Agricultural and food scientists, or agriculturists, study all aspects of crops, plants and food animals. The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics tracks salaries for agricultural and food scientists in three subcategories. These three subcategories represent the primary areas of specialization that agricultural scientists choose. Salaries can vary by specialty, industry and location.
Food Scientists and Technologists
Food scientists apply their knowledge of chemistry, engineering, microbiology and related sciences to analyze the content of foods and to determine optimal processing and packaging methods. The average annual salary was $65,380, according to May 2010 data published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The best-paid 10 percent earned $106,160 or more, and the lowest-paid 10 percent earned $34,330 or less. The federal government was the best-paying industry, offering average salaries of $92,810 annually. Of the states reporting salary data in this occupation to the bureau, Hawaii and New Jersey had the highest average wages for the occupation: $100,930 and $95,140, respectively.
Animal scientists research the development, reproduction, nutrition and genetics of farm animals. The category doesn't include veterinary services. As of May 2010, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the average salary for this occupation was $68,170, with the highest-paid 10 percent earning at least $117,150 and the lowest-compensated earning no more than $33,980. The industries offering the highest average salaries were the federal government, at $101,070, and companies providing animal production support, at $95,880. The bureau reported that animal scientists in Maryland averaged $100,700 annually, while those in California earned an average of $98,810.
Soil and Plant Scientists
Scientists who choose to specialize in plants and soil may research crop yields, conduct breeding experiments or analyze how plants, trees and crops respond to differing soil compositions. They may analyze the mineral and chemical elements of soil to determine the effects on plant growth or investigate methods of pest control. The average salary was $62,600, according to bureau data for May 2010, with 10 percent earning $34,420 or less, and 10 percent earning $101,740 or more. Manufacturers of fertilizers, pesticides and other agricultural chemicals paid the highest average salary, at $84,160, and the federal government paid the second-highest, at $77,510. The two best-paying states were Maryland, at $88,540, and West Virginia, at $82,730.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that the demand for agricultural and food scientists will increase approximately 16 percent by 2018, a rate faster than the overall average. Growth will be fueled by emerging technologies, such as crops that are genetically engineered to resist pests, as well as the need to protect the environment while optimizing output. Other emerging industries, such as biofuels and biosecurity, will also require agricultural and food scientists.
2016 Salary Information for Agricultural and Food Scientists
Agricultural and food scientists earned a median annual salary of $62,670 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, agricultural and food scientists earned a 25th percentile salary of $47,880, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $84,090, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 43,000 people were employed in the U.S. as agricultural and food scientists.