Plant Scientist: Salary and Career Facts

Research what it takes to become a plant scientist. Learn about educational requirements, potential jobs, tasks and what salary you could expect to earn to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Environmental Science degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Plant Scientist?

A plant scientist's responsibilities include researching and managing plant growth and production, including ways to handle weeds and damaging insects. Their work is typically used by food and crop developers. Plant scientists advise these developers on new or different techniques to improve production as well as provide them with information on local soils, weed issues and more. This work often requires plant scientists to travel to various locations, collect samples and then analyze them in a laboratory. They present their findings in technical reports to their clients, the public and/or colleagues. The following chart provides more information about a career in plant science.

Degree Required Bachelor's
Education Field of Study Agricultural science, biology, physics, chemistry
Key Responsibilities Conducting research, increasing crop yields, controlling insects and other pests
Job Growth (2014-24) 7% for plant and soil scientists*
Median Salary (May 2015) $60,050 for plant and soil scientists*

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

What Education Will I Need for a Career as a Plant Scientist?

If you want to become a plant scientist, acquire a bachelor's degree in agricultural science, biology, physics or chemistry. Obtain a master's degree in these areas if you have aspirations to teach or to perform research for a university. You could, for example, conduct research to aid in finding useful plant genes that are transferable to crops. An advanced degree and years of experience will also enable you to get supervisory or management-level jobs.

A 2-year community college program might consist of courses in pesticides, plant reproduction and the production of vegetable crops. Bachelor's degree programs might include classes in statistics, plant health, weeds, soils and agricultural water supply. To round out your education, you'll study economics, communications, life science and business.

Master's-level training may offer class topics such as plant biology, advanced plant science, plant breeding, genetics, food microbiology and biometry. Other subjects may include plant evolution and crop biochemistry. You'll also be required to complete a master's thesis.

What Jobs Will I Qualify For?

Your education and experience will enable you to also work as a crop nutrition specialist, physical hydrologist, agronomy research manager or soil fertility specialist. Soil scientist and agricultural scientist are other possible job options. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), a bachelor's degree in agricultural science also qualifies you to become an agricultural inspector or manager (www.bls.gov).

What Will My Job Duties Be?

Some of your job tasks might include studying and developing methods of soil conservation; identifying and determining the reasons for poor water and soil quality; and advising farmers on how they can avoid erosion problems and boost plant growth. You may perform experiments in an effort to create new crop varieties. Research may be required to find out the details of soil formation and how its properties vary according to geographic location.

What Salary Could I Expect to Earn?

The combined group of plant and soil scientists earned a median salary of $60,050 in 2015, according to the BLS. However, the BLS reported that salaries can vary significantly, with most scientists earning between $35,770 at the low end and $105,390 at the high end; the variance may be due to a scientist's years of experience in the job or the particular industry in which she or he works. For example, soil and plant scientists who managed companies were the highest paid in 2015, according to the BLS, followed by those working for the federal government.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Some related careers in the field of science include microbiologist, biological technician and conservation scientist and forester. Microbiologists focus on microorganisms, like bacteria, to understand their life cycles and how they interact with various environments. Biological technicians work in laboratories conducting tests and/or experiments with biologists or medical scientists. Conservation scientists and foresters work to protect natural resources and manage outdoor spaces, like forests and parks.

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