Agronomist Job Description, Career as an Agronomist, Salary, Employment
Definition and Nature of the Work, Education and Training Requirements, Getting the Job
Education and Training: College
Salary: Median—$51,200 per year
Employment Outlook: Fair
Definition and Nature of the Work
Agronomists are plant and soil scientists who study and try to improve on the process of growing farm crops. They help farmers use their land more effectively and suggest methods to increase yields. Agronomists also aid in solving or preventing problems with soil and crops.
Many agronomists work for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Department of the Interior's Bureau of Indian Affairs, and state or local government agencies. Some work for agricultural colleges, agricultural service companies, or firms that maintain or make loans for agricultural lands. Others work for seed companies or concerns that make food products. Many agronomists are also self-employed consultants.
Agronomists do a considerable amount of work in the field, conducting research on the land or consulting with farmers. They also spend time in offices and research laboratories. An agronomist may specialize in a particular crop or a certain aspect of crop production. For example, one agronomist might concentrate on developing better methods of growing wheat, while another might focus on preventing soil erosion, and a third on combating weeds, crop diseases, or pest infestations.
Education and Training Requirements
Interested candidates must have a four-year college degree in agronomy or a related area, such as soil conservation, agriculture education, or general agriculture. A graduate degree may be necessary for some positions and is generally very helpful in the field. At least one college in every state offers degree programs related to agriculture.
Getting the Job
College placement offices and government employment offices can offer job placement assistance. The state departments advertise civil service examinations required for government jobs in monthly bulletins. Contact the U.S. Department of Agriculture or write directly to large agriculture concerns to inquire about openings.
Experience in farming or conservation work, even on a part-time or seasonal basis, is a significant advantage.
Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook
Experience, coupled with an advanced degree, may lead to such positions as manager of a research station, agency administrator, or project supervisor. Teaching and research positions are available to those with a doctoral degree.
The employment of agronomists is expected to grow as fast as or slower than the average through the year 2014. Jobs will arise out of the need to replace workers leaving the field. Those holding advanced degrees will have the best chances of finding jobs.
Agronomists have the advantage of being able to spend much of their time outdoors, except during inclement weather. Most agronomists spend part of their time conducting tests and research in laboratories and writing reports in their offices. They generally work regular hours, but some agronomists may be required to travel.
Earnings and Benefits
Salaries depend largely on education. Agronomists earn a median annual salary of $51,200 per year. Those working for the federal government earn an average of $73,573 per year. Benefits include paid vacations and sick days, medical coverage, and pension plans.
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