Agricultural consultants give business and technical advice and support to farmers. They also give advice to companies which produce animal feed, seeds, fertilisers, weedkillers and other materials used on farms. They may also advise landowners, environmental agencies and conservation bodies.
You could be giving advice on:
the best types of seeds to use
how to improve the soil, use of fertilisers, weedkillers or other materials used on farms
better ways to keep and feed livestock
introducing alternative farming methods, such as organic farming
new farm machinery or new farm buildings
health and safety
animal diseases and pest control
using farm land for recreation or wildlife
business planning, budgets and applying for grants.
You could also be:
keeping up to date with new developments and research
arranging and running field trials for crop treatments or production
collecting and analysing data
writing reports and advisory leaflets or articles
specialising in one subject, such as animals, crops, soil science or farm management.
The figures below are only a guide. Actual pay rates may vary, depending on:
where you work
the size of company or organisation you work for
the demand for the job.
Starting salaries for agricultural consultants in the UK tend to be in the range £20,000 to £27,000 a year. With experience, you could earn between £27,000 and £40,000 a year and senior advisers and consultants with more than five years' experience can earn up to £50,000 or more a year.
Salaries may vary depending on the area of specialism.
You would work in an office.
You would also spend a lot of time out of the office visiting farms, suppliers and manufacturers.
At times, you may have to start early in the morning and work into the evening.
You may also have to work some weekends.
You will have to be prepared to spend some time outside in all weather conditions.
You might wear protective clothing, for example if dealing with chemicals.
You normally need a good degree in agriculture, horticulture, plant science, soil science, environmental science or a related subject.
In some cases, you might get in with a Higher National Diploma (HND).
Entry requirements for a degree are 4 or 5 Highers plus 1-2 subjects at National 5. The Highers should normally include at least one science subject, and English and Maths may be required at least at National 5. Entry requirements for an HND are normally 2 Highers.
For technical advisory work a postgraduate degree is helpful.
The Universities of Aberdeen and Edinburgh and Scotland's Rural College (SRUC) run degree courses in a range of agriculture and business subjects. They also run relevant postgraduate courses to allow specialism in an area, such as soil or poultry.
You usually need experience working on a farm.
You may have a business qualification as well as agricultural qualifications and experience.
A driving licence is essential.
You could work for an agricultural research organisation, an agricultural company, an independent agricultural consultancy firm or a college or university. You may need to be prepared to move around the UK for job opportunities.
You can find jobs on websites such as Farmers Weekly, Farmers Guardian and The Scottish Farmer, as well as general recruitment websites and industry magazines.
keep up to date with research and new developments
You need to have:
good attention to detail
a keen interest in agriculture and farming
good communication and negotiation skills
good business and marketing skills
strong analytical skills.
You would spend a number of years gaining experience on the job.
You would attend a range of short courses and other training sessions relevant to the work you are doing.
For technical advisory work you may need to do specialist training for example in fertilisers or agrochemicals.
If you do not already hold a postgraduate qualification, you could improve your prospects by studying for one part time.
Depending on the specialism you work in you might do BASIS Registration training and qualifications (for the pesticide, fertiliser and allied industries) or you could undergo training for the Fertiliser Advisers Certificate and Training Scheme (FACTS), which covers the crops, soil, air and water aspects of agriculture.
You may be able to do a continuous professional development programme (CPD) as a member of a professional body, such as the British Institute of Agricultural Consultants or the Institute of Agricultural Management.
After gaining experience you may become a senior adviser within your organisation.
In some cases in order to gain promotion, you may have to move to different parts of the country.
There can be opportunities within universities and colleges to do advanced research and consultancy work.
After a lot of experience, you may be able to set up your own business offering advisory and consultancy services.