Soil technicians perform an entry-level support role as part of a team that measures and analyzes soil samples. These technicians work for construction companies, agricultural businesses and government organizations, such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The information they supply helps farmers increase production, assists environmental conservation and ensures the safety of construction projects.
Education for Soil Science
Undergraduate programs in soil science provide the best education for soil technicians. The curriculum covers a broad range of study, including microbiology, chemistry, earth science, math, geography, soil studies and laboratory work. Opportunities to connect with employers through co-operative work programs provide undergraduates with hands-on experience, course credit and employment. An undergraduate degree in this program usually takes three to four years. A master's degree or a Ph.D in the field increases the quality and quantity of work opportunities. Graduate programs also allow you to specialize in a field, such as molecular environmental soil science.
Certification and Training
Prospective soil technicians may enroll in training and certification programs that further increase their skills and marketability. Post-graduate programs may offer advanced courses in soil physics and classification that may lead to certification in soil management, for example. Other types of certification teach technicians how to measure the erosion of soil and the earth's ability to withstand pressure created by heavily trafficked roads or large buildings. This helps pinpoint underground causes of sinkholes or warns cliffside homeowners of danger from the earth eroding beneath their feet.
Soil Technician Duties
Your main responsibility as an entry-level soil technician involves gathering samples and obtaining information for research. Some technicians test the soil for structural stability to determine the composition and density of the earth. This type of testing provides valuable information for construction projects and the prevention of erosion. You also help with surveys and design duties for conservation project implementation. As you gather experience, you may conduct independent surveys, work with landowners and train entry-level personnel.
Additional Duties and Qualifications
Soil technicians also perform tests for agricultural purposes, providing farmers with vital information about the condition of their soil. They perform data entry tasks and make sure that samples that arrive at the lab are not altered or destroyed. Entry-level soil technician positions typically require at least one year of study in a related field, like forestry, agriculture or conservation. Promotion typically requires a bachelor's degree in a related field, although employers occasionally consider experience as a replacement for advanced education. Soil technicians may rise to become leaders in their fields. For example, soil technicians for the U.S. Department of Agricultural have the chance to become soil conservationists.