Soil Scientist

What do they do? Characterize soil types for optimal use and maximum productivity. A soil scientist studies the effects of tillage, fertilization, nutrient transformation, crop rotation, environmental consequence (water, gas, or heat), and industrial waste on soil.

Description: There are two major categories of soil scientists: researchers and educators. Researchers work for government agencies, private landowners, large companies, or nonprofits studying topics such as the effects of grazing on national parks or population pressures on urban areas, pesticide use, water management (both surface and ground). They classify soils using chemical analysis, conduct experiments on plant growth, and develop new methods for maximizing the productivity of the land. Researchers also draft and submit permit proposals. Research soil scientists are often self-employed. As governments downsize, many cross over to the private sector. Much of their work used to involve surveying orchard and farmland soils for pesticides and other toxic elements, but the focus is shifting to studies involving water quality and wetland restoration. Generally, researchers will work on several projects simultaneously.

Education: An advanced degree is required, as is certification from ARCPAC. The job also requires a lot of travel in the field.

Salary: From the mid-$30,000s up.