Soil Testing Technician
Soil testing technicians, also known as geological technicians, are responsible for collecting and analyzing soil samples to determine whether they are suitable for agricultural, developmental, or natural uses. Common job duties include writing reports, maintaining libraries and databases of information, preparing notes, and surveying for natural resources, and these tasks are carried out in offices and labs, as well as in the field. On-site work can take extended periods of time and may need to be conducted regardless of weather conditions.
|Degree Level||Associate's degree or postsecondary training|
|Degree Field(s)||Applied science (e.g., geoscience or mining) or science-related technology|
|Experience||On-the-job training, can last several months to two years|
|Key Skills||Strong interpersonal and analytical skills, physical strength, and knowledge of industry software and related geological tools|
|Licensure and Certification||Voluntary certification is available, valid driver's license often required|
|Salary (2015)||$55,610 per year (Median salary for geological and petroleum technicians)|
Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), National Institute for Certification in Engineering Technologies (NICET), O*Net Online
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Positions in this field typically require the equivalent of two years of college coursework or a degree. Prospective soil testing technicians should enroll in college-level courses in chemistry, geology, mathematics, computer science, and statistics. Certificate and associate's degree programs are available in related areas, such as environmental science and geographic information systems (GIS). Students can also find courses in soil testing or similar topics that provide information about the chemical and physical characteristics of soils, how soil is formed, and soil conservation.
Students interested in pursuing this field should also consider getting in good physical shape. Soil testing technicians are often responsible for setting up testing equipment, some of which can be quite heavy. Soil testing technicians also need to be able to make their way through different types of terrain to get to their testing sites.
Soil testing technicians must be able to work well as part of a team of other technicians and scientists. They must also be good listeners so they can carefully follow directions to help them avoid making procedural mistakes. Coursework in written and oral communication can also help students gain the skills they need to file written reports on their findings.
Many soil testing technicians receive on-the-job training, especially for entry-level positions. This training may consist of becoming accustomed to field and laboratory equipment and computer programs used for data collection and modeling. This training period can last anywhere from a few months to a year or more, depending on the education level and experience level of the trainee.
Certification is not required for all positions, but future soil testing technicians would do well to research applicable certification options, including voluntary certification programs, which may give them an advantage over other candidates. Organizations such as the National Institute for Certification in Engineering Technologies (NICET) offer certification programs in this field. Technicians can also find certification programs offered in a variety of states, such as Washington and Tennessee.
Once again, soil testing technicians generally need to complete some postsecondary education in a subject such as geology or environmental science before going on to gain entry-level experience and potentially earning certification to boost career options.