Become a Soil Conservation Technician: Step-by-Step Career Guide

Research the requirements to become a soil conservation technician. Learn about the job description and duties, and read the step-by-step process to start a career in soil conservation. View article »

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  • 0:03 Soil Conservation Technician
  • 0:36 Career Requirements
  • 1:45 Step 1: Postsecondary…
  • 2:58 Step 2: Pursue Employment
  • 3:49 Step 3: Seek Further…

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Video Transcript

Should I Become a Soil Conservation Technician?

Soil conservation technicians may also be known as geophysical data technicians, geological technicians, or geoscience technicians. These workers collect soil samples, record readings, and monitor drilling activities. Soil conservation technicians often work in oil and gas extraction and other support activities for mining.

A technician in this line of work should be comfortable performing fieldwork as well as doing tasks in a laboratory or office. They generally work full-time, but sometimes stay in the field collecting data for extended periods.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Variable, but postsecondary training or an associate degree is common
Degree Field A related science or applied science technology program
Certification Voluntary certification is available; a valid driver's license is often necessary
Experience Technicians commonly receive on-the-job training which ranges in length from several months to two years
Key Skills Writing, analytical, interpersonal, critical-thinking, and speaking skills; physical stamina for outdoor work; familiarity with related technology, such as computer-aided design (CAD), graphics, map creation, and analytical software; ability to use tools such as geological compasses, soil core samplers, and earth drills
Salary (2015) $35,430 (median salary for forest and conservation technicians)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics; National Institute for Certification in Engineering Technologies (NICET); O*NET Online

The education needed to work in the field of soil conservation may vary, but postsecondary training or an associate degree is common in a related science or applied science technology program. Voluntary certification is available for those working as soil conservation technicians and who are looking to advance their careers. In addition, a valid driver's license is often necessary so that workers can get to the field test sites. In order to gain experience, technicians commonly receive on-the-job training which ranges in length from several months to two years. Some of the keys kills that can be beneficial for this type of work include writing, analytical, interpersonal, critical-thinking, and speaking skills, as is physical stamina for outdoor work. A technician should also be familiar with related technology, such as computer-aided design (CAD), graphics, map creation, and analytical software. It is also important to know how to use tools such as geological compasses, soil core samplers, and each drills. In May 2015, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the median annual salary for forest and conservation technicians was $35,430.

Step 1: Postsecondary Education

Training in preparation for entering the field as a soil conservation technician requires completing a 2-year associate degree program or equivalent training. Aspiring soil science technicians can find related programs, such as the Associate of Science in Geology or Associate of Applied Science in Forest Technology. Examples of relevant coursework students could take include geology, computer science, geographic information systems, and mining.

Completing an internship may help jumpstart a career. Students can take advantage of the knowledge and skills they develop while in school and use them within an actual work environment. Some internship opportunities provide students with paid wages during the course of the program.

Aspiring workers may also want to consider an apprenticeship. Similar to an internship, an apprenticeship is another option for those that may not have access to internship programs. Aspiring soil conservation technicians can use an apprenticeship to sharpen and develop their industry skills under the supervision and guidance of seasoned, experienced staff.

It is also a good idea to stay in shape for those interested in this line of work. Soil testing technicians may be in charge of setting up and transporting testing equipment. These technicians may also work on various types of terrain to get to their testing sites.

Step 2: Pursue Employment

Soil technicians can find positions working for state and federal government agencies and land developers. Duties can include performing surveys to classify and map soil, recommending sustainability practices such as crop rotation and special plowing techniques, and implementing barriers to minimize soil erosion or damage from wildlife. Depending on their level of education, most technicians will also need to complete on-the-job training that can last up to two years.

Certification is not necessary in order to work as a soil conservation technician, though it can help validate an individual's experience and increase opportunities. The National Institute for Certification in Engineering Technologies offers soil technician certification at various levels, which require proof of experience and passing an examination. Some states, including Arizona and Tennessee, also offer certification programs for soil technicians.

Step 3: Seek Further Advancement

Soil conservation technicians sometimes choose to earn additional degrees at the bachelor's, master's, or doctoral levels in a scientific or technical field that relates to the type of work they find most interesting. A background in soil conservation provides a skill-set that is also applicable towards work in food science, geology, forestry, agriculture, and ecology. Seeking further education while also doing capable and talented work will ensure that your career opportunities in this field continue to grow and advance.

When looking into becoming a soil conservation technician, remember that individuals in this career need several years of experience working in the field and in other settings to learn testing, surveying, recording, and monitoring skills that can be gained through a postsecondary degree along with a possible internship or apprenticeship, so that he/she may successfully use the technology and equipment an employer would expect of this type of trained technician.

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