Agricultural and food science technicians assist agricultural and food scientists by performing duties such as measuring and analyzing the quality of food and agricultural products. Duties range from performing agricultural labor with added recordkeeping duties to laboratory testing with significant amounts of office work, depending on the particular field the technician works in.

Duties

Specific duties of these technicians vary with their specialty.

Agricultural science technicians typically do the following:

  • Follow protocols to collect, prepare, analyze, and properly store crop or animal samples
  • Operate farm equipment and maintain agricultural production areas to conform to scientific testing parameters
  • Examine animal and crop specimens to determine the presence of diseases or other problems
  • Measure ingredients used in animal feed and other inputs
  • Prepare and operate laboratory testing equipment
  • Compile and analyze test results
  • Prepare charts, presentations, and reports describing test results

Food science technicians typically do the following:

  • Collect and prepare samples in accordance with established procedures
  • Test food, food additives, and food containers to ensure that they comply with established safety standards
  • Help food scientists with food research, development, and quality control
  • Analyze chemical properties of food to determine ingredients and formulas
  • Compile and analyze test results
  • Prepare charts, presentations, and reports describing test results
  • Prepare and maintain quantities of chemicals needed to perform laboratory tests
  • Maintain a safe, sterile laboratory environment

Agricultural and food science technicians often specialize by subject area, which includes animal health, farm machinery, fertilizers, agricultural chemicals, or processing technology. Duties can vary considerably by specialization.

Agricultural science technicians typically study ways to increase the productivity of crops and animals. These workers may keep detailed records, collect samples for analyses, ensure that samples meet proper safety and quality standards, and test crops and animals for disease or to confirm the results of scientific experiments.

Food science technicians who work in manufacturing investigate new production or processing techniques. They also ensure that products will be fit for distribution or are produced as efficiently as expected. Many food science technicians spend time inspecting foodstuffs, chemicals, and additives to determine whether they are safe and have the proper combination of ingredients.

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Work Environment

Agricultural and food science technicians held about 29,200 jobs in 2018. The largest employers of agricultural and food science technicians were as follows:

Food manufacturing 24%
Support activities for agriculture and forestry 18
Professional, scientific, and technical services 16
Colleges, universities, and professional schools; state                          14
Crop production 3

Technicians work in a variety of settings, including laboratories, processing plants, farms and ranches, greenhouses, and offices. Technicians who work in processing plants and agricultural settings may face noise from processing and farming machinery, extreme temperatures, and odors from chemicals or animals. They may need to lift and carry objects, and be physically active for long periods of time.

Work Schedules

Agricultural and food science technicians typically work full time and have standard work schedules. Technicians may need to travel, including international travel.

Education and Training

Agricultural and food science technicians typically need an associate’s degree in biology, chemistry, crop or animal science, or a related field. Some positions require candidates to have a bachelor’s degree, and others a high school diploma or equivalent plus related work experience. 

Education

Students interested in a career as an agricultural or food science technician should take as many high school science and math classes as possible. A solid background in applied chemistry, biology, physics, math, and statistics is important. Knowledge of how to use spreadsheets and databases also may be necessary.

Agricultural and food science technicians typically need an associate’s degree in biology, chemistry, crop or animal science, or a related field from an accredited college or university. Some agricultural and food science technician positions require a bachelor’s degree.

Students may take courses in biology, chemistry, plant or animal science, and agricultural engineering as part of their programs. Programs include technical instruction and hands-on experience. Many schools offer internships, cooperative-education, and other programs designed to provide practical experience and enhance employment prospects.

Some agricultural and food science technicians successfully enter the occupation with a high school diploma or equivalent, but they typically need related work experience and on-the-job training that may last a year or more.

Training

Agricultural and food science technicians typically undergo on-the-job training. Various federal government regulations outline the types of training needed for technicians, which varies by work environment and specific job requirements. Training may cover topics such as production techniques, personal hygiene, and sanitation procedures.

Work Experience in a Related Occupation

Workers who enter the occupation with only a high school diploma or equivalent often must have experience in a related occupation during which they develop their knowledge of agriculture or manufacturing processes. These related occupations include food and tobacco processing workers and agricultural workers.

Personality and Interests

Agricultural and food science technicians typically have an interest in the Building, Thinking and Organizing interest areas, according to the Holland Code framework. The Building interest area indicates a focus on working with tools and machines, and making or fixing practical things. The Thinking interest area indicates a focus on researching, investigating, and increasing the understanding of natural laws. The Organizing interest area indicates a focus on working with information and processes to keep things arranged in orderly systems.

If you are not sure whether you have a Building or Thinking or Organizing interest which might fit with a career as an agricultural and food science technician, you can take a career test to measure your interests.

Agricultural and food science technicians should also possess the following specific qualities:

Analytical skills. Agricultural and food science technicians must conduct a variety of observations and on-site measurements, all of which require precision and accuracy.

Communication skills. Agricultural and food science technicians must be able to understand and give clear instructions, keep detailed records, and occasionally may need to write reports.

Critical-thinking skills. Agricultural and food science technicians reach conclusions through sound reasoning and judgment. They determine how to improve food quality and must test products for a variety of safety standards.

Interpersonal skills. Agricultural and food science technicians need to work well with others. They may supervise agricultural and food science workers and receive instruction from scientists or specialists, so effective communication is critical.

Physical stamina. Agricultural and food science technicians who work in manufacturing or agricultural settings may need to stand for long periods, lift objects, and generally perform physical labor.

Pay

The median annual wage for agricultural and food science technicians was $41,230 in May 2019. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $28,030, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $64,180.

In May 2019, the median annual wages for agricultural and food science technicians in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Colleges, universities, and professional schools; state                              $42,320
Food manufacturing 41,370
Professional, scientific, and technical services 38,300

Agricultural and food science technicians typically work full time and have standard work schedules. Technicians may need to travel, including international travel.

Job Outlook

Employment of agricultural and food technicians is projected to grow 6 percent from 2018 to 2028, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Demand will continue for agricultural research into areas such as the effects of population growth, increased demand for water resources, harm from pests and pathogens, changes in climate and weather patterns, and demand for agricultural products, such as biofuels.

Agricultural science technicians will be needed to assist agricultural and food scientists in investigating and improving the diets, living conditions, and even genetic makeup of livestock. Food science technicians will assist scientists to improve food-processing techniques, ensuring that products are safe, waste is limited, and food is shipped efficiently. Technicians will also continue to assist in studies that analyze soil composition and soil improvement techniques, find uses for agricultural byproducts, and selectively breed crops to resist pests and disease, or improve taste.

For More Information

For more information about agricultural and soil science occupations, visit

American Society of Agronomy

Future Farmers of America

Soil Science Society of America

For more information about food and animal science occupations, visit

American Registry of Professional Animal Scientists

American Society of Animal Science

Institute of Food Technologists

For information from related governmental agencies, visit

U.S. Department of Agriculture

U.S. Food and Drug Administration

Smithsonian Institution

 

FAQ

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The career information above is taken from the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook. This excellent resource for occupational data is published by the U.S. Department of Labor every two years. Truity periodically updates our site with information from the BLS database.

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