Plant Science Careers: Job Options and Education Requirements

Degrees in plant science typically cover the study of plants, soil, food and crops, insects and more. Find out about the curricula of these programs, and learn about career options, job growth and salary info for plant science graduates.

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If you want to pursue a career in plant science, then you can choose between three professional fields. To work as a plant and soil scientist, food scientist, or food manager you will need a degree. The expected job growth and salary for each trade may also influence your final career decision.

Essential Information

A plethora of specializations and career options are open to students who graduate with plant science degrees. Plant science provides the background for a number of science-related careers, including plant and soil science, agronomy, grounds maintenance, farm management, and food science. Plant science generally requires a bachelor's degree, which includes courses in a variety of subjects, such as soils, chemistry, biology, and botany.

Career Plant/Soil Scientist Farm Manager Food Scientist
Education Requirements Bachelor's degree Bachelor's degree may be required Bachelor's degree
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024) 5-8%* -2%** 5%**
Median Salary (2015)** $60,050 $64,170 $62,470

Source:*Onet Online; **The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Options

College graduates can also pursue a higher education in the form of a master's degree in field such as horticulture, entomology, microbiology, plant pathology, plant genetics and more. These programs are heavily research-based and provide graduates the necessary background to enter into plant science-related research and technical career positions. However, many careers are available to graduates of bachelor's programs, such as plant and soil science, farm and agricultural management, and food science, which are detailed below.

Soil and Plant Scientist

Soil and plant scientists work to study the management of agricultural plants and trees, including their reproduction, production and yield. Soil scientist may also research the makeup of soils as it relates to agriculture and farming.

A bachelor's degree is necessary to be a plant or soil scientist, though many scientists complete higher education levels. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that the median salary for a soil or plant scientist is $60,050 annually. According to ONet Online, the projected employment growth for soil and plant scientists between 2014 and 2024 is 5 to 8%.

Food Scientists

Agricultural and food scientists conduct research to study the nutritional content of food, and to improve the packaging, safety and health standards of processed food. Some food scientists work in inspection to ensure the safety and sanitation of food processing areas. Food scientists need at least a bachelor's degree.

According to The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), food scientists should see an 5% employment growth between 2014 and 2024. As of May 2015, the BLS reports that agricultural and food scientists earned a median salary of $62,470.

Farm Managers

Farm managers work on farms and ranches and may supervise farm staff and livestock workers, oversee equipment, or work on budgets. Farm managers also often determine how crops and produce are to be stored and packaged.

Traditionally, work experience and on-site training or apprenticeships were necessary for becoming a farm manager as opposed to formal education. However, as farming has developed, a bachelor's degree in agriculture or a related field has become increasingly critical.

The BLS reports that farm managers earn a medium wage of $64,170. This group could see a 2% decline during the 2014-2024 decade. An increase in expenses and farms being able to produce with fewer workers could contribute to this projected decrease.

Whether you choose food science, soil and plant science, or farm managing, you should first become familiar with the salary and projected job growth for each field. This will help you narrow down the options you have and what you would like to pursue. Then, you should decide what bachelor's degree program in plant science fits you best so that you can get started on your career journey.

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