Agriculture Research Technicians
Agriculture research technicians assist scientists in plant and animal research typically intended to improve plant, crop, or animal growth or develop ways to protect these organisms from diseases, insects, or other infestations. Job duties may involve preparing and analyzing plant or animal samples, which can require skills in operating laboratory equipment, such as centrifuges, pH meters, and spectrometers.
Depending on where they work, agriculture research technicians may be subject to distracting or uncomfortable stimuli, such as loud noises, heat, cold, or strong smells in places like processing facilities and labs. Full-time work at standard schedules is available; however, some positions may require travel and overtime.
|Degree Level||Associate's degree|
|Degree Field||Agriculture, animal science, agronomy, or crop science|
|Experience||Internships or co-operative education programs beneficial|
|Key Skills||Writing, critical-thinking, analytical, and problem solving skills; ability to work with others; knowledge of biology and mathematics; ability to operate laboratory equipment, such as spectrometers, centrifuges, and potential hydrogen meters; familiarity with statistical and spreadsheet software|
|Salary (2015)||$36,480 (annual median for agricultural technicians)|
Sources: O*NET OnLine, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, CareerOneStop, U.S. Department of Labor
Get an Associate's Degree
According to the BLS, some employers hire technicians with only a high school diploma, and these recruits typically complete training programs that can last more than a year. However, applicants with an associate's degree may have better job prospects. Aspiring agricultural technicians may want to consider an associate's degree in agriculture, animal science, or a related field as a starting point for entering the field.
Animal science degree programs, for example, can prepare graduates for a wide variety of careers in agriculture, including animal production, food processing, the animal feed industry, and research. Those interested in research should pursue a program that emphasizes the biological sciences, chemistry, and agricultural engineering.
Since practical experience is critical in this field, students should try to complete an internship. Many degree programs provide students with internship or cooperative education opportunities, as well as other forms of hands-on experience through a variety of campus-based agricultural and research facilities. Internship and co-op education programs provide students with the opportunity to acquire industry knowledge and skills often sought by potential employers.
Apply for an Entry-Level Job
Entry-level positions for agriculture research technicians are available to applicants who have earned an associate's degree and have some experience, generally acquired through internship or co-op education programs. Jobs can be found in the agriculture departments of educational institutions as well as with state and federal agencies, such as the USDA's Agricultural Research Service.
To help jumpstart their careers, agricultural research technicians can join a professional organization. Becoming a student member of an organization, like the American Society of Agronomy, can help recent graduates get their careers started. Some services members receive from this organization include annual meetings, which can serve as networking opportunities; access to professional publications; development opportunities; scholarships; career placement services; and special groups for those just beginning their careers.
Consider Earning a Higher Degree
Agriculture research technicians can earn a bachelor's or graduate degree to advance to agricultural scientist positions. Agricultural scientists conduct research, design experiments related to food production, and manage labs staffed by agricultural technicians. Agricultural scientists typically specialize in food science, soil science, or animal science.
Remember that agriculture research technicians assist agricultural scientists with plant and animal research, and they typically need an associate's degree in agriculture, animal science, or a related field to get started.