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Soil Scientist

Soil scientists study the composition, distribution, development and behaviour of soils, the interaction of soils with organisms, animals and plants, and the management of soil resources for agricultural production and environmental protection.

  • Avg. Salary $104,806.00
  • Avg. Wage $53.36
  • Minimum Education 4 years post-secondary
  • Outlook N/A
Also Known As

Biological Scientist, Research Scientist

NOC Codes

In Canada, the federal government groups and organizes occupations based on a National Occupational Classification (NOC) system. This alis occupation may not reflect the entire NOC group it is part of. Data for the NOC group can apply across multiple occupations.

The NOC system is updated every 5 years to reflect changes in the labour market. Government forms and labour market data may group and refer to an occupation differently, depending on the system used. Here is how this occupation has been classified over time:

  • 2006 NOC: Soil Scientists (2115.2) 
  • 2006 NOC-S: Other Professional Occupations in Physical Sciences (C015) 
  • 2011 NOC: Other professional occupations in physical sciences (2115) 
  • 2016 NOC: Other professional occupations in physical sciences (2115) 
Skills Shortage

Employers that Recruited in the Last 2 Years

Average Wage
  • Certification Not Regulated
  • Strength Required Lift up to 5 kg
Interest Codes
The Soil Scientist is part of the following larger National Occupational Classification (NOC).
Soil Scientists

Interest in synthesizing information to classify soil management practices and study their effects on long-range productivity; and in investigating problems of strip cropping, contour ploughing, terracing and other soil conservation practices to reduce soil and mineral erosion and to retain sufficient water supplies for proper irrigation; may examine problems of layering and drainage of soils used in foundations for roads, dams, buildings and other structures


Interest in precision working to rebuild deteriorated, over-acidic and barren soils by stabilizing run-off and applying green manure crops, lime, nitrates, compost residue and other nutrients and fertilizers


Interest in consulting to advise on issues related to soil management; and in directing soil surveys to plot boundaries of deposits on maps; may supervise and co-ordinate the work of technologists and technicians

Reading Interest Codes
A Quick Guide

The interest code helps you figure out if you’d like to work in a particular occupation. 
It’s based on the Canadian Work Preference Inventory (CWPI), which measures 5 occupational interests: Directive, Innovative, Methodical, Objective and Social.

Each set of 3 interest codes is listed in order of importance.

A code in capital letters means it’s a strong fit for the occupation.

A code in all lowercase letters means the fit is weaker.

Learn More

Updated Mar 31, 2016

Soil scientists:

  • study the properties of soils, processes that occur in soil (physical, chemical, biological) and the positive and negative effects of human activity on soil quality
  • develop methods to conserve and manage soil for future generations
  • develop plans to remediate (fix) contaminated soils and reclaim disturbed soils
  • apply their knowledge of soil science in areas related to crop or plant productivity, environmental protection and biological conservation.

Duties and responsibilities vary considerably from 1 job to another, but in general, soil scientists:

  • identify soils on the basis of soil properties, horizons, geographic locations, land use and landscape position
  • conduct experiments to investigate how soils form, change and interact with land-based ecosystems and living organisms
  • identify and describe fossil soils as markers of climate change and as tools in paleoenvironmental reconstruction
  • plan and supervise land conservation and reclamation programs for industrial development projects
  • study soil chemistry to determine chemical composition, concentrations, toxicity, deficiency, movement and reactions with pollutants
  • study soil biology to determine organic matter content and quality, soil fauna, microbial activity and the effects of organic matter loss
  • study soil fertility and plant nutrient levels in soils for crop production, manage soil fertility and plant nutrition through fertilization, rotational cropping with legumes and organic amendments
  • study physical properties such as soil permeability, water holding capacity, porosity and aggregate stability, and their effects on plants and soil organisms
  • identify degraded soils and develop plans to improve their chemical, biological and physical characteristics
  • study the effects of continuous cropping, direct seeding and other soil conservation practices and develop improved soil management practices for farmers and forestry companies
  • survey undisturbed and disturbed lands for classification, inventory, mapping, environmental impact assessments, environmental protection planning, and conservation and reclamation planning
  • plan and supervise soil management programs for farms (including horticulture and viticulture), urban areas (parks, golf courses) or industrial sites (mining, oil and gas exploration)
  • review soil assessments and conservation and reclamation plans
  • devise and develop new fertilizers, incorporate various waste streams (for example, manure, compost, sewage sludge) into soil nutrient management programs
  • assist in the development of improved measurement techniques, soil conservation methods, soil sampling devices and related technology
  • collaborate with scientists from other disciplines to remediate environmental contamination and reclaim disturbed landscapes
  • prepare applications for regulatory approval and provide advice regarding the development of regulatory standards for land reclamation and soil conservation
  • communicate research and project results to other professionals and the public and teach related courses, seminars or workshops.
Working Conditions
Updated Mar 31, 2016

Soil scientists may work outdoors in the field or indoors in laboratories and offices. They generally work a standard work week, but often spend additional time reading to keep up to date. Private consultants may work very long hours.

