Commissioner Adam H. Putnam

Florida Agriculture: 500 Years in the Making

Careers in Agriculture

Career Descriptions

Agricultural Economist: Agricultural economists have management-related jobs in agribusiness firms. They use modern analytical management tools to make profitable decisions. Agricultural economists conduct financial analysis, develop marketing plans, and set up optimal production schedules in U.S. and international food and fiber firms. They often begin their careers in management or production operations or as sales representatives, then progressively take on increasing responsibility for decision-making. Most agricultural economists spend a great deal of their work lives analyzing alternative decisions.

Agribusiness firms that provide such things as feed, seed, fertilizer or capital, and those that process and distribute agricultural products, employ agricultural economists. Feed, seed, and fertilizer firms; rural banks; and input cooperatives employ agricultural economists to manage their operations. Many agricultural economists work for wholesale and retail food processing firms.

To become an agricultural economist you need an interest in and ability to make analytical decisions. You need to learn economic theory, mathematics, computer skills, and modern decision-making tools in finance, marketing, and management. Most agribusiness firms require graduates with bachelor's degrees, although some prefer to hire people who have earned master's degrees.

In high school, take advanced courses in mathematics, economics, accounting, and computer skills. Try to get retail or service experience in an agribusiness firm.

-- Kerry Litzenberg, Texas A&M University

Agricultural Engineer: Agricultural engineers apply basic science and engineering principles as they design solutions to engineering problems in agricultural production. Agricultural engineers design agricultural machinery and facilities such as tractors, implements, housing, storage and handling facilities, irrigation and drainage systems, and soil conservation measures.

Agricultural engineers arc hired by builders of storage facilities, farmsteads, and commercial buildings; agricultural machinery companies; irrigation and drainage system manufacturers; federal, state, and local research, regulatory, and educational agencies; manufacturers of control systems and measuring devices; consulting firms; power utilities; and alternate fuel producers.

To be an agricultural engineer, you should enjoy solving problems and have the ingenuity to envision new designs or solutions. You must understand physical and chemical principles well enough to apply them as you solve problems. In college, you will take courses in mathematics, physics, chemistry, communications, computer science, economics, and a wide variety of engineering sciences including heat flow, environmental engineering, water movement, fluid mechanics, instrumentation, controls, properties of agricultural materials, engineering analysis, and engineering design.

In high school, take mathematics, physics, chemistry, English, and computer science. It also helps to get involved in activities that give you experience in communicating, leading groups, solving problems, analyzing situations, and resolving conflicting views.

-- Glenn J. Hoffman and Donald M. Edwards, University of Nebraska, Lincoln

Agronomist: Agronomists deal with field crops and soil management. They develop new varieties of crops, analyze soil structure, investigate soil chemistry, and study the physics of water movement in soil. Agronomists are concerned with the environment. You will find agronomists teaching, conducting business, and doing research in all parts of the food industry all around the world.

Agronomists work for USDA, state departments of agriculture, the Soil Conservation Service, and as agriculturists in foreign countries. They work for banks, farm co-ops, and crop management companies. Agronomists are hired as crop consultants by farmers or by seed, fertilizer, and agrichemical companies. Some are forecasters, environmentalists, analysts, or teachers.

To be an agronomist, you should have an interest in science and a bachelor's degree. In college take agriculture, biology, chemistry, mathematics, physics, and statistics courses, as well as broad-based general education courses, including English and speech. You should enjoy working with people and should have a keen interest in applying science to the food industry.

In high school take biology, chemistry, physics, and mathematics. Take English and speech to improve your communication skills. Farm experience can be helpful, but it is not necessary.

-- Gerald W. Brown, Northwest Missouri State University

Animal Nutritionist: Animal nutrition is an art that combines the sciences of animal nutrition, animal behavior, biochemistry, economics, and food processing with animal production techniques. Animal nutritionists formulate diets for domestic, companion, and exhibit animals. They work with mammals, birds, and fish. The diets they create must be nutritionally sound, good-tasting, and economical for the ages and types of animals that will follow them.

Animal nutritionists can teach the science and art of nutrition to students and conduct research in public universities or colleges, or they may work in the private sector. Corporate career activities range from serving clients on farms and ranches to conducting and supervising proprietary research to carrying out international marketing projects.

To be an animal nutritionist you should be a curious person who is very interested in both animals and the sciences. Most animal scientists want to improve the quality of life for both people and animals. You must have a bachelor's degree for an entry-level position. For careers involving research and management you need a graduate degree.

In high school, take college preparatory courses in biology, chemistry, mathematics, and communications.

-- Robert Harrold, North Dakota State University

Animal Physiologist: Animal physiologists study how animals function. That includes how animals interact with things outside them, such as temperature or air quality, plus things inside them, such as disease, poisons, or diet.

Feed and pharmaceutical companies, building engineers, and research organizations all hire or consult animal physiologists. Feed suppliers ask physiologists how diet affects animals' systems. Pharmaceutical companies consult physiologists who study intended effects and side effects of growth promotants, wormers, insecticides, and antibiotics. Building designers consult animal physiologists at universities or other organizations as they proper air exchange, temperature, humidity, and space in animal housing. Physiologists at universities reach students who are studying to become veterinarians and animal scientists.

To be an animal physiologist you should be interested in animals and their welfare and curious about how their bodies function. To become a physiologist you must take college classes and do laboratory projects on tl-ic growth, development, behavior, nutrition, genetics, anatomy, reproduction, and function of animal systems.

In high school, take courses in mathematics, biology, and chemistry.

-- Phil Dziuk, University of Illinois

Aquaculturalist: In your first job in aquaculture, you will probably stock ponds, feed fish, monitor water quality, check for diseases, harvest fish, and maintain equipment. If you become a manager, you will supervise pond workers, plan production schedules, purchase feed and equipment, and plan harvesting, processing, and marketing.

