Soil Science

The food that nourishes us, the water that we drink and the air that we breathe all depend on soils and their life-sustaining properties. Soil Science at the UW-Madison provides an understanding of the practical application of biology, chemistry, physics and earth science principles to integrated land use and environmental protection. Soil Science graduates enjoy a wide array of science, technology and business opportunities in economic and environmentally sound management of natural, agricultural and urban ecosystems.

Does Soil Science Fit Your Interests and Background?

A career in Soil Science can take you in many directions. If you love to be outdoors, there are opportunities to map and classify soils, to work as a field consultant for farmers or companies and organizations that sell them services and supplies. Or you could manage turf on golf courses, athletic fields and lawns. If your interests center on protecting and restoring the environment, there are a variety of careers that deal with soil and environmental pollution. These include many jobs that will let you explore biological or chemical solutions to challenging environmental problems and issues. Careers in both public and private sectors as laboratory technicians can be rewarding; jobs in natural resource inventory land use planning and management offer a variety of interesting and challenging opportunities.

If you have a strong interest in biology, chemistry, physics and mathematics, you have an excellent starting point for studying the soil. Interests in plants, ecology, environment and pollution control also fit in well.

Choose from Degree Options

You can choose among several undergraduate degree options:

  • Natural Sciences
    Choose this option if you want to pursue an advanced degree in soil science or related fields, or if you want to apply your technical expertise to natural resource and issues and problems related to environmental protection. Courses in math, physics, chemistry, and the biological sciences provide the basis for specialization in environmental, physical or biological systems.
  • Natural Resources
    This option prepares you for a professional career with organizations or businesses that deal with land management, soil and water conservation or watershed management. Students in these areas study earth resources, ecology, resource economics and management, conservation, and human resource interactions. This is a good bet for students who want to specialize in planning and policy related to environmental management, waste management or soil resource inventory and land use planning.
  • Agricultural Sciences, Production Systems or Business
    If you want to work in jobs directly related to production of agricultural crops, management of turf and landscaped areas or forest nurseries, this is the degree for you. This option requires courses in agricultural social science, biological systems engineering, horticulture, agronomy, plant pathology, entomology, accounting and personnel management.
  • International Agriculture and Natural Resources
    This degree is for students who look forward to the prospect of living and working in other countries for at least part of their careers. Degree requirements include courses in the biological, physical, natural and social sciences as they relate to international agriculture and natural resources development. Competency in a foreign language and international experience are required.

Experience Outside of Class

Soil science students can choose from an abundance of summer internships in government, private and public agencies, private industry, consulting firms, landscape companies and golf courses. Summer jobs and internships are available with the Department of Soil Science on research projects conducted by soil science faculty. Student employment opportunities are also available during the school year.

Where You’ll be Learning

About 65 undergraduate and 35 graduate students are currently enrolled in the Soil Science program. The faculty is among the best in the world. The department has modern laboratories and teaching facilities in three adjacent buildings at UW-Madison. There are land and facilities for field studies near Madison, and an array of international contacts and collaborators for work around the world.

Scholarships and Other Financial Support

Approximately $500,000 in scholarships are awarded each year by the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences based on curricular activities and scholastic achievement. The Department of Soil Science also has its own scholarships for students with particular career interests.

For more information contact the Department of Soil Science:

Prospective Student Services: College of Agricultural and Life Sciences Office of Academic Affairs

The University of Wisconsin-Madison is an AA/EEO institution. University policies create additional protection that prohibits harassment on the basis of cultural background and ethnicity. Inquires concerning these policies may be directed to the appropriate campus admitting or employing unit or to the Equity and Diversity Resource Center, 179-A, Bascom Hall, (608) 263-2378, TTY (608) 263-2473.