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Soil scientist: job description

Soil scientist: job description

Soil scientists analyse soil samples to provide information about its quality and structure for construction, agricultural, government, industrial and scientific staff.
A large proportion of soil scientists’ work is office based, although some fieldwork is necessary to collect and test soil samples.

What does a soil scientist do? Typical employers | Qualifications and training | Key skills

Information about the composition of soil is required for a variety of reasons. It may be needed to assist with planning and surveying for land development purposes; to assess the effect of agrochemicals used in farming; to aid land restoration and reclamation projects; to gauge drainage and irrigation requirements; or to investigate environmental, climatic and pollution issues.

Key tasks include:

  • collecting, assessing and examining samples
  • analysing and interpreting data
  • modelling information using specialist computer applications and preparing reports, maps and publications
  • advising professionals in related fields, such as archaeologists and hydrologists
  • recording and presenting findings
  • keeping up to date with developments in soil science and relevant legislation or environmental issues
  • attending conferences

A large proportion of soil scientists’ work is office based, although some fieldwork is necessary to collect and test soil samples.

Typical employers of soil scientists

  • Environmental consultancies
  • Research establishments
  • Commercial and industrial organisations
  • Universities
  • Voluntary or charitable environmental organisations
  • The Civil Service

Salaries vary greatly between different employers: within the UK, industrial organisations normally offer the best salaries. Jobs are advertised by careers services and specialist recruitment agencies and in national newspapers and various publications including New Scientist, The Economist, Nature, Farmers Weekly and The Grower.

Qualifications and training required

You can only become a soil scientist if you have a degree in a relevant subject such as soil science, environmental science or geology. Many employers also expect a relevant postgraduate qualification. There are many opportunities to work overseas with either UK or international employers, although foreign language skills and previous international experience is often necessary. As there is strong competition for vacancies, relevant paid or voluntary work experience can be beneficial.

Key skills for soil scientists

  • Analytical skills
  • Teamworking skills
  • IT skills
  • Good physical fitness
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