How to Become a Soil Scientist

Career Path Guide

Becoming a soil scientist can be a highly rewarding career choice for you if you have natural curiosity for science, as well as an interest in the relationship between humans and nature. 


Working in this field means you’ll be playing a vital role in providing information to industries such as agriculture, forestry, land development, as well as policy makers who address issues in environmental protection and public health.


Below we've outlined what you'll need to get into this field. We've also included helpful information for a botanist career, such as job description, job duties, salary expectations, a list of possible employers and much more!



What is a Soil Scientist?

General job description


Soil scientists are responsible for studying various aspects of soil, including its composition, distribution, development and behaviour, such as how soil interacts with organisms, animals and plants. Soil scientists also conduct research related to the management of soil resources for the purposes of agricultural production and environmental protection.



What Does a Soil Scientist Do?

General job duties


• Communicate the findings of research with other professionals and the general public for educational purposes

• Develop new fertilizers and environmentally friendly agricultural products

• Review and comment on soil assessments and conservation plans

• Incorporate waste streams, such as manure and compost, into soil nutrient management programs

• Plan and supervise soil management programs for farms, urban areas or industrial areas

• Study soil biology to determine organic matter content and quality, soil fauna, microbial activity and the effects of organic matter loss

• Study soil fertility and plant nutrient levels in soils for crop production

• Conduct research to determine how soil forms

• Participate in the development of improved soil conservation methods

• Identify degraded soils and develop plans to improve their chemical, biological and physical characteristics



Education You'll Need

To set the educational foundation for this career, you'll need to begin by earning a Bachelor of Science degree in a field such as botany, biology, agriculture, geology, forestry, environmental science or agronomy.


If you want to become a soil scientist who works as a consultant in the environmental, commercial, horticulture and agriculture sectors, you may need a master’s degree in one of the aforementioned fields.


If you plan on working in a research or a university teaching position however, a Ph.D. in one of these fields is almost certainly needed.





How to Get a Job as a Soil Scientist

Now that you've acquired an education and research experience in soil science, you're ready to break into the field! The last thing you have to do is nail the interview...once you earn one.


Your last step is to make a list of possible employers and suitable positions, and start handing out resumes. Do your research and figure out which companies are hiring soil scientists and related positions; these employers will be in a variety of sectors.


Success Tip: Earning an internship position can be a great way to gain in-field experience as a student; speak with your professors and career resource staff to learn of possible positions!



Who Hires Them?

There are many types of organizations that are interested in the skills, knowledge and competencies that soil scientists can contribute. These organizations may be in the private sector or the public sector; examples of these organizations include:


• Colleges and universities

• Conservation agencies

• Consulting firms providing services to agriculture, forestry, oil and gas, and mining industries

• Environmental consulting and management companies

• Federal, provincial/territorial/state, or municipal government departments

• Horticultural companies

• Land development and management companies

• Land reclamation companies

• Research institutes

• Waste disposal companies




Characteristics of Successful Soil Scientists

Even with the right education and skill set, becoming a successful soil scientist is not guaranteed. If you’re reading the list of personality and intellectual traits listed below, and you recognize many of the traits in yourself, you may be well suited for a career as a soil scientist.


• An interest in mathematics, statistics and science

• Enjoy conducting research and synthesizing information

• Physical health and stamina are required for fieldwork

• The initiative and effort to keep up to date with developments in the field

• The curiosity and patience to solve complex scientific problems

• The ability to work effectively with others who utilize soil, such as land-use planners, resource managers, engineers, famers, government personnel and others



Salary in Canada & the United States

According to ECO Canada, soil scientists working in entry-level jobs make an average of $58,250 per year.


There are alternate figures available that are similar to these, although they are specific to Alberta but not specific to soil scientists. According to the 2011 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey, Albertans in the Other Professional Occupations in Physical Sciences occupational group, which includes soil conservationists, earned on average from $39.60 to $49.05 an hour, with the average wage being $45.07 per hour.


In the United States the salary levels of soil scientists fall within the Soil and Plant Scientists occupational group according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics. The average annual salary for this group according to statistics from May 2010 was $63,290.


Please Note: Salary levels can vary considerably for soil scientists, depending on the level of education, who the employer is and their level of experience



Soil Scientist Jobs

Check our job board below to find available postings in your area. Postings in this field can be rare depending on the location in which you're looking, but it's worth a try!

Similar Occupations

Listed below are jobs that are similar in nature to Soil Scientist, as they typically involve many of the same skills, competencies and responsibilities.


• Agrologist

• Botanist

• Climatologist

• Geologist

• Soil Conservationist



References for this Guide

Please use the references below to find more information on the various aspects of a career as a soil scientist.


Occupations in Alberta:Soil Scientist.” (March 25, 2016). ALIS website - Alberta Learning Information Service. Retrieved January 14, 2020.

Occupational Employment and Wages:Soil & Plant Scientists.” (September 4, 2019). Bureau of Labor Statistics - United States Government website. Retrieved January 14, 2020.

Explore Careers: Soil Scientist.” (n.d.). ECO Canada website. Retrieved January 14, 2020.



Relevant Scholarships

Scholarships listed for majors that apply to becoming a Soil Scientist can be found on the following pages:


Biology Scholarships

Botany Scholarships

Environmental Science Scholarships

Geology Scholarships


Success Tip: Be sure to apply for any scholarships that you even barely qualify for, as there are millions of dollars of scholarships that go unused every year due to a lack of applicants!



Applicable Majors

Studying one of the university majors listed below is an excellent starting point to becoming a soil scientist. Click on the links to find out what else you can do with these majors!


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