Money doesn't grow on trees, but for these workers, it may be found in the dirt. Dedicated to keeping soils healthy, nutrient-rich and safe from erosion, soil conservationists help farmers and government entities retain soil nutrients and water-holding capacity.
Soil conservationists "study everything from the physics of soils, the chemistry of soils, the biology of soils, the organisms and microorganisms that live in soils, how soils appear in the landscape, and how they develop," says Nicholas Comerford, director of the University of Florida's North Florida Research and Education Center and former president of the Soil Science Society of America. They may also work in areas such as waste management, soil mapping or degraded land reclamation.
Though many soil conservation jobs are available through the U.S. Department of Agriculture, they're also found through public health organizations and environmental consulting firms, Comerford says. Breaking into the field requires a bachelor's degree in soil conservation or soil science, though some employers require additional certification through SSSA.
BLS reports the median soil scientist salary is $58,740, with the top 10 percent of workers earning nearly $97,000.