Agricultural technical advisors or consultants offer an advisory service and specialist support to farmers. They advise and work with farmers to ensure that the farm enterprises, e.g. crop production or rearing livestock, are performing at their best. This may involve identifying and providing solutions to technical problems, such as diseases in crops or livestock, feeding livestock or farm building construction, as well as monitoring the financial impact of changes. They may also assist with business planning and cash flow budgeting.
Tasks may include:
Agricultural advisors/consultants can work closely with farmers, manufacturers of products such as animal feeds and seeds, veterinary surgeons and with agricultural scientists who carry out research. They use computers for report writing and specialist equipment for carrying out tests, when necessary.
Some advisors/consultants also work in research and development, and related work where scientific research results are put into practice on farms. Agricultural advisors and consultants will often be part of a company that sells its services to the agricultural industry, e.g. a farm consultancy firm or a livestock feed manufacturer, so may need sales and marketing skills, as well as technical skills.
Agricultural advisors/consultants rarely work a standard 9am to 5pm day, Monday to Friday. Often they have to work outside of these hours, as they may need to visit farms at times convenient for the farmer, particularly evenings. There may be opportunities for part-time work and job share.
The work is carried out in an office, with visits to farms. If research or analysis is part of the role, sometimes agricultural advisors/consultants will work partly in a laboratory.
Agricultural technical advisors/consultants may have to wear protective clothing on farms, in greenhouses or in laboratories.
A driving licence is normally required for this job.
This work may not be suitable for people with allergies to animals or conditions such as hay fever.
Salaries may start at around £20,000 to £26,500 a year. With experience, salaries can rise to around £33,000 to £44,000 a year.
Salaries in senior posts could be £50,000 or more.
Opportunities in agriculture are spread evenly across the UK, but most land-based businesses employ very few people. There are approximately 150,000 agriculture businesses within the UK employing approximately 660,000 people. At present, technical occupations represent only a small proportion of the industry at just over two per cent. Demand for these technical roles is expected to increase over the coming years.
There are opportunities for technical advisors/consultants throughout the country. The Agricultural Development and Advisory Service (ADAS), a consultancy to land-based industries, employs many agricultural technical advisors/consultants. Independent firms of consultants also employ agricultural advisors/consultants.
Many farm consultancy firms will offer development schemes for graduates or assistant farm consultants. This enables them to be trained and work towards becoming a farm consultant by gaining experience in analysing farm accounts, technical specialisms and sales and marketing.
Vacancies can be found in specialist journals such as Farmers Weekly and Farmers Guardian.
Most agricultural technical advisors/consultants will hold a degree in agriculture or a related science. Relevant degree subjects include animal nutrition, animal science, biological science, crop science, and horticulture and soil science. Courses are offered by many universities and colleges throughout the UK. Check individual course details for exact entry requirements.
Entry to a degree course requires at least two A levels, normally including chemistry and maths, or another science subject. Alternative equivalent qualifications may be accepted. The Diploma in environmental and land-based studies may be useful for this area of work.
A postgraduate degree in a specialist 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, along with a sound knowledge of farm management.
Some people study part time for a postgraduate degree in a particular area, e.g. animal production, soil science, seed and crop technology or poultry science.
It may also be appropriate to undertake professional qualifications, such as a Fertiliser Advisers Certification and Training Scheme (FACTS). This provides a recognised standard of competence for UK advisers on crop nutrition and fertiliser use. This independent, non-statutory, scheme is recognised by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and the Environment Agency as a means of communicating information to ensure members can keep up to date with technical, environmental and regulatory issues affecting nutrient use.
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 technical advisor/consultant should be:
With experience, agricultural technical advisors/consultants can move into more senior positions, become industry leaders in their technical specialism and move into management roles, leading teams of consultants within their firms.
They may also become involved in selling and marketing products linked to their specialism, such as feeds for livestock. This may involve more office-based work and less time travelling to farms and other outlets.
With the appropriate qualifications there may also be opportunities to teach at a 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),
Eastbury House, 30-34 Albert Embankment, London SE1 7TL
Tel: 0845 933 5577
Environment Agency, National Customer Contact Centre,
PO Box 544, Rotherham S60 1BY
Tel: 0870 850 6506
Fertiliser Advisers Certification and Training Scheme (FACTS),
34 St John Street, Ashbourne, Derbyshire DE6 1GH
Tel: 01335 343945
Society for the Environment (SocEnv),
The Old School House, 212 Long Street,
Atherstone, Warwickshire CV9 1AH
Tel: 0845 337 2951
Additional resources for job seekers and those already in a job.