Agricultural and Food Science Technicians

Summary

agricultural and food science technicians image
Agricultural and food science technicians may apply new agricultural chemicals to plants and perform tests to verify their effects.
Quick Facts: Agricultural and Food Science Technicians
2014 Median Pay $35,140 per year
$16.89 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, 2014 33,000
Job Outlook, 2014-24 5% (As fast as average)
Employment Change, 2014-24 1,600

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.

Work Environment

Agricultural and food science technicians work in laboratories, processing plants, farms and ranches, greenhouses, and offices.

How to Become an Agricultural or 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. Many positions require a bachelor’s degree. For those positions requiring only a high school diploma, technicians typically need to have previous work experience. Technicians often receive on-the-job training that may cover topics such as production techniques, personal hygiene, and sanitation procedures.

Pay

The median annual wage for agricultural and food science technicians was $35,140 in May 2014.

Job Outlook

Employment of agricultural and food science technicians is projected to grow 5 percent from 2014 to 2024, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Advances in technology and scientific knowledge related to food production will require greater control of production and processing activities, increasing demand for these workers.

State & Area Data

Explore resources for employment and wages by state and area for agricultural and food science technicians.

Similar Occupations

Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of agricultural and food science technicians with similar occupations.

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

Learn more about agricultural and food science technicians by visiting additional resources, including O*NET, a source on key characteristics of workers and occupations.

What Agricultural and Food Science Technicians Do About this section

Agricultural and food science technicians
Technicians test food, food additives, and food containers to ensure they comply with established safety standards.

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 typical 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. Some popular subjects are animal health, farm machinery, fertilizers, agricultural chemicals, and processing technology. Duties can vary considerably with the specialization, because work settings may vary.

Agricultural science technicians who work in private industry typically focus on increasing 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 otherwise confirm the results of scientific experiments.

Food science technicians who work in private industry typically evaluate food and crops while investigating 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 About this section

Agricultural and food science technicians
Agricultural and food science technicians examine animal and crop specimens to determine the presence of diseases or other problems.

Agricultural and food science technicians held about 33,000 jobs in 2014.

The industries that employed the most agricultural and food science technicians in 2014 were as follows:

Food manufacturing 19%
Colleges, universities, and professional schools; state 17
Animal production and aquaculture 12
Crop production 11
Support activities for agriculture and forestry 8

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 work settings may face noise from processing and farming machinery, extreme temperatures, and odors from chemicals or animals.

Work Schedules

Agricultural and food science technicians typically work full time and have standard work schedules. Some of these technicians work longer hours, have variable schedules, or travel extensively.

How to Become an Agricultural or Food Science Technician About this section

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

Agricultural and food science technicians typically need an associate’s degree in biology, chemistry, crop or animal science, or a related field. Many positions require a bachelor’s degree. For those positions requiring only a high school diploma, technicians typically need to have previous work experience. Technicians often receive on-the-job training that may cover topics such as production techniques, personal hygiene, and sanitation procedures.

Education

Students interested in this occupation 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. Many agricultural and food science technician positions require a bachelor’s degree. While in college, prospective technicians learn through a combination of technical instruction and hands-on experiences, such as internships.

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

A background in the biological or chemical sciences is important for most agricultural and food science technicians. Students may find it helpful to take courses in biology, chemistry, plant or animal science, and agricultural engineering as part of their programs. Many schools offer internships, cooperative-education, and other programs designed to provide hands-on experience and enhance employment prospects.

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 according to the 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 and accuracy.

Communication skills. Agricultural and food science technicians must be able to 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 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.

Work Experience in a Related Occupation

Workers who enter the occupation with only a high school diploma often must have years of experience in a related occupation during which they develop their knowledge of agriculture or manufacturing processes. For more information, see the profiles on food and tobacco processing workers and agricultural workers.

Pay About this section

Agricultural and Food Science Technicians

Median annual wages, May 2014

Life, physical, and social science technicians

$42,630

Total, all occupations

$35,540

Agricultural and food science technicians

$35,140

 

The median annual wage for agricultural and food science technicians was $35,140 in May 2014. 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 $22,380, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $55,170.

Agricultural and food science technicians typically work full time and have standard work schedules. Some of these technicians work more than standard full-time schedules, have variable schedules, or travel extensively.

Job Outlook About this section

Agricultural and Food Science Technicians

Percent change in employment, projected 2014-24

Total, all occupations

7%

Life, physical, and social science technicians

5%

Agricultural and food science technicians

5%

 

Employment of agricultural and food technicians is projected to grow 5 percent from 2014 to 2024, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Advances in technology and scientific knowledge related to food production will require greater control of the production and processing activities, increasing demand for these workers. Continued population growth will drive the need to make production and processing methods more efficient. Greater awareness and enforcement of food safety regulations will expand inspection requirements, increasing the need for agricultural and food science technicians as producers and manufacturers seek ways to improve the quality of their products.

Employment projections data for agricultural and food science technicians, 2014-24
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2014 Projected Employment, 2024 Change, 2014-24 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Agricultural and food science technicians

19-4011 33,000 34,700 5 1,600 [XLSX]

State & Area Data About this section

Occupational Employment Statistics (OES)

The Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program produces employment and wage estimates annually for over 800 occupations. These estimates are available for the nation as a whole, for individual states, and for metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas. The link(s) below go to OES data maps for employment and wages by state and area.

