During the last several decades, members of the SSSA have discussed several trends related to soil science education, including: (i) declining academic programs and course offerings at land grant universities, (ii) decreased enrollments, and (iii) improved employment opportunities for soil science graduates (SSSA, 2006; Ferris et al., 2010). The SSSA Advocacy/Education Task Force met in 2007 and concluded that quantitative survey information was needed to document trends in soil science academic programs, student enrollment, faculty, and job opportunities for graduates. Suggested survey topics included:
- Has the recognition of soil science as a distinct discipline increased or decreased?
- How has the job market changed during the past decade, and how will job opportunities for soil scientists change in the future?
- How have undergraduate and graduate soils curricula changed during the last decade?
- Has enrollment in soil science degree programs and courses changed during the past decade?
- Has there been a change in the degree programs of students enrolling in soils courses in the past decade?
- Have soil science programs been combined with other programs?
Therefore, the objective of the survey was to quantify trends in student enrollment, faculty positions, pertinent educational issues in soil and related sciences, and career or job opportunities and trends. Expected outcomes included a better understanding of current educational practices and trends, and identification of specific opportunities for SSSA to enhance the practice and profession of soil science.
Clearly, students, departments, and employers agree that soil science is a viable career path for diverse applications in environmental, agricultural, land resource, and related sciences. Although differences exist between student career interests and employer opportunities, enhanced promotion of soil science education and employment opportunities will advance soil science as a fundamental science integral to many related sciences.