Would you like to work closely with the soil of the Earth and see how you can create an impact on the environment as well as in agriculture? Check out what a Soil Scientist does!
Soil Scientists use their research findings to help solve a range of soil management issues such as which crops to grow in which type of soil as well as restoring endangered ecosystems by finding ways to increase soil fertility.
As a soil scientist, you will be collecting soil samples and recording your observations. Your observations will also deal with soil-related issues such as climate change, agricultural production, human health, and biodiversity. You will also be providing expert advice to professionals in other fields such as archaeologists, construction engineers, and environmental conservationists.
Why become a Soil Scientist?
Soil is a complex composite of minerals and organic matter that forms over the surface of the land, and soil science involves the tudy of the physical characteristics, chemical makeup and biological properties of soil to improve its conditions and productive usage for agricultural purposes as well as conservation of soil as a natural resource. It examines the formation, distribution, function and management of soils to understand, sustain, and improve the environment
A soil scientist uses their findings to help solve a range of soil management issues such as which crops to grow in which type of soil as well as restoring endangered ecosystems by finding ways to increase soil fertility.
As a soil scientist, you will be collecting soil samples and recording your observations. Your observations will also deal with soil-related issues such as climate change, agricultural production, human health and biodiversity. You will also be providing expert advice to professionals in other fields such as archaeologists, construction engineers and environmental conservationists.
Popular Specializations in soil scientist career
Below are some of the specializations you may choose from –
- Pedologist: Pedology is the study of soil in its natural environment and covers areas such as soil classification, soil morphology and pedogenesis (which is the formation of soil due to factors such as location, climate and history). Soil pedologists sample and evaluate the soil to develop methods of conservation of the environmental quality and find new ways to improve the growth of crops.
- Edaphologist: Edaphology studies the effects that soil has on fungi, plants and other living organisms. An Edaphologist can study in 2 subfields of edaphology which as agricultural soil science and environmental soil science. You will focus on areas such as chemical and physical weathering, the texture of the soil and the decomposition of materials.
- Soil Physicist: Soil physics deals with the dynamics of physical soil components and their phases as solid, liquids, and gases. As a Soil Physicist, you will apply principles of physics, engineering and meteorology and address problems related to agriculture, engineering and ecology.
- Soil Chemist: Soil Chemistry studies the chemical contents of the soil. These contents are affected by various factors, such as organic matter and environmental factors. One of the most important chemical properties of a soil is its acidity or alkalinity, often stated as the pH of the soil. As a Soil Chemist, you will evaluate soil and its contents such as pH levels, granite and nutrient levels. These factors will determine how fit the soil is to grow crops.
What does soil scientist do?
As a soil scientist, here are some of your key roles and responsibilities:
- Collecting, analysing and interpreting data from the soil samples that are collected. Research work can be done on the field as well as laboratories by using tools such as geospatial analysis, molecular biology and spectroscopy for soil investigation.
- Producing maps of different types of soils and their distribution.
- Conduct laboratory analysis of soil samples and research experiments and advising professionals in related fields such as farmers, geologists and archaeologists.
- Write research reports and make presentations on finding. This can be done for various purposes, some of them being increasing sustainable food production or gauging drainage and irrigation requirements.
- Writing proposals and make bids for new research projects and funding, make presentations, give seminars, teach and advise students
- Attend conferences to keep abreast of the latest developments and to network with people in the profession and related industries.
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How to become a soil scientist – Eligibility criteria
After your higher secondary or equivalent level of studies with Physics, Chemistry and Biology, you can do an undergraduate degree in any of the following fields:
- Agriculture/Agricultural Science
- Plant Science
After your graduation you can do a post-graduate degree in any of the following fields:
- Soil Sciences
- Agriculture/Agricultural Science
- Plant Science
The educational fees for becoming a soil scientist in India can vary depending on the institution and the level of education you choose to pursue. Here are the estimated fees for some popular courses in soil science in India:
- Bachelor’s degree in Agriculture or Soil Science: The fees for a four-year bachelor’s degree in Agriculture or Soil Science can range from INR 50,000 to INR 2,00,000 per year depending on the college or university.
- Master’s degree in Soil Science: The fees for a two-year master’s degree in Soil Science can range from INR 50,000 to INR 2,50,000 per year depending on the institution.
- PhD in Soil Science: The fees for a PhD in Soil Science can range from INR 20,000 to INR 1,00,000 per year depending on the institution.
If you are interested in research, you can be hired as a Research Associate. If you complete your PhD and then work as a Researcher, you can be hired as a Junior Research Fellow.
If you choose to work as a Professor, you can get hired as an Assistant Professor at a university or college.
After you complete your PhD, you can also work as a Scientist in a research laboratory or a research institute.
You can work as an Assistant Soil Conservationist Officer with the Government.
Salary of soil scientist
As a Junior Research Fellow, you can get a starting salary of Rs. 35,000 per month (first 2 years of PhD.).
As a Senior Research Fellow, you can get a salary of Rs 38,000 per month (last year of PhD).
As a Research Assistant after your Master’s program, you can get a salary of Rs. 25,000-35,000 per month.
When you work as a Scientist after your Master’s degree, you can get a salary of Rs. 55,000 – 60,000 per month.
When you work as a Scientist after your PhD degree, you can get a salary of Rs. 70,000 – 80,000 per month.
As a Senior Scientist, you can get a salary of Rs. 1,40,000 – 1,80,000 or more per month.
As a Principal Scientist, you can get a salary of Rs. 1,80,000 – 2,20,000 or more per month.
As a Director of a University, you can get a fixed salary of Rs. 2,50,000 per month
Career progression in soil scientist
If you are hired as a Research Associate, you will first hold the rank of a Research Fellow. You can then get promoted to a Scientist’s title, and then a Senior Scientist. Following this, you can get promoted to a Deputy Scientist and then a Director.
If you start working as a Professor, you will first begin as an Assistant Professor. You can then get promoted to an Associate Professor and then a Professor. Professors can also get administrative positions such as Director/Dean/Vice Chancellor, etc.
As a Scientist, you will first be hired for the starting position of a Scientist. After you gain a few years of experience, you can get promoted to the position of a Senior Scientist. Post that, you can get promoted as a Principal Scientist, Deputy Scientist and then a Director.
What does industry trends say – Future Prospects
Agriculture is the primary source of livelihood for about 58 per cent of India’s population. India is the second largest fruit producer in the world. Production of horticulture crops is estimated at a record 314.7 million tonnes (mt) in 2018-19 as per third advance estimates. Since agriculture is such a booming industry and a big part of India’s economy, around 100 million Soil Health Cards (SHCs) have been distributed in the country during 2015-17, and a soil health mobile app has been launched to help Indian farmers.There is a demand for professionals and scientists in this industry since improved farming techniques and environmental safeguarding, and both are the need of the hour.
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