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Academic Majors


Soil Science

Soil and water are our most important resources. They provide the food, fiber and foundation of our existence. Soil science is the study of the soil as a component of natural and man-made systems. Soil science is the key factor in food production and is at the forefront of environmental and natural resource issues such as land use, soil contamination, ground water quality and waste disposal.

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The Program

Soil science is a major offered as a four-year Bachelor of Science degree in the School of Natural Resource Sciences. Soil science is an earth science that combines the studies of the atmosphere, surface and subsurface waters, mineral earth deposits and biological ecosystems. This natural science emphasizes the real world applications of biology, chemistry, physics and mathematics. Each student designs a program according to his or her personal abilities, interests and career goals. Soil science graduates gain an appreciation of agriculture production, environmental concerns and natural resource issues.

Research in the Department of Soil Science is basic and applied. Several faculty lead the nation and world in environmental earth sciences, remediation and soil fertility. This research expands our understanding of pollutant movement in soils, the maintenance and reconstruction of disturbed soils, and the production of crops from soybeans to sugar beets.

Many students from natural resources management and students enrolled in other majors across campus pursue a soil science minor. A student minoring in soil science is eligible to receive the status of soil scientist with the USDA and other government agencies.

Career Opportunities

Graduates in soil science obtain positions in environmental science, production agriculture, conservation, consulting, research, teaching, extension and natural resource management. Agencies and businesses that hire soil science graduates include soil and plant testing labs, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, colleges of agriculture, the Extension Service, the U.S. Forest Service, agricultural experiment stations, the Bureau of Land Management, departments of health, the Public Service Commission, departments of natural resources and a variety of consulting firms and agribusiness companies. Soil scientists work in a variety of activities that apply soil science knowledge. A soil scientist's job may involve:

  1. Conducting general and detailed soil surveys;
  2. Studying soil hydrology and ecology of wetlands;
  3. Recommending soil management;
  4. Monitoring the effects of farm, ranch or forest activities on soil productivity;
  5. Managing soils for crop production, forest products and erosion control management;
  6. Evaluating nutrient and water availability to crops;
  7. Managing soils for landscape design, mine reclamation and site restoration;
  8. Assessing application of wastes including non-hazardous process wastes (residue and sludge management);
  9. Conducting studies on soil stability, moisture retention or drainage, sustainability and environmental impact; and
  10. Assessing environmental hazards, including hazardous waste sites that involve soil investigation techniques, evaluation of chemical fate and transport phenomena and remediation alternatives.

Well-trained soil scientists are in high demand for a wide array of professional positions with public agencies or private firms. Some specific examples of positions currently held by our soil science graduates over the past 10 years include:

  1. Water quality specialist, North Dakota Department of Health;
  2. Environmental specialist, Minnesota Environmental Services Department;
  3. Soil conservationist, USDA-NRCS;
  4. Staff scientist/engineer, NASA Hydrological Sciences Branch;
  5. Soil consultants, self-employed;
  6. Senior resources scientist, environmental firm;
  7. Manager, crop protection firm;
  8. Environmental specialist (wetlands), Iowa Department of Transportation;
  9. District conservationist;
  10. Hydrologist, North Dakota State Water Commission;
  11. Soil scientist, USDA-NRCS; and
  12. Professional soil scientist, environmental consulting firm.

The bachelor’s degree also prepares students for advanced training. The department offers master’s and doctoral degrees. Starting salaries with a bachelor’s degree are between $30,000 and $40,000.

Financial Aid and Scholarships

The Department of Soil Science provides ten scholarships each year, ranging from $300 to $2,300 each. Part-time employment during the school year and summer is available. An internship program leading to full-time employment is available with the Natural Resources Conservation Service. Other scholarship opportunities are possible through the College of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Natural Resources.

The Faculty

The Department of Soil Science has 10 faculty involved in teaching, research and extension. They provide expertise in the following specialized areas: (1) environmental soil science; (2) soil genesis, morphology and classification; (3) soil fertility, fertilizers and plant nutrition; (4) soil chemistry; (5) soil physics and hydrology; (6) soil management and conservation; and (7) soil health. Student learning is enhanced by incorporation of current research into classroom learning.

