Career Profile: Soil Scientist
When many people look at a handful of earth, they might notice a few characteristics, such as the colour of the dirt, the number of worms, or how many roots of plants are in it. For soil scientists, however, a handful of dirt tells much more than that. Soil scientists study the ground to determine its health and to make recommendations that can help farmers, government officials, miners, and many other people to make good decisions about how to work at improving the health of the environment, as well as the people, animals, and plants in it.
Soil scientists spend a lot of time gathering and analyzing information about the soil. Usually, they work at a site to answer specific questions about it. For example, a soil scientist working for a conservation agency might study the soil to see whether fertilizers have changed the quality of soil over the years. A soil scientist working for an oil and gas company might analyze the soil to see if it is stable enough for an oil well. People in this field can work for governments, universities, industries, environmental firms, and other places. Sometimes, they work as consultants, completing soil surveys for many different organizations.
Some soil scientists spend their days indoors, analyzing samples that others have brought to them. Others go out to the sites and collect the samples themselves, often in bad weather. Once they have the information, they need to analyze it and come to some conclusions about it. This usually includes analysis of information that might seem contradictory at times. Often, soil scientists write reports for their employers and may also speak at conferences or other meetings. Generally, soil scientists earn between $52,000 and $92,000 per year.
Educational requirements for soil scientists vary, but a bachelor’s degree in a scientific area such as agrology, biology, or chemistry is usually the minimum. For many jobs, a master’s degree or PhD is required. This means that students will need at least three or four years of university education, and possibly eight or ten years. In some areas of the country, jobs are relatively easy to find, but it depends on the person’s specialty and willingness to move. For someone wanting to work in agriculture, for example, learning about the soil in the Prairie Provinces is a good choice.
Knowing how to use scientific instruments and methods is important. Much of the analysis involves using microscopes, test tubes, and other equipment. Students can already prepare for that part of the work by taking courses in biology, chemistry, and physics. Those courses will also help with learning the basics of how scientific analysis works.
Some aspects of soil science require physical fitness, but much of the work involves sitting and analyzing samples. As people age, they might find that they can no longer see or handle the samples properly. At that point, an option is to get into administration or teaching. For many people, soil science can be a lifelong career. If you enjoy the sciences and are interested in how the soil works, it could be the right job for you.
AG Careers. “Soil Scientists.” https://www.agcareers.com/career-profiles/soil-scientist.cfm
ECO Canada. “Soil Scientists.” https://www.eco.ca/training/career-profiles/soil-scientist/
Payscale Canada. “Soil Scientists Salary.” https://www.payscale.com/research/CA/Job=Soil_Scientist/Salary
Skilled Immigrant Info Centre. “Soil Scientists.” https://pwp.vpl.ca/siic/guides/soil-scientists/