585 Guildford Rd., Madison, WI 53711. Phone: (608) 273-8080. Fax: (608) 273-2021.