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Work in Crop Protection Services: Career Guide

Sep 19, 2019

Crop protection services specialists require significant formal education. Learn about the degree, job duties and licensure to see if this is the right career for you.

Crop protection services specialists study soil sciences, pesticides, and pest management in their studies. Bachelor's and associate's degrees are available in this field. Crop protection services specialists can find work with chemical production companies and governmental agencies.

Essential Information

Crop protection services specialists, a position under the umbrella of soil and plant scientists, use advances in farming equipment and practices to ensure higher yields of crops and protection from environmental threats. The position generally requires a bachelor's degree with coursework focused on biology and plant conservation. Crop protection services specialists who are also soil scientists may need to earn a license in some states. These specialists may also consider gaining optional professional certification in the field.

Required Education Bachelor's degree
Licensure and Certification Soil scientist licensure required in some states; voluntary certification available
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028) 8% for soil and plant scientist*
Median Salary (2018) $63,950 for soil and plant scientist*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Step 1: Earn an Associate Degree in Crop Services

Relevant associate degree programs for aspiring crop protection services specialists include commercial horticulture, environmental horticulture, crop management and agronomy. All of these programs provide technical training toward the goal of producing healthy, high-yield crops.

Students may study soil science, which emphasizes the physics, chemistry and biology of soils. Crop science and pest management courses focus on how herbicides, insecticides and other chemicals are used to deter pests and aid in producing healthy crops. Students also may learn the correct handling of chemicals and pesticides. Plant propagation courses cover seed planting, budding and grafting.

Skills learned in the classroom are put into action in lab courses taught in on-campus greenhouses. Internships at local farms and greenhouses provide students with hands-on experience.

Step 2: Complete a Bachelor's Degree Program

Bachelor's degree programs in agroecology, sustainable agriculture and crop science include relevant science courses, such as microbiology, biotechnology, ecology and botany. Advanced courses include soil science and fertility, pest management and disease control, watershed and irrigation management and plant pathology. Elective courses in organic production, pasture and rangeland ecology, composting and cereal science can provide further training for a career in crop protection services. Students may participate in summer internships on working farms for credit.

Step 3: Seek Employment

Large chemical corporations typically have divisions that specialize in herbicide and fungicide production, agricultural engineering and other crop protection services. Government organizations also offer employment opportunities for specialists in crop protection. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), job opportunities for soil and plant scientists were predicted to increase faster than the average from 2018 to 2028 (www.bls.gov). The BLS reported that the mean wage for soil and plant scientists was $70,630 in May 2018.

Step 4: Check Licensure Requirements and Consider Professional Certification

Soil scientists need to earn a license to practice in some states; this may or may not apply to crop protection services specialists, depending on their job duties. To gain licensure, candidates must typically hold a bachelor's degree, have a specified amount of work experience and pass an exam.

The American Society of Agronomy offers voluntary certifications for crop protection services professionals (www.agronomy.org). National exams to become a certified crop advisor, agronomist or soil scientist help to set a professional standard for the industry.

Step 5: Join Professional Organizations

Organizations, such as the International Association for the Plant Protection Sciences, the Crop Protection Compendium or CropLife America, provide resources for professionals. Members may be informed of the latest technologies, products and methods in the crop protection services industry.

Crop protection services specialists focus their work on ensuring food crop yields, both by working to increase those yields and by protecting them from disease and pests. If the state where they are working requires licensure, a crop protection services specialist will need a bachelor's degree and work experience. If not, they can opt to complete an associate's degree program to prepare for their field.

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