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Agricultural Scientist

by Staff Reporter
If you have a scientific mind and enjoy conducting research then a career as an Agricultural Scientist could be for you.

Career Overview

Agricultural Scientists develop cost effective ways of producing agricultural products by using the scientific method to experiment with, and research animal reproduction and nutrition, plant yields and the general management of the farm. 

Agricultural Scientists can specialise in various fields. Some of them include:

  • Animal scientists conduct research on domestic farm animals and usually focus on food production, as well as animal genetics, nutrition, reproduction, diseases, growth, and development.
  • Food scientists and technologists study the basic elements of food. They analyse the nutritional content of food, discover new food sources, and research ways to make processed foods safe and healthy.
  • Plant scientists work to improve crop yields and advise food and crop developers about techniques that could enhance production.
  • Soil scientists work with soil to figure out how its composition affects plant or crop growth. They also develop methods of increasing crop production, and might look into ways of conserving and managing soil that farmers and forestry companies can use.

Required School Subjects

You will need to have taken the following subjects at high school:

  • Pure Mathematics
  • Physical Science 

Recommended subjects:

  • Life Sciences
  • Consumer Studies

Institution and APS

The following institutions are highly recommended for tertiary studies:

  • Stellenbosch University – No specific APS required however you will need to meet other minimum requirements
  • University of Free State – APS of 30
  • UNISA – No specific APS required 

Required Qualification/s

A bachelor’s degree in Agricultural Science. With a degree in agricultural science, you may focus on areas like animal and nutritional sciences.  Here are some of the programmes you could complete at one of the abovementioned instiutions:

University of the Free State

  • Bachelor in Agriculture (BAgric)

Stellenbosch University

  • BSc (Food Science).
  • BScAgric Agricultural Economic Analysis and Management with Food Science.
  • BScAgric Agricultural Economics with Food Science
  • BScAgric (Animal Science)

UNISA

  • Bachelor of Science in Agricultural Science (Agricultural Business and Management)
  • Bachelor of Science in Agricultural Science (Animal Science)
  • Bachelor of Science in Agricultural Science (Plant Science)

Required Skills

Agricultural Scientists need to be accurate and methodical so that they can be trusted to be responsible when making big decisions – as well as when doing research. Since they often work in a team, it is important that they are able to establish good relationships and work well with others.

They also usually enjoy working with biological material (like food products) – which is great because they do that often!

Where you can work

Agricultural Scientists primarily work in basic research and applied research, but can also work in the private sector.

In basic and applied research, they:

    • Work to understand the processes behind the growth of crops and animals,
    • Convert that knowledge into practical methods for improving food quality, and
    • Communicate the advantages of their findings through reports and presentations.

In private industry they commonly work for:

  • Food production companies
  • Farms
  • Processing plants
  • Pharmaceutical companies (developing medical products)

Working Hours

They normally work for 40 hours a week, but if they work in a production sector they may work in shifts (day and evening).  If they are in the experimentation phase, they may also work irregular hours depending on what the experiments needs.

Expected Salary

Salaries of an Agricultural Scientist vary depending on the level of education and experience.

Agricultural Scientist with:

  • 1-4 years of experience earns an average total compensation (includes tips, bonuses, and overtime pay) of R180 000 – R285 000 per annum
  • 5-9 years of experience earns an average total compensation of R380 503 per annum
  • Over 10 years of experience earns an average total compensation of R505 862 +per annum

What to expect

There are many things that you’ll like about this career, some of them include:

  • Research and investigation into interesting fields
  • Working to produce foods that satisfy customers to the highest degree
  • The accomplishment that comes from researching and innovating food processing technologies

There can be a lot of travelling around to make inspect factories and make sure that good standards are being followed.  Not all experiments have satisfying results – and that can be difficult when an exciting innovation falls through.

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