Agricultural and Food Science Technicians


Quick Facts: Agricultural and Food Science Technicians
2017 Median Pay $39,910 per year 
$19.19 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education Associate's degree
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training Moderate-term on-the-job training
Number of Jobs, 2016 27,500
Job Outlook, 2016-26 6% (As fast as average)
Employment Change, 2016-26 1,700

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Agricultural and Food Science Technicians Career, Salary, and Education Information

What Agricultural and Food Science Technicians Do

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.

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Agricultural and Food Science Technicians

Duties of Agricultural and Food Science Technicians

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.


Work Environment for Agricultural and Food Science Technicians

Agricultural and food science technicians held about 27,500 jobs in 2016. The largest employers of agricultural and food science technicians were as follows:

Food manufacturing: 23%

Colleges, universities, and professional schools; state: 21%

Support activities for agriculture and forestry: 15%

Professional, scientific, and technical services: 14%

Crop production: 7%

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.


How to Become an Agricultural and Food Science Technician

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.

Important Qualities

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

Communication skills. Agricultural and food science technicians must understand and give clear instructions, keep detailed records, and, occasionally, 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 processing 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.

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.


salaries for Agricultural and Food Science Technicians

The median annual wage for agricultural and food science technicians was $39,910 in May 2017. 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 $26,350, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $62,740.

 

In May 2017, 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: $40,860

Food manufacturing: $38,880

Professional, scientific, and technical services: $36,690

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


Job Outlook for Agricultural and Food Science Technicians

Employment of agricultural and food technicians is projected to grow 6 percent from 2016 to 2026, 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.

Employment projections data for Agricultural and Food Science Technicians, 2016-26

Employment, 2016: 27,500

Projected Employment, 2026: 29,200

Change, 2016-2026: +6%, +1,700


Careers Related to Agricultural and Food Science Technicians

Agricultural and Food Scientists

Agricultural and food scientists research ways to improve the efficiency and safety of agricultural establishments and products.

Agricultural Engineers

Agricultural engineers attempt to solve agricultural problems concerning power supplies, the efficiency of machinery, the use of structures and facilities, pollution and environmental issues, and the storage and processing of agricultural products.

Animal Care and Service Workers

Animal care and service workers provide care for animals. They feed, groom, bathe, and exercise pets and other nonfarm animals.

Biological Technicians

Biological technicians help biological and medical scientists conduct laboratory tests and experiments.

Chemical Technicians

Chemical technicians use special instruments and techniques to help chemists and chemical engineers research, develop, produce, and test chemical products and processes.

Conservation Scientists and Foresters

Conservation scientists and foresters manage the overall land quality of forests, parks, rangelands, and other natural resources.

Environmental Science and Protection Technicians

Environmental science and protection technicians monitor the environment and investigate sources of pollution and contamination, including those affecting public health.

Microbiologists

Microbiologists study microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses, algae, fungi, and some types of parasites. They try to understand how these organisms live, grow, and interact with their environments.

OccupationENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION2017 MEDIAN PAY
Agricultural and Food ScientistsBachelor's degree$62,910
Agricultural EngineersBachelor's degree$74,780
Agricultural Workers$23,730
Animal Care and Service WorkersHigh school diploma or equivalent$23,160
Biological TechniciansBachelor's degree$43,800
Chemical TechniciansAssociate's degree$47,280
Conservation Scientists and ForestersBachelor's degree$60,970
Environmental Science and Protection TechniciansAssociate's degree$45,490
Food and Tobacco Processing Workers$27,630
MicrobiologistsBachelor's degree$69,960

Citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Agricultural and Food Science Technicians, on the Internet at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/agricultural-and-food-science-technicians.htm