Seven Reasons to Dig a Soils Career

— Written By and last updated by

Soil Scientist in Field

1. Fresh Air 

While lab positions exist, most jobs in soils require you to get out of the office and get hands-on. If you prefer an office outdoors to a 9 to 5 job in a cubicle, soils might be for you. “It’s hard, sometimes dirty work that requires a solid science background. It’s the only white-collar job I know of that gets dirty,” mused Jeff Vaughan, NC State University graduate and President of Agri-Waste Technology, Inc.

2. Environmental Impact

Working with soils offers the chance to affect our environment. Through environmental preservation, you can create lasting contributions that improve our planet. “If we lose beautiful places, what’s the point of being here? You have a chance to make a difference and create a place for all living things to thrive,” said. Dale Threatt-Taylor, NC State graduate and Executive Director for the Nature Conservancy in South Carolina.

3. Practical Science

If you love doing, rather than studying theory, soils is your chance to apply STEM knowledge in the real world. “Soil is a matrix of diverse materials integrating the study of biology, chemistry, and physics,” John Havlin, NC State professor of soil science, said. Soil careers require a solid science footing but also a fair amount of math calculation – a real integration of STEM concepts.

4. Appreciation for Land

Soil is the foundation of life. “Life simply wouldn’t exist without it,” Havlin said. Making wise choices on human development impacts the entire world. If you enjoy the diversity of earthly places and are interested in land stewardship, a soils career could be your best path.

5. Hiring Demand

The universal importance of healthy soil makes soil careers potential paydirt for graduates. Human development, suburban expansion, urban restoration, and wetland preservation provide an ongoing need for soil professionals. “There’s been a policy shift away from government regulation towards environmental services which requires a new crop of soils professionals,” said David Crouse, NC State’s director of undergraduate programs in the Department of Crop and Soil Sciences. The US Bureau of Labor projects 3-8% job growth in this category over the next 10 years, on pace or faster than most other fields.

6. Public & Private Paths

The field of soil study branches in many directions. Opportunities exist in both field and lab settings with private businesses, government agencies, and non-profit groups. Positions range from laboratory scientists to entrepreneurial business leadership depending on your interests and skill set. “Soil study used to be focused on agriculture. But that has changed. There has been a dramatic increase in the environmental soil industry,” said Deanna Osmond, NC State Extension lead and graduate advisor.

7. You’re Good at Chemistry or Biology or Math or Environmental Science or Human Geography

Soil science is interdisciplinary. And it goes way beyond agriculture. This field bridges geology, chemistry, biology, statistics, and physics. “Most of our soils students aren’t farm kids. They are interested in environmental science and want a specialty that makes them a highly valued team member,” David Crouse said.

And Soils are FASCINATING! Learn More