Sample Curriculum

General Education Requirements
    First Year Experience
1     AGRI 189 - Skills for Academic Success
3     COMM 110 - Fundamentals of Public Speaking
3, 3     ENGL 110, 120 - College Composition I, II
3     English Upper Level Writing Course
    Quantitative Reasoning
3     STAT 330 - Introductory Statistics
    Science & Technology
3, 1     CHEM 121, 121L - General Chemistry I and Lab
3     CHEM 122 - General Chemistry II
3     PLSC 110 - World Food Crops
6   Humanities & Fine Arts
6   Social & Behavioral Sciences
2   Wellness
-   Cultural Diversity
    Global Perspective
3     PLSC 110 - World Food Crops
40   Total
Credits   Major Requirements
1   AGRI 150 - Agriculture Orientation
4   GEOG 455 - Introduction to Geographic Information 
         Systems or
       RNG 452 - Geographic Information Systems in
           Range Survey
3   PLSC 225 - Principles of Crop Production or
        RNG 336 - Introduction to Range Management
3   SOIL 210 - Introduction Soil Science
3   SOIL 217 - Introduction to Meteorology 
          and Climatology
3   SOIL 264 - Natural Resource Management Systems
3   SOIL 322 - Soil Fertility and Fertilizers
3   SOIL 351 - Soil Ecology
3   SOIL 410 - Soils and Land Use
3   SOIL 433 - Soil Physics
3   SOIL 444 - Soil Genesis and Survey
3   SOIL 462 - Natural Resource and Rangeland Planning
35   Total
Credits   Related Requirements
4   BIOL 150, 150L - General Biology I and Lab
4   BIOL 151, 151L - General Biology II and Lab or
         PHYS 212, 212L - College Physics II and Lab
3   BOT 380 - Plant Physiology
1   CHEM 122L - General Chemistry II Lab
3-5   CHEM 240 - Survey of Organic Chemistry or 
      CHEM 260 - Elements of Biochemistry or
        CHEM 341 - Organic Chemistry I or 
          CHEM 431, 431L - Analytical I and Lab or
             MICR 202, 202L - Introductory
                Microbiology and Lab or
                   MICR 350, 350L - General
                       Microbiology and Lab
3, 1   GEOL 105, 105L - Physical Geology and Lab
3   MATH 103 - College Algebra
3   MATH 105 - Trigonometry
4   MATH 146 - Applied Calculus I or
      MATH 165 - Calculus I
3, 1   PHYS 211, 211L - College Physics I and Lab
9   Agriculture Electives
10   Electives
52-54   Total

This sample curriculum is not intended to serve as a curriculum guide for current students, but rather an example of course offerings for prospective students. For the curriculum requirements in effect at the time of entrance into a program, consult with an academic advisor or with the Office of Registration and Records.

Walster Hall
Room 106

Walster Hall is located on the north end of campus on Albrecht Boulevard, just south of the high rises (Campus Map)

Contact Information

Department of Soil Science
School of Natural Resource Sciences
North Dakota State University
Walster Hall 106
Dept #7680, PO Box 6050
Fargo, ND 58108-6050

Tel: (701) 231-8901 / Fax: (701) 231-7861

Office of Admission
North Dakota State University
Ceres 114
Dept #5230, PO Box 6050
Fargo, ND 58108-6050

Tel: (701) 231-8643 / Fax: (701) 231-8802



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Office of Admission
North Dakota State University
Phone: +1 (701) 231-8643 / Fax: (701) 231-8802
Campus address: Ceres Hall 114
Physical/delivery address: 1301 Administration Ave., Fargo, ND 58102
Mailing address: NDSU Dept. 5230 / PO Box 6050 / Fargo, ND 58108-6050
Page manager: NDSU Webmaster

Last Updated: Tuesday, July 26, 2016 3:54:48 PM
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