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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.

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

  • 2115.2: Soil Scientists

2006 NOC-S

  • C015: Other Professional Occupations in Physical Sciences

2011 NOC

  • 2115: Other professional occupations in physical sciences

2016 NOC

  • 2115: Other professional occupations in physical sciences

2021 NOC

  • 21109: Other professional occupations in physical sciences

2023 OaSIS

  • 21109.03: Soil scientists
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
  • Strength Required Lift up to 5 kg

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.

Interests & Abilities

In Alberta, this occupation is part of 1 or more 2006 National Occupational Classification (NOC) groups. If there are multiple related NOC groups, select a NOC heading to learn about each one.

Soil Scientists

2006 NOC: 2115.2

Interest Codes

Interest Codes for This NOC Group

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

Your Interest Codes

To identify or change your interest codes, complete the Interests Exercise in CAREERinsite.

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 for this NOC group 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 About Interests


Typical ability expectations for this NOC group
Your abilities

To fill in or change the values for your abilities, complete the Abilities Exercise in CAREERinsite.

Mental Abilities

General Learning Ability

Verbal Ability

Numerical Ability

Visual Abilities

Spatial Perception

Form Perception

Clerical Perception

Physical Abilities

Motor Coordination

Finger Dexterity

Manual Dexterity

Understanding Abilities

A Quick Guide

You are born with abilities that help you process certain types of information and turn it into action. These abilities influence which skills you can learn more easily.

The abilities or aptitudes shown for this NOC group come from the General Aptitude Test Battery (GATB). The GATB measures 9 aptitudes. It groups them into 3 categories: mental, visual, and physical.

The abilities scores range from 1 to 5, with 5 being stronger.

Learn About Abilities

Traits & Skills
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
  • Minimum Education 4 years post-secondary

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.

To expand or narrow your search for programs related to this occupation, visit Post-Secondary Programs.

Completing a program does not guarantee entrance into an occupation. Before enrolling in an education program, prospective students should look into various sources for education options and employment possibilities. For example, contact associations and employers in this field.

Certification Requirements
Updated Mar 31, 2020
  • Certification Not Regulated

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.

Industry Concentration

This section shows the industries where the majority of people in this occupation work. The data is based on the 2016 Census.

In Alberta, this occupation is part of 1 or more 2016 National Occupational Classification (NOC) groups.

In the 2115: Other professional occupations in physical sciences occupational group, 81.3% of people work in:

Employment Outlook

Employment outlook is influenced by a wide variety of factors including:

  • Time of year (for seasonal jobs)
  • Location in Alberta
  • Employment turnover (when people leave existing positions)
  • Occupational growth (when new positions are created)
  • Size of the occupation
  • Trends and events that affect overall employment, especially in the industry or industries from the previous list

In Alberta, the 2115: Other professional occupations in physical sciences occupational group is expected to have an above-average annual growth of 2.5% from 2021 to 2025. In addition to job openings created by employment turnover, 4 new positions are forecasted to be created within this occupational group each year.

NOC groups often include several related occupations. Although there is labour market data for the larger NOC group, this occupation makes up only a part of that group. It means data for this occupation may be different than the data shown. For example, only some of the new positions to be created will be for this occupation. It also applies to other data for the NOC group such as number of people employed.

Source: 2021-2025 Alberta Regional Occupational Demand Outlook

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

In Alberta, this occupation is part of 1 or more 2016 National Occupational Classification (NOC) groups. If there are multiple related NOC groups, select a NOC heading to learn about each one.

Other professional occupations in physical sciences

2016 NOC: 2115
Average Wage
Per Hour
Average Salary
Per Year
Average Hours
Per Week
Average Months on Payroll
Survey Methodology Survey Analysis

2021 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey

NOC 2115 Wage Profile

Unless otherwise noted, the data shown here is for all industries and all regions in Alberta.

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.

To see the full survey data for this NOC group, visit the wage profile.

Other wage sources
To make an informed wage and salary decision, research other wage sources [pdf] to supplement this data.

B: Good Reliability
Data Reliability Code Definition

Good Reliability, represents a CV of between 6.01% and 15.00% and/or fewer than 30 survey observations and/or if survey observations represent less than 50% of all estimated employment for the occupation.

Hourly Wage

For full-time and part-time employees
  • Low
  • High
  • Average
  • Median

Hourly Wage

For full-time and part-time employees
Wages* Low (5th percentile) High (95th percentile) Average Median
Starting $24.00 $60.37 $39.56 $37.68
Overall $33.42 $69.73 $51.56 $51.79
Top $36.17 $88.85 $59.23 $58.00

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.

Pay brackets for hourly wages

  • Starting pay: average pay offered for entry-level positions
  • Overall pay: average pay across all employees in this occupation
  • Top pay: average pay offered to top-paid employees

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, 2020

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 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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