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Career as an Agronomist

Updated: Jun 7, 2020


WHO IS AN AGRONOMIST?

Agricultural and food scientists or as we can call them agronomists, work to ensure that agricultural establishments are productive and food is safe. They Conduct research in breeding, physiology, production, yield, and management of crops and agricultural plants or trees, shrubs, and nursery stock, their growth in soils, and control of pests; or study the chemical, physical, biological, and mineralogical composition of soils as they relate to plant or crop growth. May classify and map soils and investigate effects of alternative practices on soil and crop productivity. Agronomists are sometimes also known as crop scientists, specialize in producing and improving food crops through conducting experiments and developing methods of production. As plant scientists, agronomists can have many career paths, but their careers are generally focused on increasing the quality and amount of food produced for the nation's food supply. They can be teachers, agricultural business consultants or researchers. They often work in the field, on farms, or in agricultural labs and mills. Agricultural scientists have a positive career outlook due to the continuous need for the food crops they help develop.


WHAT DOES AN AGRONOMIST DO?

Agronomy jobs have created a multidisciplinary field that is focused on using plants for food, fuel, fibre, and land reclamation. Agronomists' careers start in the fields of plant genetics, plant physiology, meteorology, and soil science. While jobs do vary, most agronomist careers have the following tasks:

  • Review research and literature relating to current discoveries in the field

  • Communicate with the research community to learn of the latest agricultural methods

  • Consult with farmers on cropping practices to increase their economic return

  • Consult with farmers and regulators on practices that will protect environmental sustainability

  • Assess new crop cultivars against a rubric for their economic and practical potential and limitations

  • Encourage farming techniques on the best management principles

  • Collect field and control portions of biological samples and non-living media samples in order to perform analyses.

  • Monitor the effects of soil characteristics, water levels, and water drainage on plant growth

  • Engage in responsive crop management practices to enhance production

  • Advocate for soil testing and plant analysis to determine crop nutrient needs

  • Create and deploy fertilizer programs to meet the needs of the crop and land

  • Participate in training activities

  • Prepare and conduct advisory information sessions and lectures for farmers and other relevant groups

  • Evaluate crop performance as affected by weather, pests, and management practices, and on occasion give evidence for insurance purposes

  • Creating a positive and safe work environment

  • Developing project scopes, schedules, benchmarks and budgets

  • Navigating federal protocols, regulations, and best practices on behalf of the project

  • Overseeing the testing and calibrating equipment and instruments

  • Overseeing recordkeeping

  • Creating business proposals for funding purposes

  • Ensuring quality assurance, organization, and appropriate tracking of field data

  • Engaging in tasks like report preparation and submittal and peer review

  • Liaising with site stakeholders

  • Supervising fieldwork (survey, site recording, testing, monitoring, and data integrity) of multiple field crews

  • Communicate with internal and external stakeholders through field status reports and presentation of team findings

  • Researching new technology and new advancements in agriculture

  • Participating on committees for policy and regulatory development

  • Participating on committees for research and educational program development.

TYPES OF AGRONOMISTS:

Animal scientists typically conduct research on domestic farm animals. With a focus on food production, they explore animal genetics, nutrition, reproduction, diseases, growth, and development. They work to develop efficient ways to produce and process meat, poultry, eggs, and milk. Animal scientists may crossbreed animals to get new combinations of desirable characteristics. They advise farmers on how to upgrade housing for animals, lower animal death rates, handle waste matter, and increase production.

Food scientists and technologists use chemistry and other sciences to study the underlying principles of food. They analyze nutritional content of food, discover new food sources, and research ways to make processed foods safe and healthy. Food technologists generally work in product development, applying findings from food science research to develop new or better ways of selecting, preserving, processing, packaging, and distributing food. Some food scientists use nanotechnology, problem solving techniques that work on the atomic scale, to develop sensors that can detect contaminants in food. Other food scientists enforce government regulations, inspecting food processing areas to ensure that they are sanitary and meet waste management standards.

Soil and plant scientists conduct research on soil, crops, and other agricultural products.

Soil scientists examine the scientific composition of soil as it relates to plant or crop growth, and investigate effects of alternative soil treatment practices on crop productivity. They develop methods of conserving and managing soil that farmers and forestry companies can use. Because soil science is closely related to environmental science, people trained in soil science also work to ensure environmental quality and effective land use.

Plant scientists work to improve crop yields and give advice to food and crop developers about techniques that could enhance production efforts. They develop ways to control pests and weeds.


