Agricultural science covers many scientific specialisms including plant science, animal science, soil science and crop science. Agricultural scientists research new methods of farming and then test them on experimental farms. They usually specialise in one area, such as animals, crops or soil.
There are many different types of jobs including animal health officer, animal welfare officer, agricultural consultant, plant breeder, plant pathologist and farm conservation adviser.
Tasks may include:
Agricultural scientists work closely with farmers and fruit growers, manufacturers of products such as animal feeds and seeds, and with other scientists. They use computers for report writing and specialist equipment for carrying out tests.
Agricultural scientists normally work from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday. However, they may have to work outside of these hours depending on their role. For example, animal health officers, soil specialists and plant breeders may have to work different hours to visit farms at convenient times for the farmer. However, most of their work is carried out in an office or a laboratory. Scientists in laboratories may have to work shifts if carrying out certain experiments.
There may be opportunities for part-time work and job share.
Agricultural scientists may have to wear protective clothing on farms, in greenhouses or in laboratories and a driving licence may be useful.
This work may not be suitable for people with allergies to animals or conditions such as hay fever.
A newly qualified agricultural scientist may earn from £17,000 to £22,000 a year.
The land-based industries cover over 230,000 businesses and employ around one million people. There are also about 40,000 volunteers. Opportunities in agriculture are spread evenly across the UK but most land-based businesses employ very few people. There are opportunities for scientists throughout the country, depending on their specialism.
There is fierce competition for jobs. Jobs are advertised in the national press, specialist journals such as Farmers Weekly and Farmers Guardian and on the internet.
The typical entry route is a degree in agriculture or a related science. Degree subjects include animal nutrition, animal science, biological science, crop science, horticulture and soil science. Courses are offered by many universities and colleges throughout the UK.
Entry to a degree course requires at least two A levels/three H grades, normally including chemistry and maths, or another science subject. Alternative equivalent qualifications may be accepted.
A postgraduate degree in a specialism subject such as animal production, soil science, seed and crop technology or poultry science could be helpful.
Experience of farm work or horticulture is normally required.
Some people study part time for a postgraduate degree in a particular area, eg animal production, soil science, seed and crop technology or poultry science.
Experienced scientists may become chartered scientists (CSci) if they are members of a professional body validated by the Science Council. They normally need an accredited Masters degree or equivalent.
People with a combination of academic awards, vocational qualifications and relevant work experience and learning may also be considered. They also need four years experience, including two at an appropriate level of responsibility and appropriate professional development.
Laboratory technicians carry out routine laboratory tests and perform a variety of technical support functions to help scientists, technologists and others with their work. They can work in research and development, scientific analysis and testing, education and manufacturing.
They are employed in a wide range of scientific fields which affect almost every aspect of our lives.
An agricultural scientist should be:
With experience, agricultural scientists can move into more senior positions. This may involve more office-based work and less time travelling to farms and other outlets. Some people move into laboratory work, while others take on an administrative or finance role.
There are also opportunities to teach at university or college.
Since land-based industries are worldwide, there are opportunities for working abroad, sometimes in parts of the world where farming and growing methods are less well developed than in the UK.
Agricultural Development and Advisory Service (ADAS),
Woodthorne, Wergs Road, Wolverhampton WV6 8TQ
Tel: 0845 766 0085
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra),
Nobel House, 17 Smith Square, London SW1P 3JR
Tel: 020 7238 6000
Lantra, Lantra House, Stoneleigh Park, near Coventry, Warwickshire CV8 2LG
Tel: 024 7669 6996
Lantra Scotland, Inveralmond Business Centre, Auld Bond Road, Perth PH1 3FX
Tel: 01738 646762
Lantra, Welsh Regional Office, Royal Welsh Showground,
Llanelwedd, Builth Wells, Powys LD2 1WY
Tel: 01982 552646
Science Council, 210 Euston Road,
London NW1 2BE
Tel: 020 7611 8754
Scottish Agricultural Science Agency (SASA),
1 Roddinglaw Road, Edinburgh, Scotland, EH12 9FJ
Tel: 0131 244 8890
Society for the Environment (SocEnv),
The Old School House, Long Street, Atherstone, Warwickshire CV9 3SU
Tel: 0845 226 3625
Additional resources for job seekers and those already in a job.