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What Does an Agricultural Scientist Do?

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  • Written By: L.K. Blackburn
  • Edited By: Shereen Skola
  • Last Modified Date: 06 November 2016
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An agricultural scientist is employed by research institutions, regional governments, and private employers to study aspects of agriculture including plant growth, soil conditions, animal husbandry, and crop growth. These scientists work in laboratories, on farms, in offices, and at universities. The field of specialty chosen determines their area of expertise, as many different types of knowledge contribute to agricultural advancements. Job openings in agricultural science typically ask for applicants who possess a particular type of educational background and research experience. Most agricultural scientists have earned a four year college degree, and the majority hold a master's degree or doctorate.

When an individual agricultural scientist specializes in soil research, the main focus of the work is improve soil conditions, test soil properties, and record soil changes over time. Soil work includes gathering and testing samples, examining soil properties in the laboratory, and writing research reports based on tests and findings. Improved agricultural soil conditions instituted based on research conducted can often increase crop yield and save farming costs.

Another field an agricultural scientist can choose to specialize in is plant research. Many aspects of plants are important in agriculture including planting, growing, and overall plant health and quality. Field work and research presentations based off plant studies are a major component of the job.

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Animals in agriculture are also studied by an agricultural scientist. Breeding, meat quality, dairy uses, and poultry farming can all be researched. Studies in plant and animal research conducted by agricultural scientists are funded by farmers, bio-tech businesses, non-profits, and government organizations. Research can be completed as part of a university study, as a business growth plan, or as a government based farm improvement project.

Keeping up with emerging technology can be an important part of the job of an agricultural scientist as new techniques and knowledge can vastly improve crop growth and animal breeding. Advancements in genetics and computer modeling can save time when researching proposed changes. Automation in farming processes can also help increase the efficiency of agricultural research.

An individual interested in becoming an agricultural scientist should first attend and graduate from a four year university, usually majoring in a type of biology or chemistry. After college, aspiring agricultural scientists can attend graduate school to earn a master's degree and may choose to work toward a doctorate degree. Jobs in agricultural science can be found once an individual has earned research experience working in the laboratory of a university while completing their education.

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bythewell
Post 3

@pastanaga - Actually the thing I like about studying soil science is that it doesn't have to be agriculture specific. Yes, a lot of the emphasis is on agricultural application, but I'm hoping to take that and apply it to helping restore the soils of forests and other wild areas.

There has been some amazing work done by scientists in areas like reclaiming polluted areas and rejuvenating exhausted soils and I think that the proper approach to agricultural science can assist in that.

pastanaga
Post 2

@Iluviaporos - You could argue just as much that an agricultural scientist will be too specified to really be able to do much good if put in charge of the entire farm. It's the same as anything else, you need to either be a specialist and basically consult the owner, or you need to be a generalist and be prepared to consult specialists.

I do definitely think that anyone who wants to go into agriculture needs to have a basic knowledge of all the different aspects. Even if you only want to study soils, you should have to learn about pesticide application and stock ratio and so forth, because they all affect your specialty. Even if you don't learn much, you can learn enough to figure out when you need to call in an expert to help you.

lluviaporos
Post 1

It really seems to have become a requirement now that anyone who wants to make a career of working on a farm, or owning a farm needs to have some kind of college degree. I personally think that a science degree, or one that focuses specifically on horticulture or agriculture rather than one that focuses on business is the way to go.

I've seen it before, where a business student comes onto a farm and thinks they know how to run it because they know how to run a business. My own father tried to operate a small farm with this kind of experience. He was very adaptable and learned fast, but even then he needed a good three years before he felt like he had even a clue to what he was doing. Most people can't afford three years of failing before they start to succeed.

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