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.

Job Prospects Openings 5 years to November 2019: < 5000
Salary Range Median weekly earnings: $1301 to $1700 to Source: Australian Government Department of Employment 2014
Brief 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.

Education Requirements

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).

Career Path

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.

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
SA Representative:
(04) 3873 2488

Australian Institute of Horticulture Inc.
Phone: (02) 8001 6198

Australian Centre for Plant Functional Genomics - Adelaide
Phone: 8313 7182


Further Information

For further information about all TAFE SA Courses, phone 1800 882 661 or enquire online