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Agricultural scientist

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Summary of occupation

Agricultural scientists study farm animals, crops and factors affecting farm production, to improve the efficiency and sustainability of farms and related agricultural enterprises. They collect and analyse samples of produce, feed, soil, water and other elements that may be affecting agricultural production. They also study the effects of different farming techniques, associated pests and diseases and environmental conditions that may be affecting production. This data can be used to develop more efficient techniques for solving agricultural problems, such as drought or pest infestation. Agricultural scientists try to maintain a balance between the economic requirements of farmers and environmental conservation and management concerns.

ANZSCO description: Studies commercial plants, animals and cultivation techniques to enhance the productivity of farms and agricultural industries.
Alternative names: Farming Scientist, Horticulture Scientist
Specialisations: Agricultural Biotechnologist, Agricultural Entomologist, Agricultural Microbiologist, Agronomist, Animal Scientist, Soil Scientist
Job prospects: Average
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Knowledge, skills and attributes

An agricultural scientist needs:

  • good communication skills
  • the ability to analyse and solve problems
  • the ability to make accurate and detailed observations
  • patience
  • an interest in agriculture and the environment
  • an understanding of business principles
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Working conditions

Agricultural scientists generally divide their time between carrying out field work at farms and nurseries and working in offices, laboratories and/or glasshouses. When conducting field work they usually work outside in a wide range of weather conditions, depending on the time of year and location of the farm. Most agricultural scientists in Western Australia are based in the Perth metropolitan region, though they may work all around the state, particularly in the Great Southern and Wheatbelt regions. Their hours of work can vary considerably, depending on the type of work being carried out. Most office and laboratory work is performed during regular business hours, while field work often involves early mornings and may also require weekend work.

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Salary details

On average, agricultural and forestry scientists can expect to earn between $1 500 and $1 999 per week ($78 000 and $103 999 per year), depending on the organisation they work for, and their level of experience. As an agricultural scientist develops their skills, their earning potential will generally increase.

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Tools and technologies

Agricultural scientists use a range of specialised scientific equipment, both to collect and preserve samples in the field, and analyse them in the laboratory. This may include simple equipment such as test tubes, sample jars and microscopes, as well as more advanced machinery used to prepare and analyse samples. Agricultural scientists may come into regular contact with various chemicals, which can be potentially harmful if appropriate safety precautions are not followed. This includes wearing protective clothing such as gloves, safety glasses and lab coats. Some agricultural scientists may also operate farm equipment, such as tractors, when conducting field work.

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Education and training/entrance requirements

To become an agricultural scientist you usually need to complete a degree in agribusiness or a science degree with a major in agricultural science or a related field.

Some universities in Western Australia offer degrees in these fields. Contact the universities you are interested in for more information.

Related courses

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Apprenticeships and traineeships

As an apprentice or trainee, you enter into a formal training contract with an employer. You spend most of your time working and learning practical skills on the job and you spend some time undertaking structured training with a registered training provider of your choice. They will assess your skills and when you are competent in all areas, you will be awarded a nationally recognised qualification.

If you are still at school you can access an apprenticeship through your school. You generally start your school based apprenticeship by attending school three days a week, spending one day at a registered training organisation and one day at work. Talk to your school's VET Co-ordinator to start your training now through VET in Schools. If you get a full-time apprenticeship you can apply to leave school before reaching the school leaving age.

If you are no longer at school you can apply for an apprenticeship or traineeship and get paid while you learn and work.

Related apprenticeships

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Recognition of prior learning

If you think you already have some of the skills or competencies, obtained either through non-formal or informal learning, you may be able to gain credit through recognition of prior learning.

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