How to Become an Agricultural Scientist

Agricultural scientists work to maintain and improve the world's food supply. These scientists, which are also known as food scientists, are actively involved with food safety and agricultural productivity. If crops, soil, or animals interest you, learn how to become an agricultural scientist.


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    Study agricultural science at one of the many universities and land-grant colleges in the U.S. Land-grant colleges were formed by the Morrill Act in the late 1800s for the purpose of providing agricultural education. Each state in the U.S. has one.
    • Programs differ between colleges and universities and not all provide the same specialties.
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    Specialize in one of the 4 areas of agricultural science.
    • Food scientists use science to improve food processing, preservation and storage. Food chemistry and food engineering are typical of the courses taken by food scientists.
    • Plant scientists are also known as crop scientists or agronomists. They increase the productivity and nutritive value of crops to meet human needs. This requires an understanding of plant physiology and pathology.
    • Soil scientists are similar to crop scientists and study many similar things, although there is a greater emphasis on chemistry. Soil scientists focus on the study of soils related to the growth of crops and plants.
    • Animal scientists focus on the agricultural uses of animals as food items, such as meat, milk, eggs and poultry.
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    Get a bachelor's degree for most agricultural science jobs, particularly as a food scientist or crop scientist in private industry.
    • Agricultural scientists may also earn a bachelor's degree in biology or chemistry.
    • Not specializing in one of the four agricultural science areas is acceptable with an undergraduate degree and may provide more career options.
    • Plan on taking a good foundation in the sciences--biology, chemistry, and physics--in addition to agricultural science courses.
    • Mathematics, communications, and economics are also important in an undergraduate degree.
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    Investigate desired careers or employers for educational requirements. A large number of agricultural scientists are involved in research and development, which most often requires a graduate degree and specialization. A crop scientist involved in research and development will most likely have a graduate degree.
    • Research jobs at universities tend to require graduate degrees.
    • Teaching at the university level requires a Ph.D. in agricultural science.
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    Ask yourself, if you plan on going into research and development, whether basic research or applied research interests you more.
    • Basic research investigates agricultural processes.
    • Applied research uses research in agricultural processes to discover ways to improve products.
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    Make certain you are comfortable working alone and as part of a team.
    • Oral and written communication skills are important for the agricultural or food scientist.
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    Find out if your state requires licensure for agricultural or crop scientists. If so, find out what the requirements are.
    • Licensing generally involves a bachelor's degree in specific disciplines, working under a licensed agricultural scientist for a specified length of time and passing an exam.
    • Licensing may also require a certain number of continuing education hours each year.
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    Improve career opportunities by pursuing certification through the American Society of Agronomy and Soil Science Society of America. Certification, like licensure, often requires a combination of education and experience before passing an exam. Available certifications are:
    • Certified Crop Adviser (CCA).
    • Certified Professional Agronomist (CPAG).
    • Certified Professional Soil Scientist/Classifier (CPSS/CPSC).
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    Stay current in technological advances in agriculture science. Many new jobs depend on new technology, such as:
    • Biotechnology: manipulating genetic material to improve plants, crops and biofuel production.
    • Nanotechnology: used for testing agricultural products for contamination.

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Categories: Farming