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Careers and employment in agriculture (Part 2)

Continued from Careers and employment in agriculture (Part 1)

Careers in agriculture (continued)


Microbiology is the study of micro-organisms such as bacteria, viruses and protista that can only be seen with a microscope. We can call them “the unseen multitudes!” All living organisms have the metabolic ways to grow, reproduce and maintain themselves. A single bacterial cell, under the best conditions, can produce in less than a day more than a billion descendants. Viruses are not alive, they need a living host to survive. Today we define a virus as a noncellular infectious agent. Protista are dominated by eukaryotic organisms that are single celled. Different protista differ in their characteristics and nutrition.

What does a microbiologist do?

A microbiologist works mostly in a laboratory or a place where a microscope can be installed. It can be anywhere in the field of nutrition, agriculture, medicine, ecology, pharmacology, cosmetics, marine life or any place where animals and plants or people live. Identification is by means of DNA karyotyping.

Characteristics needed to become a microbiologist

Such a person must have a keen interest to work in a laboratory, an inquiring mind and good concentration; must be accurate and exploring. He or she must have a love for botany, zoology (biology), genetics and, in general, for living and very small things. The candidate must be self-motivated and mechanically inclined.

Career opportunities in Microbiology

QualificationDurationInstitutionEntry Requirement
BSc (Agric) MicrobiologyFour years (full time)Most Universities and Universities of TechnologyMatric exemption (not for Universities of Technology). Average 50% for Mathematics; 50% for Physical Science; Biology passed

Job opportunities

  • national ARC centres
  • DALRRD and provincial departments of agriculture
  • food industries
  • wine cellars
  • lecturing / teaching
  • private companies

Visit the website of the South African Society for Microbiology at



Plant Pathology is defined as the study of the organisms and environmental conditions that cause disease in plants, the mechanisms by which these factors cause disease, the interactions between these causal agents and the plant (effects on plant growth, yield and quality), and the methods of managing or controlling plant disease. It also interfaces knowledge from other scientific study fields such as mycology, microbiology, virology, biochemistry, bioinformatics, etc.

Plant pathologists are scientists concerned with the understanding of the dynamic processes involved in plant health. Their work is more research orientated.

Career opportunities in Plant Pathology

QualificationDurationInstitutionEntry Requirement
BSc Agric in Plant PathologyThree years (full time)Universities offering agricultural degreesMathematics and Physical Level 4 (50-59%)

Job opportunities

  • research: DALRRD and provincial departments of agriculture
  • ARC
  • agrochemical companies
  • seed companies
  • fertiliser companies
  • university academics
  • farming and nurseries
  • pharmaceutical representative
  • private company
  • private consultant

Take a look at website for the Southern African Society for Plant Pathology.



Pasture/Grassland Science deals with all aspects of the conservation, improvement and utilisation of natural and established pastures.

The pasture/grassland scientist answers questions such as how often, how severe and at what time of the year should grazing plants be defoliated, how many animals can be kept on a certain pasture and why is it necessary to put up fences and make camps.

Career opportunities in Pasture / Grassland Science

QualificationDurationInstitutionEntry Requirement
BSc (Agric) Grassland/ pasture; National Diploma in Nature ConservationThree years (full time)Most Universities, Universities of TechnologyMathematics, Agricultural Science and/or Biology Level 4 (50-59%)

Job opportunities

  • DALRRD and provincial departments of agriculture
  • SANParks – various sections of nature conservation
  • fertiliser and seed companies

Read about the Grassland Society of South Africa (GSSA) at



Soil scientists specialise in the development of soil, profile differentiation and morphology. Also concerned with soil fertility, classification and chemistry. The various divisions with focus areas of specialisation comprise the following:

  • Soil survey and analyses – Scientists study soils by means of profile pit observations or by drilling with mechanical augers and then do physical and chemical laboratory analyses. The results obtained (also compiled as maps and aerial photographs) are used as vital information for infrastructural planning (urban planning, regional planning, roads, pipelines, power lines, etc.) and agricultural management purposes.
  • Soil physicists and hydrologists study and research problems relating to water and soil interactions, soil-air permeability, formation of ploughsoles, etc.
  • Soil chemists and fertility specialists are concerned with soil nutrients availability and deficiencies using specialised techniques for the purpose of compiling the most effective fertilisation programmes.
  • Soil biologists – the focus here is on transformations brought about by micro-organisms.