An aquaculturist can work for a corporation or an independent fish farmer. Some large operations have their own feed mills and fish processing plants, as well as ponds for raising fish. Companies hire aquaculturists as technicians to test water quality or to examine fish for diseases. Feed companies and equipment manufacturers hire aquaculturists to market their products to fish farmers.

To be an aquaculturist you should be interested in agriculture, since aquaculture is a type of farming. An entry-level position usually requires a high school education. Employees working on the pond bank need to know how to maintain and repair farm equipment. Managers of aquaculture operations often have college degrees, and need to understand water quality, nutrition, business, and economics.

In high school, take courses in the repair and maintenance of machinery and engines, welding, construction, and other shop classes. Accounting, marketing, and other business courses are also useful.

-- Robert Brown, Mississippi State University

Biochemist: Biochemists define the chemical events that cause biological phenomena in organisms. They use what they learn in their research to develop and market agricultural, consumer, and medicinal products. Most biochemists conduct either basic or applied laboratory research. Some work in marketing and technical sales. Some may move into research and development management positions. A few pursue careers in law or science writing.

Universities, colleges, and medical or veterinary schools typically hire biochemists who spend part of their time as teachers, part as researchers. Agricultural and pharmaceutical industries hire biochemists to discover, develop, test, evaluate, and market products that improve food production or human or animal health. Biotechnology discovery firms also hire biochemists to use genetic engineering and molecular biology to help solve problems in health and food production.

Biochemists like to experiment and like to work in laboratories. They want to know how cells, organs, and organisms chemically communicate within and among themselves. They want to know how organisms grow, develop, regulate internal complex chemical events, and protect themselves. For an entry-level biochemistry position, you need a bachelor's degree in biochemistry. Your college courses will include biochemistry, chemistry (analytical, organic, and physical), biology, calculus, and physics. Round out your education with liberal arts courses. Most biochemists earn doctoral degrees, or medical or veterinary degrees.

In high school take at least four years of laboratory science (including biology, chemistry, and physics), four years of mathematics (at least through pre-calculus), and four years of English. It helps to learn about research through science fairs or independent study, and to make it a habit to read about science and scientists in magazines and books.

-- Karl G. Brandt, Purdue University

Biometrician: Biometricians may advise researchers who are planning experiments, or they may analyze data for trends and underlying relationships. Sometimes they forecast future conditions of resources like forests or watersheds. Often they work as part of a team. The biometrician's skills are important to quality control and assurance in research and operations management. In a large organization, a biometrics staff may support others in projects such as forest inventory design, agricultural research and production process analysis. Or, biometricians may conduct their own research to improve statistical methods or the understanding of subjects like crop development or climate change.

Biometricians work for state agencies seeking staff support for research, planning, or information management; federal research organizations; private firms with large research programs; or large environmental consulting firms who want your skills in analyzing and evaluation. Universities hire biometricians to support biological researchers or as faculty to teach and do research on applied problems.

To be a biometrician you need an analytical mind and experience working with computers. You should study hard and specialize in at least one area of science. You need good communication skills to work with team members and clientele, and to report methods and findings.

In high school, take algebra, trigonometry, geometry, calculus, and computer science, plus biology, physics, chemistry, and economics. Develop communication skills by taking writing and speaking courses.

-- Alan Ek, University of Minnesota

Biosystems Engineer: Biosystems engineers are part of a new, rapidly developing discipline. These engineers design, analyze, manufacture, and manage biological products and systems. They may work in food and bioprocessing, plant and animal welfare, or environmental engineering. Typical jobs include designing equipment to produce pharmaceuticals, pet food, or human foods; controlling tissue growth for new biological products; developing biological sensors to minimize stress or enhance productivity; controlling the environments in greenhouses and animal facilities; resolving waste management, water quality, and other environmental concerns; and developing biodegradable products.

Food and industrial processing companies, pharmaceutical and health equipment manufacturers; environmental consulting firms; biotechnological companies; federal, state, and local research, regulatory, and educational agencies; and greenhouse and animal housing manufacturers all hire biological systems engineers.

To be a biological systems engineer you should have a strong interest in biology. You may want to improve food, nutrition, and health for humans and animals; create new foods; or address problems like waste management, water pollution, and waste reduction. In college you will take courses in mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology, communications, computer science, economics, and a wide variety of engineering sciences including heat flow, environmental engineering, water movement, fluid mechanics, instrumentation, controls, properties of agricultural materials, engineering analysis, and engineering design.

In high school, take mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology, English, and computer science. It also helps to get involved in activities that give you experience in communicating, leading groups, solving problems, analyzing situations, and resolving conflicting views.

-- Glenn J. Hoffman and Donald M. Edwards, University of Nebraska, Lincoln

Botanist (Plant Biologist): A botanist (plant biologist) studies tiny microorganisms and giant trees -- all plant life. Botanists who like to be outdoors may be plant explorers. They may study the effects of pollution (such as acid rain) on plants and work toward environmental protection, or they may identify new plant species and evaluate their parts and uses. Some botanists produce entire plants from single cells with a technique called tissue culture. Others use biotechnology to develop new or unproved plants.

Educational institutions hire botanists as teachers and researchers. Some botanists work in botanical gardens, arboretums, herbaria, zoos, and medical plant or germplasm resources laboratories. Others work in plant-related industries such as biological supply houses, biotechnology firms, pharmaceutical companies, nursery or greenhouse businesses, and petrochemical companies. Some work in publication, sales, or animal or plant health inspection.

To be a botanist, get a bachelor's degree in botany (plant biology). Be sure to take English, mathematics, chemistry, physics, arts and humanities, social sciences, and biological sciences. Computer and communications courses also help. Summer jobs or internships with educational institutions, governmental agencies, or private companies are also valuable.

