Agricultural scientists research and develop new methods of raising animals and growing crops, and try them out on experimental farms and nurseries. They usually specialise in one area such as soil, crops, animals or farm produce.
Horticultural scientists specialise in the study of plants, plant identification and classification, and the growth and development of plants and crops including vegetables, fruits and ornamental plants. This includes studying plants used in gardening, landscaping and medicines.
You could be:
carrying out tests, collecting information, analysing results and writing reports
doing research into animal or plant diseases, pest control, or the use of chemicals in farming or horticulture
researching better methods of growing crops
assessing and improving the ways in which farm produce is handled and preserved
investigating the benefits of introducing genetically modified (GM) crops
meeting companies which produce seeds or chemicals for farming or horticulture, to talk about their products.
Depending on your specialism, agriculture or horticulture, you could be:
working out better ways of breeding and keeping livestock
developing new crops
visiting farmers to give advice on improving their farming practices
investigating the impact of wildlife, insects or plant diseases on fruit production
investigating the use of plants for medicinal purposes
identifying and classifying new plant species.
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.
Salaries for qualified agricultural or horticultural scientists tend to be in the range of £17,000 to £27,000 a year. With experience, this can rise to over £40,000.
You would work in an office or laboratory.
You might teach in a college or university.
You would also travel to visit farms and businesses.
In most cases, you would work normal office hours, but in some cases you may have to work shifts or weekends.
On farms you must sometimes wear protective clothing.
You would normally need a good degree in agriculture or horticulture or in another relevant science subject such as plant science, soil science or animal science. Other relevant degrees include biochemistry, biological sciences, biotechnology, ecology and chemistry.
Entry requirements for a degree are 4-5 Highers. You will normally need passes in at least 1-2 maths or science subjects.
For some jobs you need a postgraduate qualification.
Postgraduate courses are available in Soil Science (University of Aberdeen) and Applied Poultry Science, Organic Farming, Soils and Sustainability, and Sustainable Plant Health (Scotland's Rural College (SRUC)).
You usually need a driving licence.
You could work for a commercial company, a botanic garden, college, university, a government agency or research centre such as Science and Advice for Scottish Agriculture (SASA).
accurate, and able to pay close attention to detail
able to concentrate well
a good organiser, to carry out and supervise research
able to analyse and interpret data
able to work in a team and individually.
You need to have:
a keen interest in agriculture or horticulture and the science and technology they are based on
a desire to improve the productivity and environmental impact of agricultural and horticultural processes
good IT skills
excellent communication skills, both spoken and written.
You would train and gain experience on the job with an employer.
You would attend a range of short courses and other training sessions relevant to the work you are doing.
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.
If you do not already hold a postgraduate qualification, you could study for one part time while you are working, for example, at a research institute.
With experience you may move up to a senior scientific job or to a senior teaching job in college or university.
You may do a PhD and specialise in research.
In some cases in order to gain promotion, you may have to move to different parts of the country.