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Agricultural and Food Scientist

What is this job like?

Agricultural and food scientists study farm crops and animals. They solve problems in agriculture and food production. These may include finding ways to help farms use less labor and conserve soil and water, or how to control pests and weeds. They use the principles of biology, chemistry, and other sciences. They find new ways of making crops into food. Many work in research and development. They may work for businesses, individuals, or the government.

Food scientists and technologists work in the food processing industry. Some work in universities and some work in government. They try to create food products that are healthy, safe, tasty, and easy to use. They find better ways to preserve, process, package, store, and deliver foods. Some food scientists discover new foods. Others analyze foods to see how much fat, sugar, or protein is in them. Others search for better food additives.

Plant scientists can specialize in agronomy, which is a branch of science that deals with the production of field crops. Some work in plant breeding. Others work in entomology (the study of insects). Agronomists and crop scientists help farmers grow more food for more people while preserving our natural resources. They look for ways to improve the nutrition in foods. They also work on making better seeds and ways to remove pests.

Soil scientists study how soils help plants grow. They see how things like fertilizer can improve soils. Many soil scientists conduct soil surveys. They classify and map soils. Some provide information and advice to farmers to help them make the best use of their land.

Animal scientists work to develop better ways of making meat, poultry, eggs, and milk. Some animal scientists inspect and grade food products. Animal scientists also work as consultants to advise farmers and ranchers on how to best raise the most livestock.

Some agricultural scientists work regular hours in offices. Some work in labs. Food scientists may work in test kitchens. Animal scientists may spend part of their time outdoors. Soil and crop scientists also spend time outdoors. They might do work at farms or agricultural research stations. Entomologists work in laboratories. They also may spend time studying bugs outdoors.

How do you get ready?

A college degree in agricultural science is all that is needed for some jobs, but further schooling is required to do research or college teaching.

All States have a land-grant college that offers agricultural science degrees. Many other colleges and universities also offer agricultural science degrees or some agricultural science courses.

Most agricultural and food scientists also need a basic understanding of business. Being able to use basic statistical techniques is also a plus. More employers want to hire workers with good computer skills.

How many jobs are there?

Agricultural and food scientists held about 31,000 jobs in 2008.

Many agricultural and food scientists worked in food and pharmaceutical manufacturing. Others worked in educational institutions and in government. About 3,800 were self-employed.What about the future?

The number of people employed as agricultural and food scientists is expected to grow faster than the average for all occupations through 2018. As people demand information on the impact of food production on nutrition and the environment, many new jobs will be created.

Employment of agricultural and food scientists is fairly stable during difficult economic times. Compared with other occupations, layoffs are less likely among agricultural and food scientists. This is true because food is a necessary item. The demand for food changes very little with economic activity. People buy roughly the same amount of food in good times and bad.

How much does this job pay?

The average yearly wages of food scientists and technologists were $64,610 in May 2008.

Animal scientists had average yearly wages of $61,640 in May 2008.

Soil and plant scientists had average yearly wages of $64,110 in May 2008.

Are there other jobs like this?

Biological scientists


Conservation scientists and foresters



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