In high school, take college preparatory courses in English, mathematics, biology, history, geography, and foreign languages. Get involved in science clubs or fairs and in hobbies such as camping and photography.

-- Donald M. Elkins, Southern Illinois University

Climatologist: Are we in a drought? Could there be a flood? Ask a climatologist. Climatologists study climate change, climate variability, and the biosphere. Some use computer software to predict the effect of weather or climate on the growth and development of grain, vegetables, fruit, and other crops.

Climatologists work for state and federal governments as weather station network supervisors, computer programmers, and supervisors of climate data publications. Some are private consultants, providing tailored reports and expert advice or testimony for clients. Climatologists at universities teach climate courses, participate in multi-disciplinary extension activities, and conduct independent research.

To be a research climatologist, you need a strong background in math and physics. For most jobs you need a master's or doctoral degree. Courses in meteorology and climatology, as well as courses in agricultural, biological, computer, or natural sciences are part of the graduate course work. You need broad educational experience, because the users of climate information come from varied backgrounds.

In high school, take classes in mathematics, biology, physics, and computer science. Courses like economics, speech, and chemistry also will help.

-- Kenneth G. Hubbard, University of Nebraska, Lincoln

Ecologist: Ecologists ask scientific questions about life in remote, unpopulated locations and areas where people live. Ecologists teach in college classrooms, in nature education centers, in museums, and in public lecture halls. Their work becomes more and more important as our environmental problems increase. Some advise workers in government and private agencies, communicate with a wide variety of groups, and interact with many people.

Ecologists work in universities, governmental agencies, consulting firms, research laboratories, museums, nature centers, and private industries, including those that produce energy, timber, and fish. University ecologists teach and conduct research. They can usually choose their own research topics. Government and industry ecologists study ways to protect and manage our natural resources. Consultants often monitor the environment and prepare environmental impact statements. Museum and nature center ecologists interpret ecological knowledge for visitors.

To be an ecologist, you should be an intensely curious person who appreciates plants, animals, and the environment. You should feel concern for the deterioration of our world. Ecologists with bachelor's degrees often find positions as technicians. For most other jobs, you need an advanced college degree. Government, industries, and museums usually hire ecologists with doctoral degrees.

In high school, take as much science as you can. Be sure to take biology, chemistry, and physics. Take mathematics every year, and learn to work with computers. Gain practical experience as a volunteer in a nature center, a university research laboratory, or a conservation agency.

-- Janet Lanza, State University of New York, College at Fredonia

Entomologist: An entomologist is a broadly trained and educated professional in a discipline that touches almost every aspect of our daily lives. Career opportunities are numerous and varied, so if you are interested in science and ready for a challenge, entomology is the career for you.

As an entomologist, you can use your natural curiosity and enthusiasm to help solve some of the world's toughest problems. Entomologists are needed worldwide for helping farmers and ranchers produce crops and livestock more efficiently by fighting to save endangered species, fragile ecosystems and our environment; using sound pest management strategies; and preventing the spread of serious diseases in plants and animals.

You can find entomologists in professions such as medicine, law, pharmacology, veterinary medicine, teaching, and research; in many aspects of agribusiness; in private pursuits such as consulting; and working for local, state, federal, or international agencies.

In college, a major in entomology is the best preparation for you; however, a well-rounded biological sciences program would be excellent preparation for graduate work. As an undergraduate you will take courses in biology, agriculture, chemistry, biochemistry, mathematics, and statistics, as well as computer science, English, history, and the humanities. As a graduate student you will get experience in taxonomy, physiology, morphology, behavior, and pest management.

In high school take a college preparatory curriculum and include as many science-based courses as possible.

-- Daniel P. Bartell, California State University, Fresno

Environmental Scientist: Many environmental scientists protect the environment through jobs in solid waste management, hazardous waste management, air quality management, or water quality management. Their understanding of biology, chemistry, and physics helps them assess environmental quality and find ways to protect air, water, and land.

Environmental scientists work for departments of natural resources, departments of environmental protection, and federal agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency. Private environmental consulting firms, environmental laboratories, and corporations which discharge waste in the air, in water, or on land also hire environmental scientists to monitor discharges, assess environmental quality, and assure compliance with state and federal laws regulating pollution.

To be an environmental scientist, you need a bachelor's degree. You can major in soil science, water resources, or meteorology. Some universities offer more specific majors, like groundwater management, water chemistry, air resources, and water and wastewater treatment. All majors include courses in chemistry and biology. Other courses you take vary with your major. Examples include: solid and hazardous waste management, development of environmental impact statements, water chemistry and analysis, pollution ecology, hydrogeology, and advanced techniques in environmental analysis. Often environmental scientists earn graduate degrees.

In high school, take mathematics, biology, chemistry, physics, and computer science. English courses are also important.

-- Richard Wilke, University of Wisconsin, Stevens Point

Fisheries Scientist: Fisheries scientists come from many different backgrounds, but all are dedicated to effective management, use, and conservation of aquatic plants and animals. As researchers, managers, administrators, or educators, they use their expertise in biology, ecology, statistics, genetics, economics, policy and administration, and law to protect and enhance recreational, commercial, and aquacultural fisheries resources.

Fisheries scientists can hold research or management positions dealing with species or habitat evaluation. They can be federal biologists monitoring commercial harvests of fishes, crabs, shrimps, or oysters, or state biologists studying sportfish populations. Some work as disease specialists at federal fish hatcheries, aquatic resource specialists for environmental consulting firms, or production managers for a private aquaculture facilities.

