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Soil Scientist

Soil scientists study the composition, distribution, development, and behaviour of soils. They look at the interaction of soils with organisms, animals, plants, and the atmosphere. They manage soil resources for agricultural production, and to protect water resources and the environment.

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

Land Use Manager, Scientist (Biological / Research), Specialist (Earth Science / Environmental / Land Reclamation / Site Remediation / Soil Nutrient)

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

27%
27%
Average Wage
Starting
Overall
Top
  • 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
INNOVATIVE

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

OBJECTIVE

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

DIRECTIVE

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

Duties
Updated Mar 31, 2020

Soil scientists study the properties of soils. They study the physical, chemical, and biological processes that occur in soil. And they study the positive and negative effects of human activity on soil quality. They also:

  • Develop methods to conserve and manage soil for various land uses
  • Develop plans to manage or remediate 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 from one job to another. In general, soil scientists:

  • Identify soils by their properties, horizons, geographic locations, land use, and landscape position
  • Conduct experiments to see how soils form, change, and interact with land-based ecosystems and living organisms
  • Identify and describe fossil soils as markers of climate change and tools in paleoenvironmental reconstruction
  • Plan and supervise land conservation and reclamation programs for erosion control and 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 soil texture and physical properties, such as soil permeability and water-holding capacity, and their effects on plants and soil organisms
  • Identify degraded soils and develop plans to improve their chemical, biological, and physical traits
  • Study the effects of continuous cropping, direct seeding, and other soil conservation practices
  • 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 (such as parks and golf courses), or industrial sites (including mining, and oil and gas exploration)
  • Review soil assessments and plans for conservation and reclamation and prepare applications for regulatory approval
  • Develop and recommend fertilizer formulas
  • Incorporate various waste products, such as manure, compost, biosolids, and sewage sludge, into soil-nutrient management programs
  • Help to develop improved measurement techniques, soil conservation methods, soil sampling devices, and related technology
  • Identify and manage effects of landscape processes on soil water flow and its influence on the outcome and transport of pollutants at scales such as plot, field, watershed, or region
  • Monitor soil moisture content, distribution, and cycling as influenced by plant uptake and seasonal climate variability in agricultural and natural ecosystems
  • Study the connectivity and interactions of moisture regimes across the ground surface, vadose zones (underground water above the water table), and groundwater locations
  • Develop methodologies to measure and put in place management practices to preserve soil quality, ecological health, and ecosystem sustainability in settings such as grasslands, boreal forest, wetlands, and peatlands
  • Provide advice on developing regulatory standards for land reclamation and soil conservation
  • Communicate research and project results to other professionals and the public
  • Teach related courses, seminars, or workshops on agrology and land use management
Working Conditions
Updated Mar 31, 2020

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

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

  • Strength Required Lift up to 5 kg
Skills & Abilities
Updated Mar 31, 2020

Soil scientists need:

  • The ability to communicate well, in person and in writing, with the public and others who use soils. This includes engineers, wildlife biologists, land use planners, farmers, resource managers, industrial operators, and government personnel.
  • The intellect, curiosity, creativity, patience, and perseverance to solve complex problems and keep up 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. They should like using laboratory and field equipment for precision tasks. They should be comfortable working with professionals in other disciplines and supervising the work of technologists and technicians.

Educational Requirements
Updated Mar 31, 2020

The minimum education requirement for a soil scientist is a bachelor of science (B.Sc.) degree. It could be in agriculture, forestry, biological, earth, or environmental sciences. However, it should include a specialization in soil science. Research positions typically require a related master’s (M.Sc.) or doctoral (PhD) degree. The entrance requirement for most M.Sc. programs is an acceptable average in a related 4-year B.Sc. program. Soil scientists must know provincial and federal legislation as it relates to their work.

Prospective students interested in working in agricultural retail would benefit from an education in soil science with a minor in crop production or test control.


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, 2020

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

Employment & Advancement
Updated Mar 31, 2020

Soil scientists work for:

  • 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
  • Agricultural chemical companies

There is strong demand for people with soil science training for agricultural retail, 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. Advancement to administrative and supervisory positions is 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 [pdf] in this occupation is 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 (when people leave existing positions)
  • Occupational growth (when new positions are created)
  • 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, 2020
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
Starting
Overall
Top
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
ALL INDUSTRIES
Public Administration

Skills Shortage

Employers that Recruited in the Last 2 Years

27%
27%)

Recruiting Employers that Experienced Hiring Difficulties

N/A

Employers with Unfilled Vacancies of over 4 Months

0%
0%

Vacancy Rate

N/A
Related Post-Secondary Field of Study
  • Agriculture and Related Technologies
  • Environment, Forestry and Related Studies
  • Sciences
Other Sources of Information
Updated Mar 31, 2020

Agricultural Institute of Canada (AIC) website: www.aic.ca

Alberta Institute of Agrologists (AIA) website: www.albertaagrologists.ca

Canadian Society of Soil Science (CSSS) website: csss.ca

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

Updated Mar 31, 2020. 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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