With a focus on food production, they explore animal genetics, nutrition, reproduction, diseases, growth, and development. They work to develop efficient ways to produce and process meat, poultry, eggs, and milk. Animal scientists may crossbreed animals to make them more productive or improve other characteristics. They advise farmers on how to upgrade housing for animals, lower animal death rates, increase growth rates, or otherwise increase the quality and efficiency of livestock.
Food scientists and technologists use chemistry, biology, and other sciences to study the basic elements of food. They analyze the nutritional content of food, discover new food sources, and research ways to make processed foods safe and healthy. Food technologists generally work in product development, applying findings from food science research to develop new or better ways of selecting, preserving, processing, packaging, and distributing food.
Some food scientists use problem-solving techniques from nanotechnology—the science of manipulating matter on an atomic scale—to develop sensors that can detect contaminants in food. Other food scientists enforce government regulations, inspecting food-processing areas to ensure that they are sanitary and meet waste management standards. Plant scientists work to improve crop yields and advise food and crop developers about techniques that could enhance production.
They may develop ways to control pests and weeds. Soil scientists examine the composition of soil, how it affects plant or crop growth, and how alternative soil treatments affect crop productivity. They develop methods of conserving and managing soil that farmers and forestry companies can use. Because soil science is closely related to environmental science, people trained in soil science also work to ensure environmental quality and effective land use.
Agricultural and food scientists in private industry commonly work for food production companies, farms, and processing plants. They may improve inspection standards or overall food quality. They spend their time in a laboratory, where they do tests and experiments, or in the field, where they take samples or assess overall conditions. Other agricultural and food scientists work for pharmaceutical companies, where they use biotechnology processes to develop drugs or other medical products.
Some look for ways to process agricultural products into fuels, such as ethanol produced from corn. At universities, agricultural and food scientists do research and investigate new methods of improving animal or soil health, nutrition, and other facets of food quality. For more information on professors who teach agricultural and food science at universities, see the profile on postsecondary teachers. In the federal government, agricultural and food scientists conduct research on animal safety and on methods of improving food and crop production.
They spend most of their time conducting clinical trials or developing experiments on animal and plant subjects. Agricultural and food scientists may eventually present their findings in peer-reviewed journals or other publications. Agricultural and food scientists held about 35, jobs in Employment in the detailed occupations that make up agricultural and food scientists was distributed as follows:.
They spend most of their time studying data and reports in a laboratory or an office. Fieldwork includes visits to farms or processing plants. When visiting a food or animal production facility, agricultural and food scientists must follow biosecurity measures, wear suitable clothing, and tolerate the environment associated with food production processes.
This environment may include noise associated with large production machinery, cold temperatures associated with food production or storage, and close proximity to animal byproducts. Certain positions may require travel, either domestic, international, or both. The amount of travel can vary widely. Some animal scientists earn a doctor of veterinary medicine DVM degree. Every state has at least one land-grant college that offers agricultural science degrees. Many other colleges and universities also offer agricultural science degrees or related courses.
Degrees in related sciences, such as biology, chemistry, and physics, or in a related engineering specialty also may qualify people for many agricultural science jobs. Undergraduate coursework for food scientists and technologists and for soil and plant scientists typically includes biology, chemistry, botany, and plant conservation. Students preparing to be food scientists take courses such as food chemistry, food analysis, food microbiology, food engineering, and food-processing operations. Students preparing to be soil and plant scientists take courses in plant pathology, soil chemistry, entomology the study of insects , plant physiology, and biochemistry.
Undergraduate students in agricultural and food sciences typically gain a strong foundation in their specialty, with an emphasis on teamwork through internships and research opportunities. Students also are encouraged to take humanities courses, which can help them develop good communication skills, and computer courses, which can familiarize them with common programs and databases. Combined with coursework in business, agricultural and food science could be a good background for managerial jobs in farm-related or ranch-related businesses. For more information, see the profile on farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers.
Students who major in a more basic field, such as biology or chemistry, may be better suited for getting their Ph. During graduate school, there is additional emphasis on lab work and original research, in which prospective animal scientists have the opportunity to do experiments and sometimes supervise undergraduates. Advanced research topics include genetics, animal reproduction, agronomy, and biotechnology, among others.
Advanced coursework also emphasizes statistical analysis and experiment design, which are important as Ph. Some agricultural and food scientists receive a doctor of veterinary medicine DVM. Like Ph.
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Communication skills. Communication skills are critical for agricultural and food scientists. They must explain their studies: what they were trying to learn, the methods they used, what they found, and what they think the implications of their findings are. They must also communicate well when working with others, including technicians and student assistants.
Critical-thinking skills. Agricultural and food scientists must use their expertise to determine the best way to answer a specific research question. Data-analysis skills. Agricultural and food scientists, like other researchers, collect data using a variety of methods, including quantitative surveys.
They must then apply standard data analysis techniques to understand the data and get the answers to the questions they are studying.
Math skills. Agricultural and food scientists, like many other scientists, must have a sound grasp of mathematical concepts. Observation skills.source url
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Agricultural and food scientists conduct experiments that require precise observation of samples and other data. Any mistake could lead to inconclusive or inaccurate results. Some states require soil scientists to be licensed to practice.
These certifications recognize expertise in agricultural and food science, and enhance the status of those who are certified. Qualification for certification is generally based on education, previous professional experience, and passing a comprehensive exam.
Internships are highly recommended for prospective food scientists and technologists. Many entry-level jobs in this occupation are related to food manufacturing, and firsthand experience is often valued in that environment. Note: All Occupations includes all occupations in the U. Source: U.
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The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. In May , the median annual wages for agricultural and food scientists in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program. Challenges such as population growth, increased demand for water resources, combating pests and pathogens, changes in climate and weather patterns, and additional demand for agriculture products, such as biofuels, will continue to create demand for research in agricultural efficiency and sustainability.
Animal scientists will be needed to investigate and improve the diets, living conditions, and even genetic makeup of livestock. Food scientists and technologists will work to improve food-processing techniques, ensuring that products are safe, waste is limited, and food is shipped efficiently and safely. Soil and plant scientists will continue to try to understand and map soil composition. They will investigate ways to improve soils, to find uses for byproducts, and selectively breed crops to resist pests and disease, or improve taste.
The Occupational Employment Statistics OES program produces employment and wage estimates annually for over occupations. These estimates are available for the nation as a whole, for individual states, and for metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas. The link s below go to OES data maps for employment and wages by state and area. All state projections data are available at www. Information on this site allows projected employment growth for an occupation to be compared among states or to be compared within one state. CareerOneStop includes hundreds of occupational profiles with data available by state and metro area.
There are links in the left-hand side menu to compare occupational employment by state and occupational wages by local area or metro area. There is also a salary info tool to search for wages by zip code. This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of agricultural and food scientists. Biochemists and biophysicists study the chemical and physical principles of living things and of biological processes.
Biological technicians help biological and medical scientists conduct laboratory tests and experiments.
Chemical technicians use special instruments and techniques to assist chemists and chemical engineers. Conservation scientists and foresters manage the overall land quality of forests, parks, rangelands, and other natural resources. Explore how graduate study at K-State will challenge you to expand your capabilities while preparing you to make a difference in your chosen field — and enjoying a memorable experience along the way. Manhattan KS Request info Discover how K-State can support your goals. Visit Meet in-person with experts in your field and explore valuable resources.
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Related Becoming a Food Scientist: To Graduate School and Beyond
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