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Soil Scientist

Soil scientists study soils, including soil types and processes, and the implications of soil use.


Tasks & duties

Soil scientists may do some or all of the following:

  • study the origin of soils and what they are made of
  • develop ways of altering soils to suit different plants
  • investigate soil problems
  • study the movement of nutrients from soil to the atmosphere or water systems
  • study the biological, physical and chemical activity of soil
  • advise on irrigation, drainage and waste disposal
  • study and advise on how to restore damaged land
  • study how to best use land and preserve it for future use
  • study how to make nutrients available to plants
  • study methods for maintaining soil quality
  • study greenhouse gas emissions from soils
  • make recommendations on the types of fertiliser to use



Soil scientists may focus on agriculture, the environment, microbiology, physics, soil chemistry or another area of soil science.


Skills & knowledge

Soil scientists need to have:

  • knowledge of the processes that shape the earth (geology)
  • research skills
  • skill in analysing and interpreting research results and other information
  • practical skills for performing experiments and operating scientific equipment
  • problem-solving skills
  • planning and organisational skills
  • communication skills
  • writing skills, for writing reports and for publications
  • maths and computer skills


Entry requirements

To become a soil scientist you need to have a Bachelor of Science with Honours, a Master of Science or a Doctorate degree in soils or a related discipline, such as earth science. Many soil scientists have a Masters degree or Doctorate in Agricultural Science.


Secondary education

Bursary or NCEA equivalent is needed to enter tertiary training. Useful subjects include chemistry, biology, physics, maths with calculus and/or statistics, and English.


Training on the job

Some skills are gained on the job. Soil scientists must keep up to date with developments in the field through reading and attending seminars, courses and conferences. The Internet and sharing knowledge with other colleagues are also important sources of information.


Useful experience

Any work in the science or agricultural fields may be useful such as previous experience working in a laboratory or knowledge of the management of different soils. Any work with computers or as a soil technician may also be useful experience to become a soil scientist.


Related courses

Agricultural Science
Soil Science


For more information, please refer to Career Services.

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