Environmental and Soil Science – Conservation Agriculture and Environmental Sustainability Concentration Major Guide for 2012-2013

What is Environmental and Soil Science – Conservation Agriculture and Environmental Sustainability Concentration

There is a movement afoot to transform agriculture into a much more sustainable enterprise, including the proliferation of organic farms. The Conservation Agriculture and Environmental Sustainability Concentration in the Environmental and Soil Sciences major is challenging, science-based and emphasizes an ecosystem approach to crop production and sustainability of our precious natural resources. In addition, it provides excellent preparation for careers in international agriculture, crop consulting, and international corporations.  Students in this program study basic natural sciences such as chemistry and plant sciences, as well as applied areas such as integrated pest management, soil sciences, climate change, and natural resource policy.  Students also build expertise with modern technologies such as geographical information systems, global positioning systems, and computer applications in crop production and natural resource management.

Career Opportunities in Environmental and Soil Science – Conservation Agriculture and Environmental Sustainability

As a Conservation Agronomist, you can choose from a wide range of job opportunities that take you into the field, laboratory, or office. Federal, State, and local governments employ 25 percent of all conservation agronomists. Many conservation agronomists work at consulting firms, helping businesses, farmers, and landowners manage their natural resources. Conservation agronomists also write risk assessments and technical proposals, describing the likely effects of crop production and other environmental changes. Examples of potential careers include:  owning and operating your own sustainable/organic farm; working in a university or industry setting as a conservation and natural resource specialist or scientist; private consulting in environmental and agricultural areas; working in a soil, plant and water analysis laboratory; and working with non-governmental organizations in efforts to protect and teach about crop production and how to protect natural resources. Graduates also have the theoretical training necessary for attaining advanced degrees in a variety of agronomic- or natural resource-related fields or law school. Our students take core physical and biological sciences, math, plant and soil classes that can lead to certification as a soil scientist, a professional requirement in many agencies and companies.

Salary Trends in Environmental and Soil Science – Conservation Agriculture and Environmental Sustainability

According to the 2010-11 Occupational Outlook Handbook by the U.S. Department of Labor, median annual wages of conservation agronomists were $58,390 in May 2008. The middle 50 percent earned between $44,150 and $78,080. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $34,260, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $105,340.  The average Federal salary in 2009 was $79,158 in agronomy. According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, beginning salary offers in July 2009 for graduates with a bachelor’s degree in agronomy was 34,699 a year.

High School Preparation

Successful Conservation Agriculture and Environmental Sustainability students typically have a good high school background in math, physics, biology, earth science, and chemistry. This background will enable you to more easily begin your college work. Also, if you are able to earn advanced placement credit in some of these areas, you may have additional options later in your degree program. These could include taking specialized courses that interest you, working in a lab, or contributing to a research project and thus providing valuable experience and improving your employment opportunities.

Freshman admission to the program follows the general requirements of the University. Admission chances are enhanced by high ACT/SAT scores and a solid high school transcript.

Transfer Student Preparation

The transfer students that do best in Conservation Agriculture and Environmental Sustainability come in with a strong background in the physical and biological science, and math, having done well in the equivalent of Chemistry I, Geology, Biology I, and pre-calculus.  Having most of the general education core completed is recommended. In addition, transfer students from community colleges do best at UT when they have completed 60 credit hours at the community college. Several community colleges offer an introductory crop and soil science classes which will transfer to the this concentration.

How to Major in Environmental and Soil Science – Conservation Agriculture and Environmental Sustainability Concentration

The Conservation Agriculture and Environmental Sustainability concentration is housed in the Biosystems Engineering & Soil Science Department under the Environmental and Soil Science major. Our faculty and students enjoy talking with prospective students. A faculty member (or a student, if you prefer) will be happy to guide you through our labs and answer your questions about the department, major, and career opportunities. It is important to choose your desired concentration early (preferably at or before enrollment), to avoid having to make up specific required courses. There are provisions for elective courses to be taken in specific subject areas at various stages of your degree program. Students consult with their faculty advisors each semester about their interests and the appropriate classes to meet the students’ needs.

Requirements for Environmental and Soil Science – Conservation Agriculture and Environmental Sustainability Concentration

During the freshman year, the Conservation Agriculture and Environmental Sustainability Concentration emphasizes foundational physical and biological sciences, writing skills and necessary math. The sophomore year includes science, as well as computer applications, economics, statistics, and some introductory core courses.

