A bachelor's degree in agricultural science is sufficient for private
industry jobs in product development or applied research, but a master's or
doctoral degree is generally required for research jobs at universities.
Education and training. Training
requirements for agricultural scientists depend on the type of work they
perform. Most jobs in the farming and food processing industry require a
bachelor�s degree, but a master's or doctoral degree is usually required for
research positions at universities. A Ph.D. in agricultural science is also
needed for college teaching and for advancement to senior research positions.
Degrees in related sciences such as biology, chemistry, or physics or in related
engineering specialties also may qualify people for many agricultural science
All States have a land-grant college that offers agricultural science
degrees. Many other colleges and universities also offer agricultural science
degrees or agricultural science courses. However, not every school offers all
specialties. A typical undergraduate agricultural science curriculum includes
communications, mathematics, economics, business, and physical and life sciences
courses, in addition to a wide variety of technical agricultural science
courses. For example, degrees in animal sciences may include courses on animal
breeding, reproductive physiology, nutrition, and meat and muscle biology.
Graduate students usually specialize in a subfield of agricultural science, such
as animal breeding and genetics, crop science, or horticulture science,
depending on their interests. For example, those interested in doing genetic and
biotechnological research in the food industry need a strong background in life
and physical sciences, such as cell and molecular biology, microbiology, and
inorganic and organic chemistry. Undergraduate students, however, need not
specialize. In fact, undergraduates who are broadly trained often have greater
Students preparing to be food scientists take courses such as food chemistry,
food analysis, food microbiology, food engineering, and food processing
operations. Those preparing to be soil and plant scientists take courses in
plant pathology, soil chemistry, entomology, plant physiology, and biochemistry,
among others. Advanced degree programs include classroom and fieldwork,
laboratory research, and a thesis or dissertation based on independent research.
Licensure. Some States require soil
scientists to be licensed to practice. Licensing requirements vary by State, but
generally include holding a bachelor�s degree with a certain number of credit
hours in soil science, a certain number of years working under a licensed
scientist, and passage of an examination.
Other qualifications. Agricultural and
food scientists should be able to work independently or as part of a team and be
able to communicate clearly and concisely, both orally and in writing. Most of
these scientists also need an understanding of basic business principles, the
ability to apply statistical techniques, and the ability to use computers to
analyze data and to control biological and chemical processing.
Certification and advancement.
Agricultural scientists who have advanced degrees usually begin in research or
teaching. With experience, they may advance to jobs as supervisors of research
programs or managers of other agriculture-related activities.
The American Society of Agronomy certifies agronomists and crop advisors, and
the Soil Science Society of America certifies soil scientists and soil
classifiers. Certification is not necessary to work in these occupations, but it
may improve opportunities by providing proof of a worker�s qualifications.
Certification in agronomy requires a bachelor's degree in agronomy or a related
field and 5 years of experience, a master�s degree and 3 years, or a doctoral
degree and 1 year. Crop advising certification requires either 4 years of
experience or a bachelor's degree in agriculture and 2 years of experience. To
become certified in soil science or soil classification, applicants must have a
bachelor's degree in soil science and 5 years of experience or a graduate degree
and 3 years of experience. To receive any of these certifications, applicants
must also pass designated examinations and agree to adhere to a code of ethics.
Each certification is maintained through continuing education.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor,
Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-11 Edition
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