Dairy Scientist: Job Description & Career Requirements

Dairy scientists apply their knowledge of science, technology and engineering to the business of milk processing and production. Learn how much education is needed to obtain a position, and find information about employment prospects and potential earnings for dairy scientists here.

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Career Definition

The modern dairy scientist may oversee a small, family-owned dairy farm where he or she manages the entire operation, but a position as part of a team at a large-scale, nationally recognized company is also a possibility. Responsibilities may include the upkeep of dairy machinery, overseeing proper nutrition for the livestock, managing breeding programs or marketing. As farming and food processing procedures have become more advanced and dependent on technology, educational requirements required by the dairy science industry become more formal and specific.

How to Become a Dairy Scientist

Required Education

A bachelor's degree in agricultural science or a relevant field of study is usually required to enter the field; some dairy scientists also pursue master's and doctoral degrees. Coursework should include topics in bovine health and breeding, agricultural systems and animal nutrition. Dairy science students who are interested in management may be interested in pursuing specializations in business administration and merchandising.

Required Skills

Managerial and organizational skills are necessary for a career in dairy science. Former experience in the dairy or agriculture industry will also be helpful. Dairy scientists must interact with a variety of industry professionals, so good communication skills will be needed.

Career and Salary Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that job growth for agricultural and food scientists, including animal and dairy scientists, is projected to grow by a fast-as-average rate of 9% from 2012-2022. The BLS also reported that the median annual salary for animal scientists was $61,680 as of May 2012 (www.bls.gov).

Alternate Career Options

Agricultural and Food Science Technicians

Agricultural and food science technicians are usually employed by farms, labs, processing plants and ranches. While providing support to agricultural and food scientists, their activities can include evaluating and measuring product output and quality, examining farm and ranch animals or operating equipment. Entry-level requirements may include a high school diploma and experience in the field; an associate or even a bachelor's degree in animal science, biology or another relevant field of study is preferred. As reported by the BLS, agricultural and food science technicians received median annual wages of $34,070 in May 2012, and employment opportunities through 2022 are projected to grow at a slower-than-average rate in comparison to all other occupations (www.bls.gov).

Famers, Ranchers and Other Agricultural Managers

Farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers oversee the production of crops, dairy products and livestock, and most of them acquire their knowledge and training on family farms. As the industry has become increasingly complex, more managers are also pursuing 4-year degrees in agricultural studies or other relevant fields. According to the BLS, employment opportunities for agricultural, farming and ranching managers are projected to decrease by 19% between 2012 and 2022. In May 2012, managers working in the field earned median annual wages of $69,300 (www.bls.gov).

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