Agricultural research scientist
Agricultural Research Scientists are involved in giving advice on or researching matters related to farming. They develop new and more efficient methods of planting and production of crops, and the feeding, breeding and management of animals. They give information on pest control and the uses of chemicals. They often visit farms in the course of their work. Some scientists are involved in teaching as well as in advisory or research work.
Some Agricultural Research Scientists develop specialism in areas such as seeds, poultry or particular types of crops. Research and development is continually expanding into more complex interdisciplinary studies such as genetic engineering and the molecular biology of crops and livestock.
Typical job responsibilities include:
- Visiting farms to advise on production of crops and farm animals
- Collecting, collating and analysing information which is gathered from farms
- Carrying out tests on soil and preparing and presenting reports
- Meeting clients such as seed companies or pesticide producers
- Being involved in teaching or research work
- Carrying out research to improve current farming techniques in crop production and the breeding and management of livestock
- Specialising in the study of soil, viruses, fungi, pests or genetics
- Conducting tests, analysing the results and writing reports
- Passing on findings to farmers or companies that sell seeds or chemicals
Agricultural Research Scientists are usually based in either an office or a laboratory. There is also the opportunity to work outdoors. Normally, agricultural research scientists work a standard 37 hour week. It may be necessary to work early mornings, late evenings and weekends. Shift work may be needed when conducting experiments in a laboratory.
This career may be unsuitable for those people who suffer with hay fever, dust allergies or animal allergies. There is strong competition for jobs in this career area although there are increasing opportunities in some fields such as genetic engineering.
It is possible to progress to becoming a lecturer in a university, school or college after you have gained experience. Some agricultural research scientists have moved on to working in sales-related work with commercial companies.
Personal Qualities and Skills
Key skills for agricultural research scientists
- An aptitude in science and a high level of knowledge in Biology and Chemistry
- An accurate and methodical approach in field and laboratory work
- A passion for the environment and the countryside
- Strong communication skills as you will liaise with farmers about agricultural issues
- Strong innovative and research skills
- A patient, methodical and well organised approach to project development
- Able to handle complex information
- Able to explain results clearly and concisely both verbally and in writing
- Good technical skills and an ability to use equipment
- Sound IT and numerical skills
- Good teamworking skills
Pay And Opportunities
Typical employers of Agricultural Research Scientists
Examples of typical employers of agricultural research scientists:
- Manufacturers of animal feeds, fertilisers and chemicals
- Research Organisations (e.g. ADAS, The Biotechnology and Biology Sciences Research Council - BBSRC)
- Universities or Colleges
- Local and National Government bodies
- Agrochemical Companies
Qualifications and training required
To become an agricultural research scientist you will require a degree in a relevant subject such as animal, soil or plant science; chemistry or biochemistry; biotechnology or agricultural science. Entry into a degree course requires a minimum of 5 GCSEs grades 9 – 4 (A*- C) and 2 A levels preferably in biology and chemistry. Work experience on a farm would be extremely valuable.
If you plan to work in academic research or as a university lecturer, you will need to gain a postgraduate qualification. With a good honours degree (first or upper second class) you might be able to apply for a postgraduate studentship with a research institute. You may be able to specialise in areas such as animal production, soil science, poultry science or seed and crop technology. This would allow you to study for a higher degree whilst gaining work experience at the institute.
Studying for an HND or Foundation Degree may give you access to a technician level post.
In Scotland agriculture related college courses are available. These tend to require around two Highers. Science and Geography are often preferred subjects. Degree courses tend to require a minimum of four Highers.