Some soil scientists travel in an assigned territory or to other regional, national or international research sites.

  • Strength Required Lift up to 5 kg
Skills & Abilities
Updated Mar 31, 2016

Soil scientists need the following characteristics:

  • the ability to communicate well, both in person and in writing, with the public and others who use soils (for example, engineers, wildlife biologists, land use planners, farmers, resource managers, industrial operators, government personnel)
  • the intellect, curiosity, creativity, patience and perseverance required to solve complex problems and keep up to date with new developments in the field
  • the ability to work independently or as part of a team
  • the health and stamina required for field work.

They should enjoy:

  • synthesizing information to investigate problems
  • using laboratory and field instruments and equipment to perform tasks requiring precision
  • working with professionals in other disciplines and supervising the work of technologists and technicians.
Educational Requirements
Updated Mar 31, 2016

The minimum education requirement for a soil scientist is a bachelor's degree in agriculture, forestry, biological, earth or environmental sciences with a specialization in soil science. Research positions typically require a related master's or doctoral (PhD) degree. The entrance requirement for most master's degree programs is an acceptable average in a related 4-year bachelor's degree program. In addition, soil scientists must know provincial and federal legislation as it relates to their work.

Required Education

The following schools offer programs and courses that meet this occupation’s educational requirements. Other eligible programs and courses may be available.

Concordia University of Edmonton

Related Education

The following schools offer programs or courses that are related to this occupation but are not required to enter the field.

For a broad list of programs and courses that may be related to this occupation try searching using keywords.

Certification Requirements
Updated Mar 31, 2016

There is currently no provincial legislation regulating this occupation in Alberta.

Employment & Advancement
Updated Mar 31, 2016

Soil scientists are employed by:

  • post-secondary schools
  • federal, provincial and municipal government departments and research centres
  • fertilizer companies
  • engineering and land appraisal firms
  • coal, oil, gas and forestry companies
  • consulting firms.

There is strong demand for people with soil science training for environmental remediation and reclamation work in Alberta. New graduates may work on a seasonal basis until they gain experience. A doctoral degree usually is required to direct and administer research programs or teach at the university level.

Salary increases and more demanding projects are the most tangible forms of advancement in this occupation. Opportunities to advance to administrative and supervisory positions are limited. Some soil scientists set up their own consulting firms and work on a contract basis.

Soil scientists are part of the larger 2011 National Occupational Classification 2115: Other professional occupations in physical sciences. In Alberta, 76% of people employed in this classification work in the following industries:

The employment outlook in this occupation will be influenced by a wide variety of factors including:

  • trends and events affecting overall employment (especially in the industries listed above)
  • location in Alberta
  • employment turnover (work opportunities generated by people leaving existing positions)
  • occupational growth (work opportunities resulting from the creation of new positions that never existed before)
  • size of the occupation.

Employment turnover is expected to increase as members of the baby boom generation retire over the next few years.

Wage & Salary
Updated Mar 31, 2016

Other professional occupations in physical sciences

Survey Methodology

Survey Analysis

Overall Wage Details
Average Wage
Average Salary
Hours Per Week

Hourly Wage
For full-time and part-time employees
  • Low
  • High
  • Average
  • Median
Wages* Low (5th percentile) High (95th percentile) Average Median
Starting $23.65 $71.00 $46.13 $46.96
Overall $30.06 $76.71 $53.36 $52.59
Top $33.37 $76.97 $56.58 $57.95

Swipe left and right to view all data. Scroll left and right to view all data.

* All wage estimates are hourly except where otherwise indicated. Wages and salaries do not include overtime hours, tips, benefits, profit shares, bonuses (unrelated to production) and other forms of compensation.

A: High Reliability
Data Reliability Code Definition

High Reliability, represents a CV of less than or equal to 6.00% and 30 survey observations and/or represents 50% or more of all estimated employment for the occupation.

Industry Information
Public Administration

Skills Shortage

Employers that Recruited in the Last 2 Years


Recruiting Employers that Experienced Hiring Difficulties


Employers with Unfilled Vacancies of over 4 Months


Vacancy Rate

Related Post-Secondary Field of Study
  • Agriculture and Related Technologies
  • Environment, Forestry and Related Studies
  • Sciences
Other Sources of Information
Updated Mar 31, 2016

Agricultural Institute of Canada (AIC) website:

Alberta Institute of Agrologists (AIA) website:

Canadian Society of Soil Science (CSSS) website:

Get information and referrals about career, education, and employment options from Alberta Supports.

Updated Mar 25, 2016. The information contained in this profile is current as of the dates shown. Salary, employment outlook, and educational program information may change without notice. It is advised that you confirm this information before making any career decisions.

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