Employment of agricultural and food scientists is expected to grow more slowly than the average for all occupations through 2012. This projection reflects limited growth in the Federal Government and modest growth in State and local governments. The need to replace agricultural and food scientists who
retire or otherwise leave the occupation permanently will account for many more job openings than will projected growth.
Past agricultural research has resulted in the development of higher
yielding crops, crops with better resistance to pests and plant
pathogens, and chemically based fertilizers and pesticides. Research is
still necessary, particularly as insects and diseases continue to adapt
to pesticides and as soil fertility and water quality continue to need
improvement, resulting in job opportunities in biotechnology.
Agricultural scientists are using new avenues of research in
biotechnology to develop plants and food crops that require less
fertilizer, fewer pesticides and herbicides, and even less water for
Biotechnological research, including studies and
approaches relying on the tools of genomics, will continue to offer
possibilities for the development of new food products. This research
will allow agricultural and food scientists to develop techniques to
detect and control food pathogens, and should lead to better
understanding of other physiological responses of pathogens in food
Agricultural scientists will be needed to balance
increased agricultural output with protection and preservation of soil,
water, and ecosystems. They will increasingly encourage the practice of
ďsustainable agricultureĒ by developing and implementing plans to
manage pests, crops, soil fertility and erosion, and animal waste in
ways that reduce the use of harmful chemicals and do little damage to
the natural environment.
Further food research will result in more job opportunities for food scientists and technologists. This
research will be stimulated by a heightened public focus on diet,
health, and food safety, as well as domestic and global issues such as
increasing world population, availability and cost of usable water,
loss of arable land, deforestation, environmental pollution, and
Those with doctorates in agricultural and food science may face competition for jobs, due to an increase in the number of graduates and the limited numbers of research and teaching
positions. Opportunities may be more numerous for those with a masterís
degree, particularly for graduates seeking basic research positions in
a laboratory. Most of these positions, however, entail working under
the guidance and direction of a Ph.D. scientist.
Graduates with a bachelorís degree should have opportunities, although not necessarily
as an agricultural or food scientist. A bachelorís degree in
agricultural science is useful for managerial jobs in businesses that
deal with ranchers and farmers, such as feed, fertilizer, seed, and
farm equipment manufacturers; retailers or wholesalers; and farm credit
institutions. In some cases, persons with a 4-year degree can provide
consulting services, or become a certified crop advisor, providing crop
management recommendations to farmers to help them meet their
objectives. Bachelorís degree holders also can work in some applied
research and product development positions, but usually only in certain
subfields, such as food science and technology, and the Federal
Government hires bachelorís degree holders to work as soil scientists.
Four-year degrees also may help persons enter occupations such as
farmer, or farm or ranch manager; cooperative extension service agent;
agricultural products inspector; or purchasing or sales agent for
agricultural commodity or farm supply companies.
Employment of agricultural and food scientists is relatively stable during periods of
economic recession. Layoffs are less likely among agricultural and food
scientists than in some other occupations because food is a staple item
and its demand fluctuates very little with economic activity.