Agricultural and Forestry Scientist
Note: Completion of a TAFE SA course does not guarantee an employment outcome. Formal requirements other than educational qualifications (eg licensing, professional registration), may apply to some occupations.
||Openings 5 years to November 2019: < 5000
||Median weekly earnings: $1301 to $1700 to Source: Australian Government Department of Employment 2014
||If the prospect of working on the land, analysing soil and crop samples and making important scientific breakthroughs appeals to you, consider agricultural science as a career.
There are currently around 700 agricultural and forestry science professionals employed in South Australia. Employment is largely full-time and most work in the property and business services and agriculture, forestry and fishing industries. Most persons in this occupation are male and over half are employed in the Adelaide metropolitan area. This occupation has a slightly younger age profile with just over a third aged 45 years or older.
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Agricultural scientists study plants, animals and cultivation techniques in order to enhance productivity on farms and agricultural firms and to develop better environmental management methods. To be an agricultural scientist, it is important to have an interest in agriculture, good problem solving skills, strong communication skills and the ability to work effectively in a team. It also helps if you are accurate, observant and have good organisational skills. ''You will be expected to initiate research. Initiative is the key word,'' says an industry professional. Discoveries such as the new methanogen vaccine for sheep and tackling the locust invasion in the wheatbelt are just a few examples of how good research can pay huge dividends for our rural communities.
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There are 69% of Agricultural scientists who have Bachelor Degrees or higher qualifications, 9% have Advanced Diplomas or Diplomas and 6% have Certificate III or IV and 14% having no post school qualifications.
It is recommended that you gain the available requirements to get the best possible chance of employment. TAFE SA offers courses relevant to this occupation including the Diploma and Advanced Diploma in Agriculture. Pathways include Certificate II, III and IV in Agriculture.
The University of Adelaide offers a Bachelor of Agriculture and a Bachelor of Science (Agricultural Science).
Agricultural scientists may work in laboratories, offices, in the field or in a combination of these. Some work alone but most work as a member of a team. This can be alongside other scientists and farmers and often with other people involved in providing services to the agricultural industry.
It is possible for agricultural scientists to specialise in the following areas:
Agricultural bio-technologists use techniques such as genetic engineering to improve the quality and diversity of plant and animal products;
Agricultural entomologists investigate and control insect pest outbreaks using biological and chemical means;
Agricultural microbiologists work in specialised areas such as food technology and environmental management;
Agronomists are concerned with obtaining higher crop quality and yield by improving soil management;
Agrocultural advisers (or extension officers) advise farmers on all aspects of stock and crop production and land management;
Plant pathologists study the effects of diseases on crop growth and help develop solutions;
Animal Scientist who conducts experiments in controlled breeding or in embryo manipulation;
Crop Physiologist who studies the mechanisms of normal plant growth and the effects of environmental conditions and chemicals upon them;
Horticultural Scientist who applies scientific knowledge to the cultivation and propagation of plants such as fruit, vegetables, berries, flowers, trees, shrubs and crops;
Soil Scientist who studies the biology, chemistry, physics and hydrology of soil systems, and conducts research and advises on matters relating to conservation and management;
Agricultural scientists may also specialise as winemakers that deal with research and production of vines and the microbiology and chemistry of winemaking.
Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing, Government Administration and Defence, Property and Business Services
Christopher Crouch – Agriculture
“When you are studying at TAFE, you get hands on experience as well as the theory which is very attractive to potential employers.”
Agriculture was one of a few different areas that Chris was interested in pursuing during school and after starting his first TAFE course, the Certificate II in Agriculture, which was a school-based Traineeship, he knew it was the area he wanted to be in. “There are a lot of courses in a huge range of areas where you can become very qualified,” he said. “When you are studying at TAFE, you get hands on experience as well as the theory which is very attractive to potential employers.”
Chris chose to study at TAFE because he wanted to work while studying. “This way I can earn money and work in the Agriculture industry while studying Agriculture,” he said. “Once I have gained the qualifications I will have some experience too. I thought this would benefit my career in the short and long term.”
While Chris didn’t really have any expectations of what it would be like to study at TAFE, he was very impressed from start to finish with the way everything was done. “The experience was very positive because everyone got along and enjoyed what they were doing and each others company,” he said. “We learnt some important skills and increased our knowledge along the way.”
Involvement in undertaking TAFE courses has both directly and indirectly enabled Chris to achieve many things, including a Golden Circle Kid Start Farms sponsorship, the Copper Coast Media award, South Australian Trainee of the Year and runner-up for Australian Trainee of the Year. Chris has also completed work experience in Thailand, as well as spoken on several topics to schools and other groups.
Chris hopes to continue studying Agriculture, while working on his property and for other farmers. “Doing the Certificate II in Agriculture definitely gave me direction from a career point of view because after completing the course I knew that I wanted a career in Agriculture and have kept studying Agriculture while working on my parents' farm.”
Chris describes the TAFE environment as very relaxed yet productive. “You get to learn with sound equipment while getting taught by qualified instructors who have the time and patience to teach you properly,” he said. “The institute staff are always keen to help and make it an adult environment in which to learn. This is attractive to young people.”
Nature of the Job
An agricultural scientist explores ways to improve the quality and value of animal or crop production, develop farming methods to protect animal welfare and the environment and diagnose and treat problems such as nutrient disorders in plants and livestock. Tasks undertaken by an agricultural scientist include:
collecting and analysing samples of soil, plants and ground water;
providing technical information to assist, farmers, graziers and commercial firms to plan and monitor agricultural activities;
design and implement research programs on the breeding, nutrition needs and disease resistance of plants and animals and to develop better environmental management methods;
assist farmers in the planning and monitoring of agricultural activities, and in the diagnosis and treatment of problems;
at senior levels, supervise and coordinate research teams, prepare funding applications and communicate the results of research, train and coordinate the work of technicians and field workers;
prepare policy advice and assist in putting government policy into practice.
Typical Physical Working Environment
Agricultural Scientists need to be able to analyse and solve problems and make accurate observations. It is essential that they have good oral and written communication skills, are well organised and can work independently or as part of a team.
Agricultural scientists may work in laboratories, offices, in the field or in a combination of these. Some work alone but most work as a member of a team. They can also work alongside other scientists and farmers and often with other people involved in providing services to the agricultural industry.
Agricultural scientists also handle agricultural machinery and undertake fieldwork and also carry out work in offices and laboratories using computers and scientific equipment. They need to feel comfortable with handling plants and animals and enjoy working outside in most weather conditions. They may come into contact with chemicals and radioactive materials during their research. The hours of work are usually regular, however sometimes, agricultural scientists may be required to work overtime, on weekends and statutory holidays, taking measurements and doing trial work.
Typical Occupational Example
Employment growth is predicted to be strong over the next seven years, however job prospects can be affected by the current drought condition as well as policies that concern water management and the environment. Graduates often find that competition is keen, particularly since job turnover is low. Areas of employment include State and Commonwealth government departments and the private sector. In addition to research and advisory roles, agricultural scientists may find opportunities in teaching and in various managerial roles.
South Australian Research and Development Institute
Phone: (08) 8303 9400
Australian Institute of Agricultural Science and Technology
Phone: (02) 6163 8122
(04) 3873 2488
Australian Institute of Horticulture Inc.
Phone: (02) 8001 6198
Australian Centre for Plant Functional Genomics - Adelaide
Phone: 8313 7182
Depending on experience and responsibility, agricultural scientists may earn anywhere between $40,000 and $60,000 plus per year.
For further information about all TAFE SA Courses, phone 1800 882 661 or enquire online