In the junior and senior years, the Conservation Agriculture and Environmental Sustainability Concentration directs students into a variety of core courses that emphasize crop, soil, and ecological sciences. The Conservation Agriculture and Environmental Sustainability Concentration shares many courses with the Environmental Science and Soil Science Concentrations, but focuses more intensely on the ecological aspects of crop production, as well as organic farming and natural resource conservation.

Directed technical electives allow students to focus on an area of interest. This focus introduces students to natural resource problems and their management, including:
• Soil and water conservation issues
• Integrated and sustainable pest management
• Animal production

Other areas of interest can be pursued through the appropriate selection of technical electives.

Special Programs, Co-ops, and Internships

An internship is a structured 10-12 week work session, usually in the summer, in which you apply what you have learned in the classroom to real-life problems, while being mentored by a trained professional. Students are employed in paid full-time positions by industry, business, and government organizations, providing valuable experience and a competitive salary. The Environmental and Soil Sciences program encourages all students to intern while in college. Can you see yourself helping with a working organic farm, assisting with research at the UT Orgnaic Research Unit, or doing field measurements for the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service?

Here are some additional reasons to consider Conservation Agriculture and Environmental Sustainability at UT:

  • An excellent student:professor ratio. This means more one-to-one time with professors for academic counseling and assistance with coursework. Graduates consistently rank our outstanding, caring faculty as one of our strengths.
  • Training in delivering presentations — through seminars, poster sessions, papers, and attendance at professional meetings.
  • Excellent scholarship support. Our students are eligible for scholarship money from both the University and the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources.
  • An active student Plant, Soil and Environmental Science club with numerous fun and civic activities.
  • The chance to participate in Soil Vols, our soil judging team.

Ready for the World logoReady for the World

In addition to providing its graduates with a skill set and academic preparation that are needed around the world, Soil Science takes an international perspective in both its research and educational missions.  Departmental researchers have recently worked in or cooperated with researchers from countries ranging from Australia to Zambia, with countries in-between including Taiwan, Vietnam, Brazil, Ecuador, and many others.  Students have spent semesters abroad in countries from Sweden to Malta to South Africa, and have traveled with College trips to Thailand, Mexico, and Jamaica.  Finally, our student body includes students from Senegal, South Africa, Thailand, Turkey, China, Colombia, and other countries.  CASNR does offer some scholarships for CASNR students participating in study abroad programs.  Students, faculty and staff participate in the annual Unity through Diversity Dinner held each fall.  Some students select a minor in Modern Foreign Languages and Literature.  Soil Science is not only ready for the world; it sees its mission as meeting needs throughout the world.

Learn more about UT’s Ready for the World initiative to help students gain the international and intercultural knowledge they need to succeed in today’s world.

Sample Curriculum

Freshman Year Credit Hours
Studies in Ag & Natural resources 1
Botany 8
General Chemistry 8
Business Math or Math for the Life Sciences 6
Water and Civilizations 3
English Composition 6
Critical Courses: Biol 111-112, Chem 100-110 or 120-130, ESS 120, Math 123 or 151
Sophomore Year Credit Hours
Soils classes 7
Computer Applications 3
Geology 4
Introductory Economics 4
Statistics 3
Plant Science 3
Soils and Civilizations 3
General education electives 3
Critical Courses: ESS 210, Geol 101, AREC 201
Junior Year Credit Hours
Accounting 3
Agribusiness 3
Soil Nutrient Management 3
Professional Development 1
Plant and Pest classes 9
General Education electives 9
Technical Elective 3
Critical Courses: ESS 334, EPP 313 or 321
Senior Year Credit Hours
Agribusiness and Resource Econ 6
Surveying 3
Production technology 3
Soil Microbiology or Physics 3
Soil Genesis and Classification 3
Environmental Climatology 3
Crop production 3
Technical Electives 8
Critical Courses: ESS 442, 462, 444 or 454

For More Information

Department of Biosystems Engineering and Soil Science
University of Tennessee
2506 E.J. Chapman Drive
Knoxville, TN 37996-4531
Phone: (865) 974-7266, 974-7237
Email bess@utk.edu
Web http://bioengr.ag.utk.edu/students


The information on this page should be considered general information only. For more specific information on this and other programs refer to the UT catalog or contact the department and/or college directly.