To be a fisheries scientist, you should earn a bachelor's degree in fisheries science, biology, or zoology. You may need a master's degree in a fisheries program. Your education should include courses in aquatic ecology, vertebrate and invertebrate biology, zoology, chemistry, mathematics, statistics, and microbiology, as well as courses in communications, sociology, economics, and administration.

In high school, take courses that emphasize biology, chemistry, mathematics, computer science, writing, and speaking.

-- William Kelso, Louisiana State University

Florist: A flower shop employee processes incoming flowers, designs floral arrangements, works with customers, and delivers flowers. Those in management positions develop advertising programs, determine what products they will sell, create display themes, and supervise employees. Managers conduct sales interviews to secure wedding, commercial, and special events accounts. Managers also make financial decisions based on their businesses' financial records and goals.

You'll find most employment opportunities in traditional retail florist businesses, which are still the backbone of the flower industry. A typical business is small (sales of $250,000 a year) and hires staff for designing and sales. Larger businesses hire managers to operate branch stores or to act as department managers in single large stores. Many florists start their own small businesses. Supermarkets, wholesale florists, large hotels, and resorts also hire florists.

Most successful florists like business, people, and design. Formal training isn't necessary for entry-level positions. But to compete for owner or manager positions in today's market, you need a college degree. You should take courses in floral design, personnel, selling, finance, management, marketing, and foliage plants. Work experience is not just important, it is necessary for upper-level positions.

To be a florist, take art, math, botany, accounting, and communications courses in high school. You can also gain valuable experience by working for a florist during holidays when sales are brisk.

-- Taylor J. Johnston, Michigan State University

Food Process Engineer: Food process engineers (FPEs) research and develop new and existing products and processes. They also design processing, handling, and packaging equipment. When they are hired as project engineers, they supervise the design, construction, installation, and start-up of processes. As plant engineers they keep factories running smoothly. Some FPEs manage or supervise other workers, work in technical sales and service, act as specialized consultants, and market products.

Food process engineers work in food, chemical, biochemical, and pharmaceutical industries. Some work in government or educational institutions. FPEs work with processors, equipment suppliers, design and consulting firms, and ingredient suppliers.

Typically, engineers are curious about how things work. They enjoy solving problems. To be successful as a food process engineer, you must like math and science, especially chemistry and biology. The four-year FPE program includes calculus, chemistry, biology, physics, engineering science and design classes, and a sprinkling of liberal arts electives. You can earn a dual degree in biochemistry and food process engineering in five years.

In high school, take as many math and science classes as possible. Take a computer class, if one is available.

-- Martin Okos, Purdue University

Food Scientist: Food scientists preserve our food supply by assuring its flavor, color, texture, nutritional quality and safety. They use their knowledge of chemistry, biochemistry, microbiology, and engineering to convert grain, livestock, fruit, and vegetables into new food products. Food scientists work as production supervisors, quality assurance specialists, product developers, and managers of processing plants.

Food scientists work for food processing companies, food equipment and ingredient suppliers, an government agencies. They conduct food research and act as trouble-shooters in solving problems. They are sales and marketing representatives and consumer educators. Food scientists in local, state, and national government hold jobs as food inspectors, researchers, and laboratory workers. Others develop government regulations to safeguard our food.

To be a food scientist you should earn a bachelor's degree in food science. You will take courses such as biology, business, chemistry, engineering, management, mathematics, microbiology, physics, and statistics, as well as classes in food science. With more education (graduate level) or experience you could go on to work in food chemistry, food microbiology, or food processing and engineering.

In high school, take mathematics, biology, chemistry, physics, and computer science. Communications courses are also important.

-- S. Suzanne Nielsen, Purdue University

Forester: Foresters may spend one day in the laboratory and the next in the field. Some days they speak with executives in board rooms and other days they talk with tree farmers. Therefore, foresters must be highly trained technically, but they must also be good communicators. They must see themselves as stewards of forest resources and must be able to convince others that forests are vital to the welfare of humanity.

Our forests are owned and managed by a wide range of individuals, private organizations, and public agencies. Foresters may manage timberlands for private industry or may scout out and buy timber from other landowners for their companies. Some foresters are private consultants who advise landowners on the multiple-use management of their timberlands. Many work in management, administration, or research for public agencies such as the U.S. Forest Service.

Foresters have long-range views on environmental issues. They should be able to visualize a forest's development over many years. They must understand natural history and forest ecology. Basic college courses you should take to become a forester include: biology, chemistry, physics, mathematics, engineering, economics, communications, and computer science. You will also take professional courses in forest biology, forest resource measurement, forest management, and forest policy, and administration. There are over 40 accredited forestry programs in the United States.

In high school, take four years each of mathematics and English. Also take courses in biology, chemistry, and physics.

-- Fred B. Knight, University of Maine

Geneticist: Geneticists improve the efficiency of production and quality of food and fiber products. Forest geneticists improve tree production. Animal geneticists improve the quality and quantity of milk, meat, and fiber (wool) production. Plant breeders develop improved varieties of grains, fruits, vegetables, grapes, nuts, and other plants. Fish geneticists increase food production from fish. Geneticists who are also molecular biologists (biotechnologists) work directly with genes to develop superior see and animal germplasm.

Private corporations hire geneticists to develop such things as new seeds and new varieties of fruit trees, vegetables, grains, and trees. They also employ geneticists to improve breeds and strains of livestock, poultry, and fish. State universities, as well as state and federal agencies, hire geneticists in research, teaching, extension, and regulatory positions.

To be a geneticist, earn a bachelor's degree in animal science, biochemistry, agronomy, plant science, horticulture, poultry science, dairy science, forestry, or fisheries and wildlife. Genetics draws heavily from mathematics, biology, statistics, biochemistry, microbiology, and chemistry, so those courses are important. Graduate degrees can lead you to more sophisticated research and development positions.

