Agricultural scientists study farm crops and animals and develop ways of improving the quantity and quality of these crops. To do this, they control pests and weeds, conserve soil and water, research methods to convert raw agricultural commodities into attractive and healthy food products, and look for ways to use agricultural products for fuels. Other job duties include using biotechnology to manipulate the genetic material of plants and crops and working with biologists and chemists to develop more efficient processes for turning crops into energy sources. The nature of the work performed by an agricultural scientist greatly varies depending on his or her area of specialization.
Aspiring agricultural scientists must have a great passion for the world of agriculture. Usually a bachelor’s degree in agricultural science is required but sometimes a master’s or Ph.D. degree is also needed for research positions. A Ph.D. in agricultural science is usually imperative for college teaching and for advancement to senior research positions. Having a degree in related sciences such as biology, chemistry, or physics or engineering improves one’s qualifications and increases one’s opportunities.
In May 2008, the average annual income of agricultural scientists and technologists were $59,520. In particular, the average annual income of soil and plant scientists was $58,390 the average annual income of animal scientists were $56,030. In 2009 the average Federal salary was $104,184 in animal science and $79,158 in soil science. In July 2009, the beginning salary offered for graduates with a bachelor’s degree in animal sciences averaged $33,732 a year; particularly $33,456 for the plant sciences, and in other agricultural sciences, $34,699.