California Occupational Guides

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Summary Guide for

   Soil and Plant Scientists in California

May also be called: Agroecologists; Agronomists; Agronomy Research Managers; Crop Nutrition Scientists; Pedologists; Physical Hydrologists; Plant Breeders; Plant Ecologists; Plant Scientists; Research Soil Scientists; Soil Chemists; Soil Fertility Extension Specialists; Soil Microbiologists; Soil Scientists

What Would I Do?

Soil and Plant Scientists* study the growth of crops in soils and the control of pests. They ensure the health and plentiful yield of the nation's food, fiber, and fuel crops while safeguarding and improving the fertility and integrity of the soils in which they grow. They conduct research in breeding, physiology, production, yield, and management of crops and agricultural plants or trees, shrubs, and nursery stock. Soil and Plant Scientists study the chemical, physical, biological, and mineral make-up of soils as they relate to plant or crop growth. They classify and map soils and study effects of agricultural practices, and other human factors, on the environment and soil and crop productivity.

Green Economy: With the spread of sustainable agriculture and green biotechnology, a growing number of Soil and Plant Scientists are researching and developing environmentally friendly practices and technologies.

Soil and Plant Scientists usually work in offices, laboratories, and classrooms. They may spend time outdoors while conducting research at farms and agricultural research stations. They typically work 40 hours per week.

*This product was partially funded by a grant awarded by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment & Training Administration. The information contained in this product was created by a grantee organization and does not necessarily reflect the official position of the U.S. Department of Labor. All references to non-governmental companies or organizations, their services, products, or resources are offered for informational purposes and should not be construed as an endorsement by the Department of Labor. This product is copyrighted by the institution that created it and is intended for individual organizational, non-commercial use only.

Will This Job Fit Me?

The job of Soil and Plant Scientist may appeal to those who enjoy work that involves practical, hands-on problems and solutions and dealing with plants and animals. At the same time, this job may appeal to those who like working with ideas, searching for facts, and figuring out problems mentally.

What Wages and Benefits Can I Expect?

The median wage in 2016 for Soil and Plant Scientists in California is $67,839 annually, or $32.62 hourly. The median is the point at which half of the workers earn more and half earn less.

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Annual Wages for 2016Low
(25th percentile)
(50th percentile)
(75th percentile)
Source: EDD/LMID Occupational Employment Statistics Survey, 2016 Wages do not reflect self-employment.
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Approximately one-third of all Soil and Plant Scientists work for either colleges or federal, State, or local government agencies. Because of this, their benefits are pretty much the same. In most cases, they get paid sick and vacation leave, lower-cost health insurance, and pensions and other retirement benefits.

What is the Job Outlook?

A good growth rate is expected for Soil and Plant Scientists mostly because of the growing efforts to increase the quality and quantity of food. Concerns over the health effects of certain foods have lead to research in the best methods of food production. Another reason is California’s strong commitment to enhanced protection of natural resources and to responding to climate change.

How Do I Qualify?

Soil and Plant Scientists need at least a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degree from an accredited university. A doctorate in philosophy (Ph.D.) usually is needed for college teaching and for advancement to senior research positions.

Finding a Job

Direct application to employers remains one of the most effective job search methods. Newspaper ads also have job leads. State, county, city, and federal personnel administration offices provide announcements of jobs and requirements. Online job opening systems include JobCentral at and CalJOBSSM at

To find your nearest One-Stop Career Center, go to Service Locator. View the helpful job search tips for more resources. (requires Adobe Reader).

Learn More About Soil and Plant Scientists