WHAT IS THE WORK ENVIRONMENT AND SCHEDULE OF AN AGRONOMIST LIKE?

Agronomists may work in a variety of different environments depending on the exact nature of their job. They may observe plant life in the field - either in farms or greenhouses - or perform experiments in agricultural labs. Sometimes the work may involve traveling to farms or food processing mills, possibly exposing themselves to outdoor hazards and heavy machinery.

Most Agronomists will work for a private institution, though there are also government positions available. Typically, Agronomists work a standard full-time schedule.


KNOWLEDGE AREAS THAT NEED TO BE ACQUIRED:

  • Biology — Knowledge of plant and animal organisms, their tissues, cells, functions, interdependencies, and interactions with each other and the environment.

  • English Language — Knowledge of the structure and content of the English language including the meaning and spelling of words, rules of composition, and grammar.

  • Mathematics — Knowledge of arithmetic, algebra, geometry, calculus, statistics, and their applications.

  • Education and Training — Knowledge of principles and methods for curriculum and training design, teaching and instruction for individuals and groups, and the measurement of training effects.

  • Chemistry — Knowledge of the chemical composition, structure, and properties of substances and of the chemical processes and transformations that they undergo. This includes uses of chemicals and their interactions, danger signs, production techniques, and disposal methods.

  • Computers and Electronics — Knowledge of circuit boards, processors, chips, electronic equipment, and computer hardware and software, including applications and programming.

  • Administration and Management — Knowledge of business and management principles involved in strategic planning, resource allocation, human resources modeling, leadership technique, production methods, and coordination of people and resources.

  • Customer and Personal Service — Knowledge of principles and processes for providing customer and personal services. This includes customer needs assessment, meeting quality standards for services, and evaluation of customer satisfaction.


SKILLS:

  • Reading Comprehension — Understanding written sentences and paragraphs in work related documents.

  • Science — Using scientific rules and methods to solve problems.

  • Active Learning — Understanding the implications of new information for both current and future problem-solving and decision-making.

  • Complex Problem Solving — Identifying complex problems and reviewing related information to develop and evaluate options and implement solutions.

  • Critical Thinking — Using logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions or approaches to problems.

  • Speaking — Talking to others to convey information effectively.

  • Active Listening — Giving full attention to what other people are saying, taking time to understand the points being made, asking questions as appropriate, and not interrupting at inappropriate times.

  • Judgment and Decision Making — Considering the relative costs and benefits of potential actions to choose the most appropriate one.

  • Writing — Communicating effectively in writing as appropriate for the needs of the audience.

  • Monitoring — Monitoring/Assessing performance of yourself, other individuals, or organizations to make improvements or take corrective action.

  • Systems Analysis — Determining how a system should work and how changes in conditions, operations, and the environment will affect outcomes.

  • Systems Evaluation — Identifying measures or indicators of system performance and the actions needed to improve or correct performance, relative to the goals of the system.

  • Instructing — Teaching others how to do something.

  • Learning Strategies — Selecting and using training/instructional methods and procedures appropriate for the situation when learning or teaching new things.

  • Operations Analysis — Analyzing needs and product requirements to create a design.

  • Mathematics — Using mathematics to solve problems.

  • Coordination — Adjusting actions in relation to others' actions.

  • Quality Control Analysis — Conducting tests and inspections of products, services, or processes to evaluate quality or performance.

  • Time Management — Managing one's own time and the time of others.


TECHNOLOGY SKILLS:

  • Analytical or scientific software — European Soil Erosion Model EUROSEM; PC-Progress HYDRUS; SAS ; Water Erosion Prediction Project WEPP

  • Categorization or classification software — GAEA Technologies WinSieve

  • Computer aided design CAD software — Autodesk AutoCAD

  • Database user interface and query software — Microsoft Access ; National Soil Information System NASIS; PedonCE; SoilVision Systems SVOFFICE

  • Map creation software — ESRI ArcGIS software ; Geographic information system GIS software ; Leica Geosystems ERDAS IMAGINE

  • Object or component-oriented development software — R

  • Office suite software — Microsoft Office

  • Presentation software — Microsoft PowerPoint

  • Spreadsheet software — Microsoft Excel

  • Web platform development software — Microsoft Active Server Pages ASP

  • Word processing software — Microsoft Word

ABILITIES:

  • Oral Comprehension — The ability to listen to and understand information and ideas presented through spoken words and sentences.

  • Written Comprehension — The ability to read and understand information and ideas presented in writing.

