Career Detail

Agricultural and Food Scientist
“We make good food better!”
Agricultural scientists study farm crops and animals and develop ways of improving their quantity and quality.
The Job
Basic research seeks to understand the biological and chemical processes by which crops and livestock grow, such as determining the role of a particular gene in plant growth. Applied research uses this knowledge to discover mechanisms to improve the quality, quantity, or safety of agricultural products.
Work Environment
Agricultural scientists involved in management or basic research tend to work regular hours in offices and laboratories.
College Majors
Bachelor's degree in agricultural science
Minimum Qualifications
Most agricultural and food scientists need at least a master's degree to work in basic or applied research, whereas a bachelor's degree is sufficient for some jobs in applied research or product development, or jobs in other occupations related to agricultural science.
Personality traits helpful for this career
Most of these scientists also need an understanding of basic business principles, the ability to apply statistical techniques, and the ability to use computers to analyze data.
Quick Facts
  • About 14 percent of agricultural and food scientists work for Federal, State, or local governments.
  • A bachelor's degree in agricultural science is sufficient for some jobs in product development; a master's or Ph.D. degree is required for research or teaching.
  • Opportunities for agricultural and food scientists are expected to be good over the next decade, particularly for those holding a master's or Ph.D. degree.
  • Beginning salary offers in July 2009 for graduates with a bachelor's degree in animal sciences averaged $33,732 a year; plant sciences, $33,456 a year.
Compensation and Outlook
Median annual wages of food scientists and technologists were $59,520 in May 2008. The middle 50 percent earned between $43,600 and $81,340. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $33,790, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $104,520. Median annual wages of soil and plant scientists were $58,390 in May 2008. The middle 50 percent earned between $44,150 and $78,080. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $34,260, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $105,340. In May 2008, median an
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