Soil Conservationist: Job Description, Duties and Requirements

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a soil conservationist. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about degree programs, job duties and salary expectations to find out if this is the career for you.

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A soil conservationist is a scientist who monitors the condition of land and develops ways to enhance sustainability, conserve soil and counter erosion. They might work in construction, where they survey land and advise builders on preventative measures regarding erosion, or they may consult with farmers, suggesting which crops to grow and promoting crop rotation. At least a bachelor's degree in agricultural science or related discipline is required to find work in this field; however, in some cases a master's degree is needed.

Essential Information

A soil conservationist, a type of conservation scientist, creates guidelines to prevent erosion and develops practices for sustainable land use. These professionals can perform land surveys, design conservation plans and monitor conditions. Most positions require the completion of a bachelor's degree program in a field such as agricultural science or environmental studies, and some jobs call for graduate degrees. The government is a major employer of soil conservationists; agriculture corporations and mining companies are other employers in this field.

Required Education Bachelor's degree in agricultural science or related field
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 7% (for all conservation scientists)
Median Salary (2015)* $61,110 (for all conservation scientists)

Source: * U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

Job Description for a Soil Conservationist

Soil conservationists help landowners manage the continued use of their land. These professionals perform environmental surveys and advise on land management strategies. For example, they may oversee the construction of terraces to prevent erosion on slopes. They may also recommend that a farmer grow certain crops or develop a crop rotation plan.

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  • Soil Chemistry and Soil Physics

Duties of a Soil Conservationist

To determine the extent and cause of land erosion, soil conservationists take measurements and collect soil samples. They present clients with reports and help them develop management and conservation plans, which can include cost and time calculations. They also utilize engineering manuals and technical guides to create specifications for plan implementation.

Soil conservationists can supervise other conservation workers who construct erosion barriers or plant new crops. They may also perform long-term monitoring to ensure conservation plans are properly followed. If they work for governments, they can perform environmental compliance checks, review annual reports and manage local field offices.

Requirements to Become a Soil Conservationist

Most positions require the completion of a bachelor's degree program. Many different degree programs can qualify students for work as a soil conservationist, including agricultural science, environmental studies, range management, agronomy and hydrology. Relevant coursework includes mathematics, geology, ecology, data analysis, soil fertility and soil science.

According to the Oregon Employment Department, the completion of a master's degree program can provide an advantage when pursuing employment (www.qualityinfo.org). Individuals who complete a doctoral degree program may be able to lead research projects or teach.

Salary and Job Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projected that employment for conservation scientists, including soil conservationists, would grow at an average pace of 7% during the 2014-2024 decade. Conservation scientists made a median salary of $61,110 a year as of May 2015.

A soil conservationist must collect samples and take measurements of land in order to understand erosion, create a plan for conservation and calculate the costs and time involved in a project. Some soil conservationists may serve as supervisors on a conservation project, and others might ensure compliance to environmental regulations. While a bachelor's degree is sufficient for most positions, a master's degree might boost the employability of a soil conservationist, and a doctoral degree opens potential opportunities to teach or oversee research projects.

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