  • Category Flexibility — The ability to generate or use different sets of rules for combining or grouping things in different ways.

  • Deductive Reasoning — The ability to apply general rules to specific problems to produce answers that make sense.

  • Inductive Reasoning — The ability to combine pieces of information to form general rules or conclusions (includes finding a relationship among seemingly unrelated events).

  • Information Ordering — The ability to arrange things or actions in a certain order or pattern according to a specific rule or set of rules (e.g., patterns of numbers, letters, words, pictures, mathematical operations).

  • Oral Expression — The ability to communicate information and ideas in speaking so others will understand.

  • Written Expression — The ability to communicate information and ideas in writing so others will understand.

  • Problem Sensitivity — The ability to tell when something is wrong or is likely to go wrong. It does not involve solving the problem, only recognizing there is a problem.

  • Near Vision — The ability to see details at close range (within a few feet of the observer).

  • Originality — The ability to come up with unusual or clever ideas about a given topic or situation, or to develop creative ways to solve a problem.

  • Speech Clarity — The ability to speak clearly so others can understand you.

  • Fluency of Ideas — The ability to come up with a number of ideas about a topic (the number of ideas is important, not their quality, correctness, or creativity).

  • Speech Recognition — The ability to identify and understand the speech of another person.

  • Flexibility of Closure — The ability to identify or detect a known pattern (a figure, object, word, or sound) that is hidden in other distracting material.

  • Mathematical Reasoning — The ability to choose the right mathematical methods or formulas to solve a problem.

  • Number Facility — The ability to add, subtract, multiply, or divide quickly and correctly.

  • Perceptual Speed — The ability to quickly and accurately compare similarities and differences among sets of letters, numbers, objects, pictures, or patterns. The things to be compared may be presented at the same time or one after the other. This ability also includes comparing a presented object with a remembered object.

  • Selective Attention — The ability to concentrate on a task over a period of time without being distracted.


WORK ACTIVITIES:

  • Analyzing Data or Information — Identifying the underlying principles, reasons, or facts of information by breaking down information or data into separate parts.

  • Processing Information — Compiling, coding, categorizing, calculating, tabulating, auditing, or verifying information or data.

  • Updating and Using Relevant Knowledge — Keeping up-to-date technically and applying new knowledge to your job.

  • Getting Information — Observing, receiving, and otherwise obtaining information from all relevant sources.

  • Interacting with Computers — Using computers and computer systems (including hardware and software) to program, write software, set up functions, enter data, or process information.

  • Documenting/Recording Information — Entering, transcribing, recording, storing, or maintaining information in written or electronic/magnetic form.

  • Communicating with Supervisors, Peers, or Subordinates — Providing information to supervisors, co-workers, and subordinates by telephone, in written form, e-mail, or in person.

  • Identifying Objects, Actions, and Events — Identifying information by categorizing, estimating, recognizing differences or similarities, and detecting changes in circumstances or events.

  • Making Decisions and Solving Problems — Analyzing information and evaluating results to choose the best solution and solve problems.

  • Organizing, Planning, and Prioritizing Work — Developing specific goals and plans to prioritize, organize, and accomplish your work.

  • Interpreting the Meaning of Information for Others — Translating or explaining what information means and how it can be used.

  • Establishing and Maintaining Interpersonal Relationships — Developing constructive and cooperative working relationships with others, and maintaining them over time.

  • Thinking Creatively — Developing, designing, or creating new applications, ideas, relationships, systems, or products, including artistic contributions.

  • Communicating with Persons Outside Organization — Communicating with people outside the organization, representing the organization to customers, the public, government, and other external sources. This information can be exchanged in person, in writing, or by telephone or e-mail.

  • Estimating the Quantifiable Characteristics of Products, Events, or Information — Estimating sizes, distances, and quantities; or determining time, costs, resources, or materials needed to perform a work activity.

  • Scheduling Work and Activities — Scheduling events, programs, and activities, as well as the work of others.

  • Developing Objectives and Strategies — Establishing long-range objectives and specifying the strategies and actions to achieve them.

  • Monitor Processes, Materials, or Surroundings — Monitoring and reviewing information from materials, events, or the environment, to detect or assess problems.

  • Training and Teaching Others — Identifying the educational needs of others, developing formal educational or training programs or classes, and teaching or instructing others.

  • Monitoring and Controlling Resources — Monitoring and controlling resources and overseeing the spending of money.

  • Coordinating the Work and Activities of Others — Getting members of a group to work together to accomplish tasks.

  • Developing and Building Teams — Encouraging and building mutual trust, respect, and cooperation among team members.

