Training requirements for agricultural scientists depend on
their specialty and on the type of work they perform. A bachelorís
degree in agricultural science is sufficient for some jobs in applied
research or for assisting in basic research, but a masterís or doctoral
degree is required for basic research. A Ph.D. in agricultural science
usually is needed for college teaching and for advancement to
administrative research positions. Degrees in related sciences such as
biology, chemistry, or physics or in related engineering specialties
also may qualify persons for some agricultural science jobs.
All States have a land-grant college that offers agricultural science
degrees. Many other colleges and universities also offer agricultural
science degrees or some agricultural science courses. However, not
every school offers all specialties. A typical undergraduate
agricultural science curriculum includes communications, mathematics,
economics, business, and physical and life sciences courses, in
addition to a wide variety of technical agricultural science courses.
For prospective animal scientists, these technical agricultural science
courses might include animal breeding, reproductive physiology,
nutrition, and meats and muscle biology. Graduate students typically
specialize in a subfield of agricultural science, such as animal
breeding and genetics, crop science, or horticulture science, depending
on their interest and the kind of work they wish to do. For example,
those interested in doing genetic and biotechnological research in the
food industry need to develop a strong background in life and physical
sciences, such as cell and molecular biology, microbiology, and
inorganic and organic chemistry. However, students normally need not
specialize at the undergraduate level. In fact, undergraduates who are
broadly trained have greater flexibility when changing jobs than if
they had narrowly defined their interests.
Students preparing as food scientists take courses such as food chemistry, food analysis,
food microbiology, food engineering, and food processing operations.
Those preparing as crop or soil scientists take courses in plant
pathology, soil chemistry, entomology, plant physiology, and
biochemistry, among others. Advanced degree programs include classroom
and fieldwork, laboratory research, and a thesis or dissertation based
on independent research.
Agricultural and food scientists should be able to work independently or as part of a team and be able to communicate clearly and concisely, both orally and in writing. Most
of these scientists also need an understanding of basic business
principles, and the ability to apply basic statistical techniques.
Employers increasingly prefer job applicants who are able to apply
computer skills to determine solutions to problems, to collect and
analyze data, and to control various processes.
The American Society of Agronomy offers certification programs in crop science,
agronomy, crop advising, soil science, plant pathology, and weed
science. To become certified, applicants must pass designated
examinations and have at least 2 years of experience with at least a
bachelorís degree in agriculture or 4 years of experience with no
degree. To become a certified crop advisor, however, candidates do not
need a degree.
Agricultural scientists who have advanced
degrees usually begin in research or teaching. With experience, they
may advance to jobs such as supervisors of research programs or
managers of other agriculture-related activities.