In high school take as many courses in math, science, and English as possible. Also, take courses in computer science and communications.

-- John White, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

Horticulturist: The Latin words hortus (garden plant) and culture (culture) together form horticulture, classically defined as the culture of garden plants. But today horticulture is more than garden plant culture. Horticulturists work in crop production, plant propagation, plant breeding and genetic engineering, plant physiology, plant biochemistry, storage, processing, and transit (of fruits, berries, nuts, vegetables, flowers, trees, shrubs and turf). They improve crop yield, quality, nutritional value, and resistance to insects, diseases, and environmental stresses. They make plants more adaptable to different climates and soils and better fit for food uses or processes. And they grow and improve plants used for medicines or spices.

Horticulturists can work in industry, government, or educational institutions. They can be cropping systems engineers, wholesale or retail business managers, propagators and tissue culture specialists (fruit, vegetables, ornamentals, and turf), crop inspectors, crop production advisors, extension specialists, plant breeders, research scientists, and educators. You will find horticulturists in offices, laboratories, greenhouses, and out in production or research fields.

In college take courses in biology, chemistry, mathematics, genetics, physiology, statistics, computer science, and communications to complement plant science and horticulture course work. Plant science and horticulture courses include: plant materials, plant propagation, tissue culture, crop production, post-harvest handling, plant breeding, crop nutrition, entomology, plant pathology, economics, and business. For many careers you must have a master's or doctoral degree.

In high school take basic courses in rhetoric and speech communications, mathematics, chemistry, biology, and computer sciences.

-- William L. George, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Hydrologist: Hydrologists help protect our water supplies and water quality. Hydrologists concerned with water supplies manage surface and ground water to avoid problems caused by floods, droughts, and population growth. Hydrologists working on water quality problems deal with the chemical, physical, biological, and radiological properties of water we use for drinking, irrigation, industrial cooling, or swimming.

Hydrologists work for both public and private institutions. The federal agencies which manage our natural resources all hire hydrologists. These agencies include the Geological Survey, National Weather Service, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Bureau of Reclamation, Soil Conservation Service, and Forest Service. State agencies and watershed associations dealing with natural resources also employ hydrologists. Many hydrologists work for private consulting firms.

To be a hydrologist, you should appreciate natural resources and enjoy working with people. Your college course work should include: natural resource economics, policy, and law; math through calculus; engineering hydrology; fluid mechanics; meteorology; soils; geology; forest and range management; physical and organic chemistry; microbiology; statistics; computer science; speech; and technical writing.

In high school take mathematics (algebra, trigonometry, and calculus), physics, biology, and chemistry. It helps to get experience with leadership skills, natural resources, and public speaking through organizations like 4-H, FFA, or scouting.

-- David DeWalle, The Pennsylvania State University

Logging Engineer: Logging engineers help design timber transportation and harvesting systems, supervise timber harvests, and ensure protection of soil, water, and other natural resources during logging. Logging engineers work with people, highly technical machines and computers, and natural resources. They are problem solvers.

Logging engineers can work for private logging and forestry companies or government forestry agencies. Equipment manufacturers employ some. Companies that hire logging engineers include both small firms operated by families or partners and large regional, national, or multinational corporations. Some logging engineers work as private consultants.

To be a logging engineer, you should be a problem solver who is interested in natural resources. Take college courses in biology, forest management, soils, watershed management, machine design, engineering, and planning. Also, learn to use computers to solve forestry problems.

In high school, take mathematics, biology, chemistry, physics, and computer science courses. Communication skills are very important. Experience working outdoors and with machines is helpful.

-- Perry Brown, Oregon State University

Marine Scientist: Marine scientists address problems and issues facing marine life. They systematically gather data in the field or laboratory with special sampling gear and monitoring equipment. They interpret and evaluate the data they collect, then write scientific reports for clients or supervisors. They may also help make decisions or solve problems. Sometimes they deal with problems of great economic or political importance.

A marine scientist may work as in independent consultant, for a consulting firm or a university system, or for a federal or state resource management agency. A few marine scientists conduct environmental studies for the petrochemical industry. Opportunities with tax-supported federal and state management agencies are limited; many agencies are cutting their marine science staffs. The marine science aspects of bioengineering, aquaculture, and environmental science may lead to new job opportunities in the future.

To be a marine scientist you must be competent in biology, chemistry, and the physical sciences. You must have a good foundation in mathematics, computer skills, communication, and writing. You should have a keen interest in conservation and coastal and marine resources. For a high-paying job, you need a master's or doctoral degree.

In high school, take biology, chemistry, advanced mathematics, and physics. Take marine biology, if it is offered. Typing or microcomputer courses are essential. Get involved in extracurricular marine debris or shoreline erosion projects, if you can.

-- Mel Russell, Texas A&M University

Molecular Biologist: Molecular biologists study the molecular basis of the phenomena of living things. They ask how genetic information can be encoded in molecules called DNA, and how this information can be converted into all of the other kinds of molecules that make up living things. Molecular biologists often ask how the genetic information in DNA can be changed and how changes can cause disease.

Molecular biologists can be researchers, technicians, or teachers. Universities, companies, and government agencies hire them. They can develop new methods to diagnose and treat disease, new agricultural crops, or new ways to detect and remove pollutants from the environment. They can also serve as scientific advisors to business people, lawyers, or government officials.

To be a molecular biologist, you need a bachelor's degree in a life science discipline like biochemistry, genetics, or microbiology, with an emphasis on molecular biology. You should take courses in chemistry, physics, mathematics, and computer science. It is also important to get research or analytical experience.

In high school, take college preparatory courses in biology, chemistry, physics, and mathematics. Participate in science clubs and fairs. Work in a laboratory during the summer.