  • Guiding, Directing, and Motivating Subordinates — Providing guidance and direction to subordinates, including setting performance standards and monitoring performance.

  • Judging the Qualities of Things, Services, or People — Assessing the value, importance, or quality of things or people.

  • Evaluating Information to Determine Compliance with Standards — Using relevant information and individual judgment to determine whether events or processes comply with laws, regulations, or standards.

  • Provide Consultation and Advice to Others — Providing guidance and expert advice to management or other groups on technical, systems-, or process-related topics.

  • Coaching and Developing Others — Identifying the developmental needs of others and coaching, mentoring, or otherwise helping others to improve their knowledge or skills.

DETAILED WORK ACTIVITIES

  1. Prepare scientific or technical reports or presentations.

  2. Develop agricultural methods.

  3. Research sustainable agricultural processes or practices.

  4. Advise others about land management or conservation.

  5. Research hydrologic features or processes.

  6. Conduct research of processes in natural or industrial ecosystems.

  7. Research crop management methods.

  8. Develop sustainable industrial or development methods.

  9. Classify organisms based on their characteristics or behavior.

  10. Plan natural resources conservation or restoration programs.

  11. Advise others about environmental management or conservation.

  12. Collaborate with technical specialists to resolve design or development problems.

  13. Analyze biological samples.

  14. Research diseases or parasites.

  15. Research geological features or processes.

  16. Research impacts of environmental conservation initiatives.

  17. Survey land or properties.

  18. Direct natural resources management or conservation programs.

  19. Develop environmental sustainability plans or projects.

PERSONALITY:

Work Styles-

  • Integrity — Job requires being honest and ethical.

  • Attention to Detail — Job requires being careful about detail and thorough in completing work tasks.

  • Dependability — Job requires being reliable, responsible, and dependable, and fulfilling obligations.

  • Achievement/Effort — Job requires establishing and maintaining personally challenging achievement goals and exerting effort toward mastering tasks.

  • Initiative — Job requires a willingness to take on responsibilities and challenges.

  • Analytical Thinking — Job requires analyzing information and using logic to address work-related issues and problems.

  • Cooperation — Job requires being pleasant with others on the job and displaying a good-natured, cooperative attitude.

  • Independence — Job requires developing one's own ways of doing things, guiding oneself with little or no supervision, and depending on oneself to get things done.

  • Persistence — Job requires persistence in the face of obstacles.

  • Adaptability/Flexibility — Job requires being open to change (positive or negative) and to considerable variety in the workplace.

  • Innovation — Job requires creativity and alternative thinking to develop new ideas for and answers to work-related problems.

  • Leadership — Job requires a willingness to lead, take charge, and offer opinions and direction.

  • Stress Tolerance — Job requires accepting criticism and dealing calmly and effectively with high stress situations.

  • Self-Control — Job requires maintaining composure, keeping emotions in check, controlling anger, and avoiding aggressive behavior, even in very difficult situations.

  • Concern for Others — Job requires being sensitive to others' needs and feelings and being understanding and helpful on the job.

Work Values-

  • Achievement — Occupations that satisfy this work value are results oriented and allow employees to use their strongest abilities, giving them a feeling of accomplishment. Corresponding needs are Ability Utilization and Achievement.

  • Independence — Occupations that satisfy this work value allow employees to work on their own and make decisions. Corresponding needs are Creativity, Responsibility and Autonomy.

  • Recognition — Occupations that satisfy this work value offer advancement, potential for leadership, and are often considered prestigious. Corresponding needs are Advancement, Authority, Recognition and Social Status.

Interests-

  • Investigative — Investigative occupations frequently involve working with ideas, and require an extensive amount of thinking. These occupations can involve searching for facts and figuring out problems mentally.

  • Realistic — Realistic occupations frequently involve work activities that include practical, hands-on problems and solutions. They often deal with plants, animals, and real-world materials like wood, tools, and machinery. Many of the occupations require working outside, and do not involve a lot of paperwork or working closely with others.


EDUCATION AND TRAINING

The student must have passed his 10+2 from Science discipline. One can opt for a Bachelor’s in Agronomy after his / her 12th Science discipline. Students interested in pursuing a career in Agronomy can start by pursuing B.Sc. in Agriculture and then opt for M.Sc. in Agronomy. M.Sc. Agronomy is a 2-year programme that requires the students to complete several theses on the chosen research areas.

