Soil Scientist: Profile of the Soil Science Professions

Sep 14, 2019

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a soil scientist. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about schooling, job duties, and licensure to find out if this is the career for you.

By examining the different layers of rock and minerals in the ground, soil scientists are able to determine which crops will grow best in that particular area and how much the land can sustain. A bachelor's degree and state licensing is required for employment.

Essential Information

Soil scientists work in several industries, but one of the most common duties of this occupation includes analyzing soil samples for minerals, contaminants or other characteristics. Soil scientists examine sediment, rock, and mineral layers to determine, for example, what crops the land can support, how much livestock an area can feed or the affects of soil treatments. Soil science careers require a bachelor's degree at minimum and, in some cases, state licensure and professional certification.

Required Education Bachelor's degree for entry-level work; graduate degree for career advancement
Licensure and Certification Licensure is required in some states; voluntary certification is available
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028)* 7% for all agricultural and food scientists
Mean Salary (2018)* $63,950 for soil and plant scientists

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the career outlook for soil scientists is expected to be average for the period 2018-2028; employment is predicted to increase 7% for agricultural and food scientists. The mean annual salary for soil and plant scientists was $63,950 in 2018. The top-paying industry for soil and plant scientists was federal executive branch (OES designation), where they earned an average salary of $85,990, and followed by the scientific research and development services, where they earned $85,580. The greatest number of jobs was located in Iowa, California, North Carolina, Minnesota, and Texas.

Education Requirements

A bachelor's degree is the typical minimum requirement for employment, with a curriculum that includes subjects like chemistry and biology. Students can also expect to learn about the chemistry of soil, the physiology of vegetation, and bugs. Depending on the specific career specialty desired, additional coursework could include relevant subjects, like business. Students who pursue a graduate degree for career advancement typically undertake a more specialized curriculum as well as more advanced lab work where they can cultivate research, observation, and math skills.


Soil scientists can earn voluntary certification through the Soil Society of America. There are two credential options: soil science and soil classification. Taking a test is required to earn certification, and certification must be renewed periodically.

Soil scientists can find positions in a number of industries, and most positions only require a bachelor's degree and state licensing. Their most common duty involves analyzing soil samples for agricultural or grazing purposes. Certifications are available through the Soil Science Society of America for those who wish to advance in their careers.

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