Dairy Scientist: Career and Salary Facts

Explore the career requirements for dairy scientists. Get the facts about job duties, education requirements, career outlook, and salary to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Animal Care degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Dairy Scientist?

A dairy scientist researches ways to help increase milk production and streamline milk processing, striving to accomplish this in an environmentally sustainable way. They hope to improve animal welfare and productivity through their work, working on better and more efficient means of producing and using milk by studying milk-producing animals on farms. They may sell new equipment to farmers in order to facilitate this, or act as consultants on projects such as expanding animal housing or devising waste removal strategies.

The following chart gives an overview of what you need to know to enter this profession.

Degree Required Master's degree minimum; doctoral degree typical
Education Field of Study Master's: agricultural science
Doctoral: dairy science, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine
Key Responsibilities Lab and/or field research on nutrition, genetics, reproduction of dairy animals; consult with farmers on animal care & production
Certification Voluntary certification helpful
Job Growth (2014-2024) 7% (animal scientists)*
Average Salary (2015) $71,830 (animal scientists)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

What Does a Dairy Scientist Do?

A dairy scientist is a kind of agricultural scientist. In general, agricultural scientists study farm animals and crops, searching for ways to improve their quality or volume. They may research soil and water, pest control, crop yields, and how to most efficiently convert raw agricultural products into consumer-ready products.

Dairy scientists focus their research on ways to more efficiently produce and process milk. Much of this research is concerned with nutrition, reproduction, growth, and the genetics of domestic animals. A dairy scientist may be employed by farms, equipment manufacturers, or consultancy firms. They might evaluate and grade livestock or sell new technologies. They might also work as consultants, helping farmers upgrade animal housing, handle waste, increase animal production, or lower animal death rates. Agricultural scientists may work in laboratories or at dairies, as well as other types of farms.

What Degree Do I Need?

A master's degree in agricultural science is typically the minimum requirement for research positions, while a doctoral degree is required for postsecondary teaching positions. Additionally, degrees specifically in dairy science are also available at the doctoral level. However, advanced degrees in related scientific fields such as biology, chemistry, or veterinary medicine may also qualify you for agricultural science positions. Both master's and doctoral degrees usually focus on original research based on data collected in the field. These degrees are not offered online.

Courses in these programs combine both didactic and hands-on learning, and research is often conducted in the field. You might learn about the agricultural industry, business, or biology of domesticated animals. The following are courses you might find in the curriculum:

  • Nutrition science
  • Agricultural policy
  • Fundamentals of U.S. agriculture
  • Environmental law
  • Rural development

Will I Be Able to Get a Job? How Much Will I Make?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expects employment of animal scientists, in general, to increase by about 7% between 2014 and 2024 (www.bls.gov). Factors in this growth include an increased focus on food safety and developing sustainable farming practices. The BLS also reports that animal scientists earned an average yearly wage of about $71,830 in May 2015.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Agricultural and food scientists study the ways in which we produce food in order to improve productivity and sustainability of our farms and the environment, as well as develop better methods for packaging and distributing foodstuffs to minimize waste. Food scientists (those who study the basic chemical and biological components of food), soil scientists (those who examine soil conditions on farms), and plant scientists (those who research crops) are all subsets of researchers in this field.

Veterinarians are a specialized kind of doctor who examines animals to diagnose and treat medical problems. These professionals commonly work with farms, as well, due to needing a medical caretaker for the animals there.

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