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Details for Soil and Plant Scientists


Conduct research in breeding, physiology, production, yield, and management of crops and agricultural plants, 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.


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


  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Artistic - Artistic occupations frequently involve working with forms, designs and patterns. They often require self-expression and the work can be done without following a clear set of rules.

Education, Training, Experience

  • 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).
  • 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.
  • 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.



  • Reading Comprehension - Understanding written sentences and paragraphs in work related documents.
  • 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.
  • Writing - Communicating effectively in writing as appropriate for the needs of the audience.
  • Speaking - Talking to others to convey information effectively.
  • Mathematics - Using mathematics to solve problems.
  • 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.
  • Active Learning - Understanding the implications of new information for both current and future problem-solving and decision-making.
  • Learning Strategies - Selecting and using training/instructional methods and procedures appropriate for the situation when learning or teaching new things.
  • Monitoring - Monitoring/Assessing performance of yourself, other individuals, or organizations to make improvements or take corrective action.
  • Complex Problem Solving - Identifying complex problems and reviewing related information to develop and evaluate options and implement solutions.
  • Operations Analysis - Analyzing needs and product requirements to create a design.
  • Judgment and Decision Making - Considering the relative costs and benefits of potential actions to choose the most appropriate one.
  • 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.

Related Careers

  • Agricultural Inspectors
  • Animal Scientists
  • Biochemists and Biophysicists
  • Biologists
  • Food Science Technicians
  • Soil and Water Conservationists
  • Zoologists and Wildlife Biologists
Wages for this career
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