Should I Become a Soil Pedologist?
A soil pedologist is a soil scientist who analyzes soil in its undisturbed, natural state in order to classify it and study its formation and morphology. Soil pedologists sample and evaluate soil to develop methods of conserving environmental quality and find new ways to improve crops. Individuals who are interested in preserving the environment and are not averse to working outside might enjoy this profession. When soil pedologists are not working in the field, they typically work in offices or laboratories, performing experiments and research.
Soil pedologists need communication, critical-thinking, observation, and analytical skills. They also need a working knowledge of specialized computer software, such as map creation and soil erosion modeling software, and the ability to use industry-specific tools, such as pH meters and photometers.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that soil and plant scientists earned a mean annual salary of $65,980, as of May 2015.
Let's look at the career road map for soil pedologists.
Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree
Most soil pedologists have at least a bachelor's degree. While majors in soil science exist, choosing a related major, such as agricultural science, might also be sufficient. A soil science curriculum might include courses in hydrology, soil biology, soil physics, plant physiology, soil pollution, meteorology, and crop production. A bachelor's degree program can prepare graduates for careers as soil scientists with conservation, consulting, or environmental science companies, among other employers.
While undergraduates, aspiring soil pedologists should:
• Pursue work experience opportunities. Some colleges and universities offer internship or research opportunities to students in soil and agricultural science programs. Working alongside experienced professionals and faculty members is a good way for students to add experience to their resumes and learn firsthand about soil and data analysis.
Prospective soil pedologists also should:
- Develop essential communication skills. As professionals, they'll need to be able to communicate findings of their studies to the public and the scientific community. They also might work on teams; interpersonal communication skills can be especially helpful in these situations. Students in degree programs can take humanities courses or any courses with strong writing or verbal components to strengthen these skills.
Step 2: Gain Work Experience
Certain states require soil scientists to become licensed and this process sometimes calls for previous experience working under an established soil scientist. Thus, aspiring soil pedologists might seek work on a assistant or associate level, collecting field samples and interpreting results.
Step 3: Consider a Graduate Degree
For more advanced positions, such as those in academic and research settings, soil scientists might need a master's or doctoral degree in the field. Master's degree programs in soil science often require students to complete a thesis, while Ph.D. programs typically require candidates to complete a dissertation based on original research. Coursework at the graduate level can include topics in biogeochemistry, soil management, soil microbiology, horticulture, and soil classification.
Step 4: Become Licensed
Among states that require licensure for soil scientists, licensing requirements vary. However, most expect applicants to have at least bachelor's degree and work experience and pass an exam. The amount of work experience might vary depending on whether the applicant has an undergraduate or graduate degree.
Step 5: Earn Voluntary Certification
Soil pedologists wishing to demonstrate expertise in soil science can become certified. The Soil Science Society of America (SSSA) offers the Certified Professional Soil Scientist designation. To earn certification, applicants must pass two exams and have a certain amount of professional experience, which varies depending on the level of education received. Certified soil scientists must complete continuing education and pay an annual fee to maintain certification. Gaining certification might aid soil pedologists in finding opportunities for advancement.
In summary, you'll need a minimum of a bachelor's degree to become a soil pedologist. Some states have licensure requirements for these professionals, and advanced education and voluntary certification could lead to more and better job opportunities.