Agronomy announces new soil science certificate

July 1, 2020

Soil science will offer a certificate between a minor and a major by providing official recognition for the focus area of study. A bachelor's degree from Iowa State University is not required to earn the certificate, and it is designed to match up with federal and state requirements to obtain a federal job classified for soil scientists and get licensure in states requiring it. 

Dr. Bradley Miller, assistant professor of agronomy, explains that the certificate requires 31 credits, but 22 of those may count from other academic programs that students are involved in. The certificate is built to help students have a strong foundation in understanding soil systems.

"Students need to take one foundation course in soil science and 13 credits from their choice of courses covering the areas of soil physical properties and soil water relationships, soil chemistry, soil biology, as well as soil morphology and geography," said Miller. "The remainder of the certificate courses will come from the student's choice of a long list of supporting biological, physical, and/or Earth Sciences courses, depending on the student's interests. Many students will already meet a majority of these requirements by the selection of courses within their science or engineering major."

Soil science is highly valued by agriculture due to its many impacts on crop productivity and is also being recognized as vital to Earth systems in general.

"Understanding soil is critical for addressing issues of food scarcity, infrastructure development, water management, climate change, biodiversity loss, and human health," said Miller. "Soil provides many ecosystem services that are crucial for achieving sustainability goals."

The soil science certificate will guide how students can select their courses to, in turn, open more career opportunities for them. Students will be eligible for jobs that require specialized education in soil science, which will allow their understanding of the many components of soil.

"I think that this certificate is a fantastic idea and it will be incredibly useful for me," said Haley Wilson, senior in agronomy. "This certificate will help me and others because it gives us a jump start to our career. I will be able to obtain this certificate by taking classes that don't just feel like work because of the amount of enjoyment and knowledge I have gained, and it will allow me to be a federally classified soil scientist immediately after I receive it."

Haley plans to stay with the NRCS for her career. This certificate will allow her to finish out her internship and last year of college and then continue to make a difference in the community by helping farmers help their land upon graduation.

"Iowa State University has been home for groundbreaking soil science since the university's interception, which makes sense due to the importance of soil to Iowa's economy. Today, Iowa State University has one of the largest, most recognized soil science faculty in the world," said Miller. "This certificate is the first time that Iowa State undergraduates will be able to recieve official academic recognition in soil science, as opposed to advising themes or options within a major."

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