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The title of "field assistant" encompasses several types of jobs, but generally speaking, these professionals accompany higher-level employees to assist in field work of all kinds. They often work for environmental or agricultural companies, going out into the field (sometimes literally) to collect samples and record data. Prospective field assistants should expect to spend plenty of time outdoors, working in seasonal positions.
Field Assistant Job Duties
Field assistants working for environmental and agricultural companies often tag along with field technicians to provide assistance as technicians do their jobs. Field technicians usually conduct tests to determine the sources and environmental impacts of pollutants in an effort to prevent public health threats, environmental degradation and violations of environmental and public health laws. Field assistants may help technicians in taking soil and water samples, performing laboratory tests, investigating pollution sources, preparing reports and communicating their findings with clients.
Daily tasks for a field assistant may include:
- Visiting fields to monitor weeds, disease development and insect growth.
- Collecting soil, tissue and samples from fields for analysis.
- Recording sample data for research.
- Attending meetings.
- Providing assistance with data entry.
- Assisting with research work and other projects.
- Field mapping.
- Conducting experiments to identify and resolve problems.
Working as a field assistant allows these entry-level professionals the opportunity to sharpen their scientific skills and even find mentorship from more experienced scientists and other skilled employees. Field assistants should seek feedback, carve out a niche in each job in which they want to sharpen their expertise and exercise skills and strengths that supplement and complement their superiors'.
Skill and Education Requirements
Because field assistants often work with recording and analyzing data, they should possess strong observational, mathematical, analytical and record-keeping skills. Field officer duties and responsibilities also include working with computers and proficiency in software such as Microsoft Outlook, Word and Excel. These professionals should demonstrate skills in organization and communication, and flexibility with their job requirements and location. Most employers prefer these professionals to hold an associate degree, and some might require them to possess additional knowledge – such as of organic farming and environmental laws – depending on the type of company.
Prospective field assistants should enjoy working outside and on a seasonal basis. Most employers require field assistants to hold a valid driver's license, since their work may call for travel to and within various field locations. These professionals should be physically capable of walking over uneven surfaces and exposure to outdoor conditions. These conditions may include cold weather and exposure to mosquitoes or ticks, depending on the environment at hand. Other physical requirements may include carrying heavy objects, hunching over for long periods of time or even canoeing, if assigned to collect and sample data in river environments.
The average annual wage for a field assistant in the United States amounts to $30,521, according to ZipRecruiter. Professionals in the lowest 25th percentile of the field assistant salary spectrum bring home about $26,000 per year, while those in the highest 75th percentile make an annual wage of about $31,500. These professionals deal with a relatively low wage with relatively little variance, regardless of experience. However, keep in mind that field assistants tend to work seasonally, so these wages may not necessarily represent year-round work.