What you need to know
Agricultural and food scientists research ways to improve the efficiency and safety of agricultural establishments and products.
Agricultural and food scientists work in laboratories, in offices, and in the field. They spend most of their time studying data and reports in a laboratory or an office. Fieldwork includes visits to farms or processing plants.
Some of the things agricultural and food scientists might do:
- Conduct research and experiments to improve the productivity and sustainability of field crops and farm animals
- Create new food products and develop new and better ways to process package, and deliver them
- Study the composition of soil as it relates to plant growth and research ways to improve it
- Communicate research findings to the scientific community, food producers, and the public
- Travel between facilities to oversee the implementation of new projects
- Communication skills. Communication skills are critical for agricultural and food scientists. They must explain their studies: what they were trying to learn, the methods they used, what they found, and what they think the implications of their findings are. They must also communicate well when working with others, including technicians and student assistants.
- Critical-thinking skills. Agricultural and food scientists must use their expertise to determine the best way to answer a specific research question.
- Data-analysis skills. Agricultural and food scientists, like other researchers, collect data using a variety of methods, including quantitative surveys. They must then apply standard data analysis techniques to understand the data and get the answers to the questions they are studying.
- Math skills. Agricultural and food scientists, like many other scientists, must have a sound grasp of mathematical concepts.
- Observation skills. Agricultural and food scientists conduct experiments that require precise observation of samples and other data. Any mistake could lead to inconclusive or inaccurate results.
The average pay for agricultural and food scientists in the United States ranges from $38,740 to $116,740 as of May 2018.
The specific pay depends on factors such as level of experience, education and training, geographic location, and specific industry.
Overall employment of agricultural and food scientists is projected to grow 7 percent from 2016 to 2026, about as fast as the average for all occupations.
Employment of agricultural and food scientists is projected to grow as research into agricultural production methods and techniques continues.
Agricultural and food scientists need at least a bachelor’s degree from an accredited postsecondary institution, although many earn advanced degrees. Some animal scientists earn a doctor of veterinary medicine (DVM) degree.
Many people with bachelor’s degrees in agricultural sciences find work in related jobs rather than becoming an agricultural or food scientist. For example, a bachelor’s degree in agricultural science is a useful background for farming, ranching, agricultural inspection, farm credit institutions, or companies that make or sell feed, fertilizer, seed, or farm equipment. Combined with coursework in business, agricultural and food science could be a good background for managerial jobs in farm-related or ranch-related businesses.