Soil Scientist Jobs

When you were a kid did you enjoy playing in the dirt? When was the last time you got really dirty? Did you know that you can make a career from dirt? It’s true. Ask a soil scientist.

Soil scientists, also known as soil conservationists or pedologists, study the soils of the Earth.

Some people might call soil mud or dirt, but soil is more than that. Soil is a mixture of minerals, water, air, and organic matter that forms the surface of the Earth. It is one of our planet’s greatest natural resources and it plays a very important role in our lives.

Soil is in the pedosphere, a geological classification. It has many important functions including giving plants a place to grow, emitting and absorbing gases, creating habitats for organisms, playing a major role in the water cycle, recycling nutrients, and supporting people and buildings. Soil scientists manage and conserve the world’s soils to ensure that soil can fulfill its natural jobs.

Soil scientists study soil formation, classification, taxonomy, mapping, physical features, chemical features, fertility, and the use and management of soil. There are two main branches of soil science – pedology and edaphology. Pedology is the study of soil in its natural setting. Edaphology focuses on how soil impacts living things.

Are you wondering what a soil scientist actually does? Soil scientists travel the globe and take soil samples. Then they study the samples in a laboratory to determine the nutrients, composition, resistance to erosion, and ability to retain water. These factors allow the soil scientist to grade and categorize the soils.

Next they survey the land and take aerial photos. With this information they create soil maps that will show types of soils and will help predict erosion patterns. The maps are also used to determine land value and whether the land is best suited for growing crops or constructing buildings. The goal is to make the land as productive as possible.

Loaded with all sorts of soil information, soil scientists write reports and act as consultants to land owners, farmers, and businesses. They may advise them on what to do with their land or recommend new fertilizers and techniques to increase soil nutrients. Soil scientists can help improve crop health by suggesting when and how to do crop rotations. Their knowledge is important to efficiently use the land.

Besides consulting and scientific studies, soil scientists may find other work. Chemical evaluations of the soil are important for people trying to grow crops and plants. Some soil scientists examine soils from the Moon or Mars. Others work on archeological sites to try to get a glimpse of lost times. Predicting and managing erosion is also a big niche. There are government jobs available as well as positions with universities, conservation groups, consulting firms, and in private industry.

To get into this field, you need to attend university for a degree in soil science or agronomy. If you want to teach soil science, you will need a Master or Doctoral degree. Many universities offer work-study programs where you can work in the soil sciences while attending school. It’s a great way to maximize your education. It is a good idea to earn the Certified Professional Soil Scientist from the Soil Science of America. It shows that you are dedicated to your career and it will help with the job search. Most soil scientists make $39,000 to $68,000 per year. The average is $51,000 per year.

Soil science is a dirty career. You work outdoors digging in the soil and getting dirt trapped under your fingernails. Plus you get paid for it. Not a bad way to make a living…

Quick Facts Soil Science Jobs

Job Title: Soil Scientist, Soil Conservationist, Pedologist
Description: Analyze soil
Employers: Universities, Government, Conservation agencies, Consulting firms,
Pay: $39,000 to $68,000 per year, average is $51,000 per year

Links:
American Society of Agronomy
Soil and Water Conservation Society
National Society of Consulting Soil Scientists
United States Consortium of Soil Science Associations

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