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How to Become a Soil Technician

Do you have a love for nature and science? If you want to pursue a career that helps improve the environment and public safety, a career as a soil technician may be for you.

Soil technicians are key members of a team of professionals who test and analyze soil samples to provide clients with compositional data and recommendations. Their findings can help determine whether a piece of land is buildable to where and how to plant crops. Soil technicians are needed in many fields, including environmental compliance, construction, and agriculture. 

Sample job description

From construction to agriculture, many industries rely on the expertise of soil technicians to develop recommendations for best practices. Understanding the properties of a site’s soil composition is important to protect the site from the damages of erosion. A soil technician analyzes the soil to make the best recommendations. [Your company name] is looking for skilled soil technicians to join our team. If you have excellent observational, communication, and critical thinking skills, our company could be the perfect fit.

Typical duties and responsibilities

  • Test and analyze soil, aggregates, concrete, and other materials
  • Document and explain all findings and note any issues or concerns
  • Collaborate with contractors, technicians, and project managers
  • Compile and present findings and recommendations to decision-makers 

Education and experience

  • This position requires an associate degree, preferably with courses in ecology, biology, chemistry, and global environmental issues. Employers often prefer candidates with a bachelor’s degree and certification as an environmental professional.

Required skills and qualifications

  • Broad knowledge of federal, state, and local environmental regulations
  • Experience with ecological surveying and reporting
  • Knowledge of various sampling techniques and equipment
  • Critical thinking and problem-solving skills
  • Robust technical writing, analytical, and communications skills 
  • Proficient in Microsoft Office Suite and industry-related software
  • Comfortable with fieldwork

Preferred qualifications

  • Bachelor’s degree in science, agriculture, or related field
  • Experience working with the local soil
  • Passion for environmental science

Typical work environment

Due to the nature of a soil technician’s work, their time is usually spent both out in the field, where they collect soil samples from construction sites and farmland, and in the lab, where they analyze the samples and develop recommendations based on their findings. You’ll need to work in all weather conditions in many different environments, depending on the worksite, and be prepared for different safety procedures. 

Typical hours

The typical work hours for a soil technician are from 9 AM to 5 PM, Monday through Friday, typically in an office or laboratory setting, or in the field. 

Available certifications

Because soil technicians are needed in so many different industries, the market for soil technicians is flourishing, and certifications are available to help you advance your career. 

  • Aggregate/Soils Base Testing Technician. Offered through the American Concrete Institute, this certification program is available nationwide. The certification requires prior experience and knowledge of performing, recording, and analyzing soil/aggregate samples in the field and in the laboratory. The certification program reviews AASHTO/ASTM standards to prepare you for both the written and performance exams. 
  • Construction Materials Testing Soils Certification. The NICET certification program prepares technicians for working in the field and in the lab with materials collected from construction sites. The program has four levels, beginning with the basics in Level I of sampling standards, how to collect samples, how to test and identify samples, and safety procedures on a construction site and moving up to level IV, which prepares candidates to work in managing roles. 
  • Certified Professional Soil Scientist. The Soil Science Society of America offers this certification program, which requires a Bachelor’s degree, with five years post-degree experience, 15 soil-specific credit hours, and 45 credit hours of supporting classes. The program both adds credibility to your portfolio as well as helps you better serve your clients.

Career path

The path to becoming a soil technician starts with earning an associate degree, preferably with courses in ecology, biology, chemistry, and global environmental issues. Advancements in supervisory and managerial positions are higher for those who complete at least a bachelor’s degree program. Faculty and leading research positions may require the completion of a master’s or doctoral degree program. Employers often prefer candidates with Environmental Professional certification.

US, Bureau of Labor Statistics’ job outlook

SOC Code: 19-4043

2020 Employment34,200
Projected Employment in 203037,800
Projected 2020-2030 Percentage Shift 11% increase
Projected 2020-2030 Numeric Shift3,600 increase

Soil technicians will be expected to make valuable recommendations on how to balance growing environmental concerns with the ever-increasing demands of population growth. The need for energy, environmental protection, and responsible land and resource management should spur demand for this position.