Agricultural / Animal Science

Agricultural scientists fill some of the lesser known science jobs. They study farm crops and animals and work on developing improved food production methods, such as developing ways to improve crop yields and conserve soil or water.

For those with a bachelor's degree in agriculture, two years of experience and a certification from the American Society of Agronomy are a gateway to careers in crop science, agronomy, crop advising, soil science, plant pathology, and weed science. This certification is also available to those with no degree but with at least four years of experience. For those with advanced degrees in agricultural science, research and teaching jobs may offer an appealing career path.

Careers in the agricultural sciences can involve doing basic or applied research and development. Examples of basic research include understanding the biological and chemical processes behind crop and livestock growth and development, such as the genetic background of some favorable traits in a plant species. Applied research then utilizes this information to improve the quality, quantity, and safety of agricultural products. Other career opportunities for agricultural scientists involve managing the marketing and production for companies that produce food products or agricultural chemicals and machinery, as well as management and administrative tracks at these companies. There are also job opportunities in consulting for the government, business firms, or private clients.

Some broad career areas are described below. Plant scientists and agronomists study plants and play an important role in helping crop producers meet the demands of a growing population, as well as conserve natural resources. Sometimes crops are improved using biotechnological techniques and genetic engineering to develop crops resistant to pests and capable of thriving in a broader range of climates. In addition to manipulating the crops, soil content can also be manipulated for better yields and more eco-friendly agriculture. Soil scientists study the composition of soil as it relates to plant growth and develop more effective and environmentally-responsible agricultural techniques. Finally, animal scientists develop more efficient ways of producing and processing meat, eggs, and dairy products. Some animal scientists may consult agricultural producers on how to increase production of such products as milk and eggs while lowering animal mortality and improving livestock housing conditions. While some agricultural scientists work in laboratories or offices, many may spend time conducting research at dairies, farm animal facilities, and other outdoor facilities.

Agricultural / Animal Science

Depending on the degree obtained by the student, a career in agricultural science can range from conducting applied research or assisting in basic research with a bachelor's degree to doing independent research, teaching, or holding administrative research positions with a PhD. These kinds of science jobs are also accessible to students with majors in related fields, such as biology or chemistry. Land-grant colleges, set up in every state, offer agricultural science degrees. In addition, many colleges will have programs offering degrees in this field. At the undergraduate level, a broad range of classes is preferred. Basic computer literacy is fast becoming a requirement for any science job, as employers prefer job applicants who can use computers to both analyze and present data.

Employment for agricultural and food scientists is expected to grow by 16 percent through 2018, due to the demand for foods of increased quantity and quality for the growing population. Increase in health awareness may also serve to change agricultural practices and create science jobs for professionals with training in modern approaches to agriculture and food production. In addition, the next decade may see an increase in demand for bio-fuels, creating additional jobs for agricultural scientists.