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Plant Protection and Pest Management

Read below for information about plant protection and pest management and the career opportunities available in this field. Get an overview of jobs and the academic programs that prepare you for employment.

Are Plant Protection and Pest Management for Me?

Career Overview

Plant protection and pest management refer to the science of pest control. Undergraduate and graduate degree programs are available in these fields; this training can lead to a career in crop and soil science, academia or research. You'll assess the impact that pests and control measures have on the environment and agricultural products, including food. You'll be responsible for making sure that the chemicals used to prevent pest problems don't harm food, water, soil or other natural resources.

Career and Employment Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that 16,300 people worked as soil and plant scientists, and 12,800 people taught agricultural sciences, which includes soil and plant science, in 2012 (www.bls.gov).

The BLS projected that between 2012 and 2022, employment of soil and plant scientists would increase by 8%, as would employment of postsecondary agricultural science teachers. As of May 2013, the median annual salary for plant and soil scientists was $58,990, the BLS reported; postsecondary teachers in agricultural sciences earned median annual salary of $83,060 that same year.

How Can I Work in Plant Protection and Pest Management?

Undergraduate Education

For a position as a plant or soil scientist, you must have at least a bachelor's degree, according to the BLS. However, lower-level positions, such as those in pest control or groundskeeping, require only a high school diploma. Through associate's and bachelor's degree programs in plant protection and pest management, you may study food crops, chemistry, biology, natural resources and the basics of crop production. Other courses may address plant ecology, genetics, pesticides, types of weeds, botany, plant physiology and soil types. Specializations are available in entomology, weed science and plant pathology.

Graduate Options

You can pursue a career conducting research in plant or soil sciences or teach agricultural sciences at the postsecondary level with a master's or doctoral degree in plant protection and pest management. However, many 4-year colleges and universities require professors to have a doctorate. Through graduate degree programs, you may study problems associated with organic agriculture, plant diseases and methods for improving soil fertility. Other courses may cover plant breeding, types of pesticides and current issues in the plant sciences. You'll also participate in labs, conduct independent research and complete an internship.

Required Skills

According to the BLS, to work in this field you should be able to work on your own and with others, understand statistics, be able to apply statistics using original data and communicate effectively.