Projections Central

Occupational employment projections are developed for all states by Labor Market Information (LMI) or individual state Employment Projections offices. All state projections data are available at www.projectionscentral.com. Information on this site allows projected employment growth for an occupation to be compared among states or to be compared within one state. In addition, states may produce projections for areas; there are links to each state’s websites where these data may be retrieved.

Career InfoNet

America’s Career InfoNet includes hundreds of occupational profiles with data available by state and metro area. There are links in the left-hand side menu to compare occupational employment by state and occupational wages by local area or metro area. There is also a salary info tool to search for wages by zip code.

Similar Occupations About this section

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of agricultural and food science technicians.

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION Help 2014 MEDIAN PAY Help
Agricultural and food scientists

Agricultural and Food Scientists

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

Bachelor's degree $60,690
Agricultural engineers

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.

Bachelor's degree $71,730
Agricultural workers

Agricultural Workers

Agricultural workers maintain the quality of farms, crops, and livestock by operating machinery and doing physical labor under the supervision of farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers.

See How to Become One $19,330
Animal care and service workers

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. Job tasks vary by position and place of work.

High school diploma or equivalent $20,610
Biological technicians

Biological Technicians

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

Bachelor's degree $41,290
Chemical technicians

Chemical Technicians

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

Associate's degree $44,180
Conservation scientists and foresters

Conservation Scientists and Foresters

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

Bachelor's degree $60,360
Farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers

Farmers, Ranchers, and Other Agricultural Managers

Farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers operate establishments that produce crops, livestock, and dairy products.

High school diploma or equivalent $68,050
Microbiologists

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.

Bachelor's degree $67,790
Food and tobacco processing workers

Food and Tobacco Processing Workers

Food and tobacco processing workers operate equipment that mixes, cooks, or processes ingredients used in the manufacture of food and tobacco products.

See How to Become One $26,230

Contacts for More Information About this section

For more information about agricultural and soil science occupations, including certification, visit

American Society of Agronomy

Soil Science Society of America

For more information about food and animal science occupations, including certifications, 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 Institute

O*NET

Agricultural Technicians

Agricultural and Food Science Technicians

Food Science Technicians

Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Agricultural and Food Science Technicians,
on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/agricultural-and-food-science-technicians.htm (visited February 08, 2016).

Publish Date: Thursday, December 17, 2015

What They Do

The What They Do tab describes the typical duties and responsibilities of workers in the occupation, including what tools and equipment they use and how closely they are supervised. This tab also covers different types of occupational specialties.

Work Environment

The Work Environment tab includes the number of jobs held in the occupation and describes the workplace, the level of physical activity expected, and typical hours worked. It may also discuss the major industries that employed the occupation. This tab may also describe opportunities for part-time work, the amount and type of travel required, any safety equipment that is used, and the risk of injury that workers may face.

How to Become One

The How to Become One tab describes how to prepare for a job in the occupation. This tab can include information on education, training, work experience, licensing and certification, and important qualities that are required or helpful for entering or working in the occupation.

Pay

The Pay tab describes typical earnings and how workers in the occupation are compensated—annual salaries, hourly wages, commissions, tips, or bonuses. Within every occupation, earnings vary by experience, responsibility, performance, tenure, and geographic area. This tab may also provide information on earnings in the major industries employing the occupation.

State & Area Data

The State and Area Data tab provides links to state and area occupational data from the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program, state projections data from Projections Central, and occupational information from the Department of Labor's Career InfoNet.

Job Outlook

The Job Outlook tab describes the factors that affect employment growth or decline in the occupation, and in some instances, describes the relationship between the number of job seekers and the number of job openings.

Similar Occupations

The Similar Occupations tab describes occupations that share similar duties, skills, interests, education, or training with the occupation covered in the profile.

Contacts for More Information

The More Information tab provides the Internet addresses of associations, government agencies, unions, and other organizations that can provide additional information on the occupation. This tab also includes links to relevant occupational information from the Occupational Information Network (O*NET).

2014 Median Pay

The wage at which half of the workers in the occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. Median wage data are from the BLS Occupational Employment Statistics survey. In May 2014, the median annual wage for all workers was $35,540.

On-the-job Training

Additional training needed (postemployment) to attain competency in the skills needed in this occupation.

Entry-level Education

Typical level of education that most workers need to enter this occupation.

Work experience in a related occupation

Work experience that is commonly considered necessary by employers, or is a commonly accepted substitute for more formal types of training or education.

Number of Jobs, 2014

The employment, or size, of this occupation in 2014, which is the base year of the 2014-24 employment projections.

Job Outlook, 2014-24

The projected percent change in employment from 2014 to 2024. The average growth rate for all occupations is 7 percent.

Employment Change, 2014-24

The projected numeric change in employment from 2014 to 2024.

Entry-level Education

Typical level of education that most workers need to enter this occupation.

On-the-job Training

Additional training needed (postemployment) to attain competency in the skills needed in this occupation.

Employment Change, projected 2014-24

The projected numeric change in employment from 2014 to 2024.

Growth Rate (Projected)

The percent change of employment for each occupation from 2014 to 2024.

Projected Number of New Jobs

The projected numeric change in employment from 2014 to 2024.

Projected Growth Rate

The projected percent change in employment from 2014 to 2024.

2014 Median Pay

The wage at which half of the workers in the occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. Median wage data are from the BLS Occupational Employment Statistics survey. In May 2014, the median annual wage for all workers was $35,547.