-- Linda Hanley-Bowdoin, North Carolina State University

Naturalist: Naturalists are scientists and skilled communicators. They study the natural environment and enjoy sharing what they learn with other people. Naturalists are equally at case narrating multi-projector slide programs for audiences of 500 and working one-to-one with school children to identify flowers. Naturalists help people learn to live more productively on earth without destroying the environment.

Naturalists teach, but rarely in formal classrooms. They work as interpretive naturalists for the National Park Service and as tour guides at zoos. Some teach school groups in outdoor classrooms, while others develop television and video programs, write magazine and news articles, and produce mass media programs on topics such as biological diversity and endangered species.

To be a naturalist you should earn a college degree in natural resources, environmental science, or a similar program that emphasizes the scientific aspects, of relationships between humans and their environment. You must understand ecological sciences, communication theory, education principles, and resource management. Your education must include a balance between ecological and social sciences.

In high school, take math, computer science, English, literature, social science, and foreign language. Volunteer experience at parks, zoos, museums, or school camps also will help prepare you.

-- Gary Mullins, The Ohio State University

Nutritionist/Dietician: Nutritionists/Dieticians help people look and feel good by making the connection between food, nutrition, and health. They can be teachers, researchers, healthcare workers, or managers. Some work with doctors, nurses, or therapists to speed patients' recoveries. Some counsel families, the elderly, pregnant women, children, and disabled, or underprivileged people. Others direct experiments to find alternative foods or diet recommendations. A nutritionist/dietician might offer advice on weight loss, cholesterol reduction, or other diet-related concerns.

Nutritionists/dieticians can work in healthcare institutions, schools, cafeterias, restaurants, daycare centers, health and recreation clubs, government agencies, and food and pharmaceutical companies. Some teach in colleges, universities, or community or technical schools.

To be a nutritionist/dietician you must enjoy working with people and have a strong interest in food and nutrition. You should be able to work independently to identify and solve problems. In college, take courses such as biology, anatomy, and chemistry. Math, English, sociology, psychology, and business courses are also important. If you want to become a registered dietician, you must complete an undergraduate American Dietetic Association approved/accredited academic program and supervised practical experience, then pass the Registration Examination for Dieticians.

In high school, follow a college preparatory program. Take as many science and mathematics courses as possible. Also take English and communications courses.

-- Pam Michael, American Dietetic Association

Plant Pathologist: Plant pathologists deal with the symptoms, causes, damage, spread, and control of plant diseases. They can specialize in mycology, bacteriology, virology, physiology, genetics, molecular and cellular biology, epidemiology, biotechnology, or biochemistry. They study disease processes and look for biological, chemical, or cultural controls for diseases of the plants we use for food and fiber.

Plant pathologists are university research scientists, teachers, and research technicians. Some work as extension plant pathologists with the Cooperative Extension Service. Government agencies such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Forest Service hire plant pathologists as research scientists and technicians. Plant pathologists are also hired by companies that develop chemical and biological control products, companies that introduce new varieties of pest-resistant plants, and companies that provide disease control services.

To be a plant pathologist, you need a bachelor's degree in a biological science (preferably plant, oriented) and a master's degree in plant pathology. To be a research scientist, you need a doctoral degree in plant pathology or a related discipline.

In high school, take courses in biology, chemistry, physics, math, and computer sciences.

-- Robert O. Blanchard, University of New Hampshire

Plant Physiologist: Plant physiologists study the physical, chemical, and biological functions of living plants. They study whole plants, as well as plant cells, molecules, and genes. Thus, plant physiologists study plant flowering, seed development, production, and growth; photosynthesis; carbohydrate and protein production; water transport; enzyme functions and metabolism; growth regulators and hormones; reactions to light, gravity, temperature, water, minerals, and the environment; cell structure and membranes; root-shoot interactions; and interactions with other organisms.

Probably because plant physiology is a basic science, most plant physiologists work in academic institutions (65 percent of the members of The American Society of Plant Physiologists) where they both teach and conduct research. Some (about 20 percent) are employed by federal and state agencies. A few (about 10 percent) work full time for, or as consultants to, industrial and other organizations that have agricultural or related biological interests.

To be a plant physiologist you need to understand botany, chemistry, biology, and mathematics. You must know how to write and communicate well. Because plant physiologists support scientists in other disciplines, they need to know about enzymology, meteorology, horticulture, economics, philosophy and the human condition, politics, history, and how to teach. Plant physiologists must be willing to relocate and must continue their education.

In high school, take mathematics, chemistry, biology, and botany. Develop strong writing and communication skills. Be persistent, inquisitive, and eager to learn, discuss, and accept new ideas. Try working part time in a laboratory.

-- Melvin J. Josephs, American Society of Plant Physiologists

Range Manager: Range managers care for our country's vast rangelands. From those lands, they produce a sustained yield of such things as plants for forage, red meat, wildlife for aesthetics and hunting, and clean water.

Range managers work for federal and state agencies, colleges and universities, private industry, and on foreign assignments. Those working for federal or state agencies may plan and direct public and private land use. Others are researchers, teachers, and extension agents with colleges and universities. Private industries hire range managers as ranch managers, agricultural product sales and service representatives, land reclamation specialists, and environmental consultants.

To be a range manager you need a bachelor's degree in range science, management, or ecology. Take courses in range science, agronomy, animal sciences, biology, botany, chemistry, ecology, economics, forestry, hydrology, recreation, soils, statistics, and wildlife. You need a graduate degree if you plan to do research or teach, and if you want to, advance in some fields.

In high school, take courses in biology, chemistry, speech, English, math, and zoology. Experience in agriculture (4-H and FFA) is desirable.

