Agronomists, sometimes known as crop scientists, specialize in producing and improving food crops through conducting experiments and developing methods of production. As plant scientists, agronomists can have many career paths, but their careers are generally focused on increasing the quality and amount of food produced for the nation's food supply. They can be teachers, agricultural business consultants, researchers, or even work for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). They often work in the field, on farms, or in agricultural labs and mills. A bachelor's degree is required to become an agronomist, although many professionals obtain further degrees. Agricultural scientists have a positive career outlook due to the continuous need for the food crops they help develop.
|Required Education||Bachelor's degree|
|Projected Job Growth||9% from 2012-2022*|
|Median Salary (2015)||$49,607 annually**|
Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics; **Payscale.com
Agronomist Job Duties
Agronomists have varied duties that require them to think critically to solve problems. First and foremost, agronomists experiment and plan studies to improve crop yields. They study a farm's crop production in order to discern the best ways to plant, harvest, and cultivate the plants, regardless of the climate. It is also important for agronomists to develop methods to control weeds and pests to keep crops disease-free.
Agronomists often use mathematical and analytical skills in conducting their work and experimentation. Complex data and information that they develop must be worked into a serviceable format for public consumption. Agronomists relay their information in written form, making presentations and speeches as well as responding diplomatically to sensitive issues regarding their findings. Their ultimate goal is to work scientifically to produce the finest crops, on the most consistent basis that they can, in any situation.
Salary Information for Agronomists
Agronomists have a fairly wide salary range in the U.S. In March 2015, PayScale.com reported that most agronomists earned average base salaries between $34,550 - $79,751 per year, with a total compensation, including bonuses, commission, and profit sharing, ranging from $33,206 - $84,199 annually.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), though certification is not required, agronomists who are professionally certified may have a better opportunity to earn a higher salary than those who aren't certified (www.bls.org).
Agronomists can seek voluntary certification through the American Society of Agronomy (www.agronomy.org). To be eligible to become a Certified Professional Agronomist (CPAg), candidates must pass an exam and have a specific combination of education and experience. The higher a candidate's education level, the less professional experience is required.
Agronomist Career Outlook
In 2014 the BLS projected a 9% job growth for agricultural scientists, including agronomists, for the decade of 2012-2022. This rate of growth is consistent with the average growth projected for most occupations.
According to the BLS, job prospects are good in many fields for agronomists with bachelor's degrees. Agronomists with graduate degrees should also enjoy good prospects, though research and teaching opportunities at the higher academic levels may not be plentiful.
While some agronomists will be able to find positions in related fields, the BLS noted, as a whole this career is more stable than many, even with potential economic fluctuations. This is because food is a staple item in constant demand. Layoffs in the field are less common as a result of this stability