Soil Scientist  What They Do

Just the Facts

Insider Info

dotSoil scientists study the chemical, physical and biological properties of soils. They research anything from global topics like climate change or acid rain to local issues like well contamination.

dotAgriculture and soil science have always been closely linked. Soil scientists in this area use their knowledge of the earth to find out which crops grow best in which soils, what fertilizers to use and what the best methods of plowing and planting might be.

dotThe study of soils is also critical from an environmental perspective.

"Soils within a country determine the quality of that nation's environment, because soil acts like a kidney," says John Beck. He is a soil scientist. "Water is purified as it moves through the soil to the groundwater. Plants growing in the soil purify the air we breathe."

dotSoil scientists work in a variety of environments: labs, offices and the field. In the field, they collect soil samples and survey the environment. They will then take the information and samples to the lab, where they test the soil for quality and look for solutions. Once testing is done, they work in offices, writing up research findings.

"Most soil scientists would tell you they chose this profession because they liked the combination of field and laboratory work," says soil scientist Ivan Fernandez.

dotSoil scientists work for governments, agricultural co-ops, fertilizer producers, forest companies, environmental consulting companies, mining companies and colleges and universities. Many are also becoming independent consultants.

"More and more soil scientists are finding work in environmental management," says Ted Hartsig, a soil scientist.

dotPeople with disabilities or physical limitations should be able to do this job, although they might have trouble with the fieldwork.

At a Glance

Study the chemical, physical and biological properties of soils

  • This field is closely tied to agriculture
  • Many soil scientists are finding work in environmental management
  • You'll need at least a bachelor's degree in biology, chemistry, agronomy, engineering or environmental studies