-- Donald R. Kirby, North Dakota State University

Remote Sensing Specialist: Remote sensing specialists interpret and analyze many types of aerial photographs and satellite images. They may use color infrared photos to map forest types or areas of irrigated cropland, or to determine areas of insect or disease infestation in forests or croplands. They use thermal infrared scanners to locate and monitor forest fires and to define areas of thermal pollution in rivers and lakes. They use computers to analyze satellite scanner data and create maps of land cover and changes in land use (like deforestation) .

Many state agencies and federal agencies such as the U.S. Forest Service, Geological Survey, Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Bureau of Land Management, Corps of Engineers, and Defense Mapping Agency hire remote sensing specialists. Many commercial companies also hire remote sensing specialists to analyze data and to produce maps and other products for themselves or for government agencies with whom they have contracted.

Remote sensing specialists are usually people who enjoy working with maps and computers. Most have earned college degrees in disciplines such as geography, forestry, civil engineering, geology, wildlife management, or agronomy, and then have specialized in remote sensing. Today most remote sensing specialists also have taken course work in Geographic Information Systems (G.I.S.).

In high school take courses in math, statistics, computer science, physics, chemistry, and perhaps mechanical drawing and art, as well as any courses involving communication skills such as English, speech, journalism, and debate.

-- Roger M. Hoffer, Colorado State University

Science Writer: Science writers must fit their writing styles to suit a variety of materials and audiences. They write news stories, manuals, and press releases for non-profit and for-profit corporations. Their main job is to describe science without using scientific terms.

Science writers can work for newspapers writing science and technology stories, environmental stories, or business stories about science-based corporations. Some write for magazines that cover medicine, the environment, natural science, academics, or business. Some are hired by medical software companies, universities, and other research institutions. Manufacturers hire science writers to produce copy for public relations, direct mail, and newsletters.

To be a science writer you should be curious about the biological and physical world and able to communicate with enthusiasm. In college, you need a combination of strong English and writing courses and a science background. An undergraduate major such as biological science, environmental science, agricultural science, or microbiology combined with a minor in English or communications is good preparation.

In high school you might write or edit your school newspaper and participate in science fairs or out-of-school science and technology programs. Volunteer work with environmental organizations, jobs at scientific research or manufacturing companies, and extracurricular activities such as science clubs and 4-H also help.

-- William H. Kelly, University of Vermont

Soil Scientist: Soil scientists map and classify soils. They conduct research on soil degradation or decomposition, or on movement of substances like nutrients and pesticides through the soil profile. Sometimes they identify problems such as wetness and erosion that limit soil use. Often they write soil descriptions and prepare information about soils.

Universities, private industries, USDA agencies, chemical companies, petroleum companies, and consulting firms all hire soil scientists.

To be a soil scientist you need a college degree in soil science or a related biological, physical, or earth science. People who become soil scientists usually like studying the sciences, especially physics, chemistry, geology, environmental science, and biology.

In high school take college preparatory courses in physics, biology, mathematics, and chemistry. Communications courses are also helpful. Take courses in earth science, environmental science, or geology if they are offered. Try to get practical experience in these areas.

-- McArthur Floyd, Alabama A&M University

Toxicologist: Toxicologists study the effects of potentially harmful chemicals on people, animals, and the environment. They use their knowledge of biology, chemistry, and the environment to devise strategies to reduce or control exposure to these chemicals.

Colleges and universities, government agencies, and industries employ toxicologists. Toxicologists who work for colleges or universities conduct research and teach. Those employed by the government or industry make sure that chemicals we use are safe and effective. Veterinarians trained in toxicology work in animal health diagnostic laboratories, while physicians and pharmacists with toxicology training work in human hospitals or poison control centers.

To be a toxicologist you need at least two years of study beyond a bachelor of science or medical degree (DVM or M.D.). Most toxicologists have doctoral degrees. Some earn undergraduate degrees in biology, chemistry, or environmental science. Others graduate with degrees in veterinary medicine, human medicine, or pharmacy. Graduate training in toxicology includes course work in pharmacology, biochemistry, analytical chemistry, and environmental science, as well as toxicology.

In high school, you should take as much biology, chemistry, mathematics, and environmental science as possible. Also, you should develop strong writing, communication, and computer skills.

-- Robert H. Poppenga, Michigan State University

Turf Scientist: Turf scientists must be both scientists and people persons. In their first jobs they often work outside caring for lawns, golf courses, park sites, athletic fields, or grounds around corporation headquarters. They may operate computer-controlled irrigation equipment or mowing machines. Turf scientists often advance to become foremen, coordinators, managers, or assistant or branch managers in corporations; they may then spend more time indoors managing a business and working with people.

Turf scientists can be golf course superintendents, turf managers for football or baseball stadiums, park site managers, grounds managers for corporate headquarters, sod producers, lawn care professionals, sales representatives for companies that produce lawn care products, or teachers in two- or four-year educational institutions.

To be a turf scientist you need a college education. Take courses such as turf management, soil fertility, weed science, plant pathology, entomology, and horticulture. You should also take courses in management, business and technical writing, and communications to improve your business and people skills.

In high school, take as much biology, chemistry, English, mathematics, and physics as possible. Courses in communications and computer science also help.

-- Carol Robertson, Golf Course Superintendents Association

Veterinarian: Most veterinarians work in private practices where they diagnose, treat, and help prevent disease and disabilities in animals. The DVM (doctor of veterinary medicine) degree, however, opens up many career choices. Veterinarians can be practitioners, researchers, public servants, administrators, and teachers. They may work with one or more species of animals, or with additional training, in a clinical specialty such as cardiology, surgery, or neurology. Veterinarians safeguard human health by controlling diseases that can spread from animals to humans.