After successfully completing M.Sc. in Agronomy, students can opt for jobs as Agronomists, Agricultural Scientists, Crop Production Specialist, Crop Scientist, Lab Technician, Assistant Professor, Research Fellow, Farm Associate, Farm Manager, etc.

Students can also opt for PhD in Agronomy and pursue research. Pursuing PhD widens job scope and also increases salary.

Students can also look for jobs in various government organizations like Centre for Cotton Research, Central Rice Research Institute, Central Arid Zone Research Institute and many others.

It should be noted that every state in India has been mandated by the Government of India to have at least 1 agricultural university, which is an advantage to those who want to make a career in Agriculture. In fact, there are 49 such universities in India.

Agricultural and food scientists need at least a bachelor’s degree from an accredited postsecondary institution, although many obtain more advanced degrees. Food scientists and technologists and soil and plant scientists typically earn bachelor’s degrees. Some scientists earn a Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine (DVM). Most animal scientists earn a doctoral or professional degree.

Undergraduate coursework for food scientists and technologists and for soil and plant scientists typically includes biology, chemistry, botany, and plant conservation. Students preparing to be food scientists take courses such as food chemistry, food analysis, food microbiology, food engineering, and food processing operations. Students preparing to be soil and plant scientists take courses in plant pathology, soil chemistry, entomology (the study of insects), plant physiology, and biochemistry.

Undergraduate students in the agricultural and food sciences typically gain a strong foundation in their specialty, with an emphasis on teamwork through internships and research opportunities. Students are also encouraged to take humanities courses, which can help them develop good communication skills, and computer courses so that they may become familiar with common programs and databases.

Internships are highly recommended for prospective food scientists and technologists. Many entry-level jobs in this occupation are related to food manufacturing, and hands-on experience is very important in that environment.


PAYSCALE

Salary package in the field of Career in Agronomy depends upon the employer, qualification and position of agronomists. An entry level Agronomist can command a salary of around 7,000 INR to 12,000 INR a month.

The average salary for an Agronomist in India is 6,26,118Rs.



JOB OUTLOOK

Career in Agronomy is a very promising field in India as it is in direct relation to Agriculture as the demand for food crops and agriculture will only be increasing with the passage of time.

Agronomists find themselves employed in almost all sectors, some of the examples are-

  • Consulting.

  • Production.

  • Research.

  • Education.

  • Business.

  • Government.

  • International Assistance.

  • Management.

  • Development.

Some of the companies/ organizations in Government sector are

  • Cooperative extension service.

  • Bureau of Land management.

  • Dept. of Land affairs.

  • Natural Resources Conservation Service.

  • Farm services Agency.

The various positions an Agronomist would find himself in are

  • Researchers.

  • Farm managers.

  • Precision Agriculture Specialists.

  • Chemical and Fertilizer Salesperson.

  • District sales managers in Seeds companies.

  • Grain elevator managers.

  • Environmental consultants.

  • Agriculture Loan officers.

  • Production specialists.

  • Soil Scientists.

  • Commodity Traders.


FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS:

What is some good advice for budding Agronomist Students?

Agronomists require a Bachelor's degree. It is advisable to attend a university with a land grant and obtain a degree in agricultural sciences or food sciences. However, other related majors include biology, chemistry, botany, or plant conservation. Research and lab work is essential.

Good agronomists are curious. They want to continually learn, ask questions, ask why, talk to new people, cross reference information, dig deeper and more. They are observant, passionate, problem solvers, people person and organized.


What is it like being an Agronomist?

Each day is a bit different when you are an agronomist. Shortly after harvest, farmers are already planning their crops and growing plans for the upcoming year. A day could go anywhere from scouting fields, to recommending herbicides, to loading those herbicides into customer’s vehicles and paperwork. You even get those days where growers bring in some random plant and ask you to figure out what this plant is and how they can control it. It’s fun when you love your job. Everyday feels like a new adventure.


Is it worth it to study Agronomy?

Pursuing agriculture as a career specially in India is a very interesting yet an under-valued profession (although, India is primarily an agricultural country with almost 55% of its workforce engaged in agricultural and allied activities). There are immense opportunities in this field. Only thing, the decision to enter in this field should be made carefully since it involves intense course-curriculum and physical work. This is definitely not a very easy profession but it’s very practical and interdisciplinary.


Are Agronomists happy?

Agronomists rate their career happiness 3.4 out of 5 stars which puts them in the top 35% of careers. It sure is a difficult but fulfilling job. They are happy with the field experience and are proud to develop the crops for betterment. They are satisfied with the job prospects and with their salary.

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