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Field trials officers are responsible for designing, conducting and monitoring the effects of experiments/trials on animals and plants in the field, glasshouses and laboratories.

Field trials jobs often come with a range of benefits such as a company car, private medical insurance, generous pensions and performance-linked pay.

What does a field trials officer do? Typical employers | Qualifications and training | Key skills

Information from trials may be required to ascertain product safety, to enhance marketing/sales information or to develop new uses for products. Primary responsibilities include:

  • setting research aims and objectives
  • liaising with clients, research personnel and technical development staff
  • producing project plans and budgets
  • collecting, recording, analysing and interpreting data
  • observing field conditions
  • following strict test guidelines
  • assessing the prevalence of diseases and/or pests
  • considering selections for breeding purposes
  • communicating unfavourable results from tests, including trials failures
  • writing technical publications and reports
  • keeping up to date with current developments
  • making presentations
  • attending trade shows and demonstrations
  • using specialist computer applications for recording and analysing data.

Typical employers

  • Agricultural Development and Advisory Service (ADAS)
  • National Institute of Agricultural Botany
  • Commercial agrochemical, pharmaceutical and animal health companies
  • Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC)
  • The James Hutton Institute

The small numbers of vacancies that arise each year attract strong competition. Jobs are advertised by careers services and specialist recruitment agencies, in local/national newspapers and publications including New Scientist, Farmers Weekly, The Scottish Farmer, The Grower and other trade journals.

  • The recruitment process is likely to involve a technical interview. Read our article on technical interviews to find out what these involve and how you can tackle them.

Qualifications and training required

A good degree in biological sciences, biotechnology, botany, genetics, agriculture, horticulture or crop/plant science is normally the minimum academic requirement for entry into the profession. Applicants will also need PA1 and PA2 qualifications, which are awarded for training in the safe use of pesticides.

A relevant postgraduate qualification is usually beneficial and may be necessary for senior posts or for entry into particularly competitive areas. Read our article on scientific postgraduate study to explore your different options.

Agricultural/field trials/plant breeding work experience is particularly beneficial and essential for any candidates without an agricultural-related degree. Relevant experience can be gained via work shadowing, vacation work and placements.

Key skills for field trials officers

Employers look for evidence of independence, patience and good communication, technical and analytical skills. A full driving licence is also normally required.

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