Veterinarians can start their own businesses or work with others in group practices. Some work for nutrition and pharmaceutical companies. Others do research or enforce regulations for state and federal government agencies. Some join the military, while others work as researchers, teachers, and clinicians in academic institutions. Some veterinarians get involved in international work. Others work at racetracks, zoos, and breeding farms.

To become a veterinarian, you need at least seven years of education beyond high school. You must complete at least three years in an accredited college or university undergraduate program before starting your four-year professional curriculum.

In high school, take college preparatory courses. These include four years of mathematics, science (with special emphasis on chemistry and physics), English, and social sciences. Work with as many different types of animals as you can on farms, in veterinary practices, in zoos, with the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and elsewhere to help you decide if veterinary medicine is for you.

-- Eugenia Kelman, Cornell University

Viticulturist: Viticulturists may find themselves working in vineyard pruning, trellising, canopy management, and irrigation; grapevine fertilization and mineral nutrition; grape varietal breeding, propagation, and selection; pest management and disease control through rootstock selection, pesticide use, and other vineyard management practices; or agricultural economics, marketing, and quality control. Because people are becoming more and more concerned about the environment and health, viticulturists today often find themselves working with government regulations ind in international marketing.

Viticulturists work for wineries, wine grape growers, growers and processors of raisin and table grapes, and juice processors. Opportunities are expanding for both hands-on viticulturists and for those in research and development as the industry makes advances in new vineyard management methods, more efficient harvesting techniques, environmental protection, water conservation, economic demands for high yield and quality, and regulatory compliance.

Viticulture appeals to many types of people -- from the outdoors person to the laboratory scientist, from the economist to the wine lover, from the ecologist to the engineer. Many educational disciplines and interests combine well with a basic agricultural and plant science education, and such combinations offer opportunities in specialized areas of viticulture.

In high school take courses in the sciences, basic agriculture, and communications. Develop your own special interests as you go through school.

-- JoAnne M. Rantz, American Journal of Enology and Viticulture

Weed Scientist: Weed scientists conduct research and develop products in public and private laboratories, greenhouses, and field locations. Some regulate weeds, or biological or chemical weed control agents. In production agriculture, weed scientists act as crop consultants or managers. Others sell or market weed control products. Weed scientists can be classroom teachers, or they can offer adult education or professional training programs.

Weed scientists teach, perform research, and work in extension at universities. Some deal with weed laws and others with regulation of biological and chemical control agents. Weed scientists work for agricultural chemical firms in research, development, sales, marketing, and regulation. Some work in research, development or regulation for private research firms. Others diagnose problems in the field or established weed management systems for private crop management or consulting companies.

To work as a weed scientist in a greenhouse or in the field, you should be interested in weed science (including taxonomy and ecology), soil science, and agriculture. You will need a bachelor's degree in a field such as agronomy, horticulture, range science, or soil science. For a laboratory research career you will need an interest and degree in chemistry, biochemistry, or plant physiology. You may need a graduate degree. To work in business, you should have an interest in sales, marketing, or economics, and a bachelor's degree in business with emphasis on agribusiness or agricultural economics. You may need an M.B.A.

In high school, take chemistry, biology, math (algebra, trigonometry), speech, environmental studies (ecology), computer use, English grammar, technical writing, and typing. Summer experience in weed science will give you valuable background and insight into setting personal goals.

-- Research Committee, Weed Science Society of America

Wildlife Biologist: Wildlife biologists do research that helps us better manage our resources. They may specialize in fields such as physiology, genetics, ecology, behavior, disease, nutrition, population dynamics, land-use, and pollution. They are curious, patient, and persistent. They collect, analyze, and interpret facts objectively and skillfully, and they can report them clearly to other people.

Most wildlife positions are civil service jobs with state, provincial, or federal agencies. Some city, town, and county agencies hire wildlife management specialists. Universities and colleges offering wildlife curriculums hire wildlife professionals with advanced degrees to teach and do research. After the enactment of the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, engineering and other consulting firms began employing more wildlife specialists. Private employment with large firms dealing in timber, ranching, mining, energy production, paper production, and chemical production is also increasing. Each year opportunities increase in community nature or conservation centers, zoos, and a growing number of private and public conservation-related organizations around the world.

To be a wildlife biologist, you need a college education. Since most wildlife resources and conservation problems relate to people, you need courses in English, psychology, history, geography, statistics and economics, as well as in physical and biological sciences. Communication skills, especially speaking skills, must be part of your training.

In high school take as much math, physics, English, chemistry, and biology as possible. If you can, get experience working with committees, conducting meetings, and writing for high school publications.

-- Harry Hodgeon, The Wildlife Society

Wood Scientist: Wood scientists and technologists expertly convert wood to wood products -- a process that takes very little energy. And wood is a renewable resource. Wood scientists can work in manufacturing, marketing, technical service, or research.

Wood scientists and technologists in manufacturing can work in product or process development, quality control, production control, engineering, or management. Those in marketing can work in sales, management of accounts, retail management, market research analysis, or product-market management. Wood scientists and technologists in technical service positions make operations more efficient for the chemical companies, machinery manufacturers, wood products manufacturers, government agencies and laboratories, state and federal extension services, or industrial associations who hire them. Wood scientists and technologists can be researchers for large wood products manufacturers, universities, state agencies, associations, or federal agencies or laboratories.

To be a wood scientist, you need a bachelor's degree in wood science and technology (sometimes called forest products or wood utilization). In college, take courses in chemistry, physics, mathematics, economics, wood anatomy, wood structure, production management, product manufacture, wood design, statistics, marketing, and business administration. Graduate-level education is valuable to all wood scientists and technologists. It is normally required for research positions.

In high school, take mathematics, chemistry, physics, biology, and computer sciences. To develop your communication skills, take courses in both speaking and English composition.

-- Tom Maloney, Washington State University

Back to Top

Return to Careers in Agriculture