Approximately 17,800 soil and plant scientists are employed in the United States. Most soil scientists work for state or federal departments of agriculture. However, they may also work for other public employers, such as land appraisal boards, land-grant colleges and universities, and conservation departments. Soil scientists who work overseas may be employed by the U.S. Agency for International Development.
Soil scientists are needed in private industries as well, such as agricultural service companies, banks, insurance and real estate firms, food products companies, wholesale distributors, and environmental and engineering consulting groups. Private firms may hire soil scientists for sales or research positions.
In the public sector, college graduates can apply directly to the Natural Resources Conservation Service of the Department of Agriculture, the Department of the Interior, the Environmental Protection Agency, or other state government agencies for beginning positions. University career services offices generally have listings for these openings as well as opportunities available in private industry.
Salary increases are the most common form of advancement for soil scientists. The nature of the job may not change appreciably even after many years of service. Higher administrative and supervisory positions are few in comparison with the number of jobs that must be done in the field.
Opportunities for advancement will be higher for those with advanced degrees. For soil scientists engaged in teaching, advancement may translate into a higher academic rank with more responsibility. In private business firms, soil scientists have opportunities to advance into positions such as department head or research director. Supervisory and manager positions are also available in state agencies such as road or conservation departments.
Tips for Entry
Read Soil Science Society of America Journal (https://acsess.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/journal/14350661?tabActivePane=) and Crops & Soils (https://acsess.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/journal/23253606) to learn more about the field.
Visit the following Web sites for job listings: https://swcs.careerwebsite.com and https://www.careerplacement.org.
Join the Soil and Water Conservation Society and other professional associations to access training and networking resources, industry publications, and employment opportunities.
Talk to a soil scientist about his or her career. The American Society of Agronomy and Soil Science Society of America provide a database of certified members at https://portal.sciencesocieties.org/BuyersGuide/ProfessionalSearch.aspx. Use this database to identify possible interview candidates.