Career opportunities in Soil Science

QualificationDurationInstitutionEntry Requirement
BSc (Agric) Soil Science – for a career as a soil scientistFour years (full time)Most Universities, Universities of TechnologyMathematics and Physical Science Level 4 (50-59%)
National Diploma: Soil Science – for a career as a soil technicianThree years (full time)Most Universities of Technology(As above)

Job opportunities

  • agricultural co-operatives and agribusinesses
  • manufacturers of fertilisers
  • DALRRD and provincial departments of agriculture
  • ARC
  • universities

Read about the Soil Science Society of South Africa (SSSA) at



Statisticians generate, collate, verify, maintain and disseminate statistical information on the agricultural sector, including the monitoring and projection of trends in agriculture, food security and food utilisation.

Career opportunities in Statistics

QualificationDurationInstitutionEntry Requirement
BSc (Agric) Economics or BCom (Agric Economics)Four years (full time)Most UniversitiesMathematics, Agricultural Science or Economics / Business Economics

Job opportunities

  • DALRRD and provincial departments of agriculture
  • South African National Parks (SANParks)
  • commercial banks and other financial institutions
  • academic institutions



Science Veterinarians provide services to farmers. Pet owners, breeders, animal welfare organisation, game reserves, zoos, etc. At government level they are involved in regulatory services, i.e. diagnostic services, control of diseases, prevention of disease introduction into the country and eradication of diseases. They are also concerned with small and large animal practice and the conducting of research.

Attributes to match the career

A keen interest in the medical field with a special and dedicated love for animals, which means enjoying to play and care for them are attributes essential to this choice of career. You also need to be physically strong.

Career opportunities in Veterinary Science

QualificationDurationInstitutionEntry Requirement
Diploma Veterinary Nursing – for a career as veterinary nurseTwo years (full time)University of Pretoria Faculty of Veterinary ScienceMathematics and Physical Science with a minimum pass mark of Level 4 (50-59%)

Job opportunities

  • veterinary clinics, dairies, kennels
  • universities
  • pharmaceutical firms and other industries
  • surgical instrument marketing firms
  • animal research centres
  • zoological gardens
  • animal welfare societies
QualificationDurationInstitutionEntry Requirement
BSc Animal Health – for a career as an Animal Health ScientistFour years (full time)North-West University, University of Pretoria and othersMathematics, Physical Science, Biology and Agricultural Science as recommended subjects
Diploma in Animal Health – for career as Animal Health technicianThree yearsNorth-West University (full time); UNISA (minimum three years distance learning)Senior Certificate: Maths, Biology and Agricultural Science as recommended subjects

Job opportunities

  • state veterinary services
  • industry: feeds, medicines etc
  • laboratory animal science
  • veterinary public health
  • research
  • academia
  • zoological gardens
  • animal welfare societies
  • wildlife ranching and conservation
  • marine biology
  • animal production sectors
QualificationDurationInstitutionEntry Requirement
National Diploma Veterinary Technology – for a career as a veterinary technologistThree years: four semester formal training, two semesters of suitable experiential trainingUniversities of TechnologySenior certificate / any equivalent qualification: Level 4 (50-59%) for Mathematics, Physical Science and Biology
 BTech Veterinary Technology – for a career as a veterinary technologist Two years on block study Universities of Technology National Diploma in Veterinary Technology or an equivalent qualification

Job opportunities

  • state veterinary services
  • laboratory animal science
  • research
  • academia

Take a look at, website of the South African Animal Health Association (SAAHA). See also the “Professions” option at (South African Veterinary Council). Find other animal health bodies on the “Animal health” page.


QualificationDurationInstitutionEntry Requirement
Certificate: Poultry Meat Examination – for a career as a Poultry Meat ExaminerCo-operative training / in-service training / 30 days with minimum 15 000 slaughtered chickensUniversities of TechnologyMinimum Grade 10 with at least one of these subjects: Mathematics, Biology, Science or Agricultural Science. Experience will be considered if you do not comply with these requirements.
Certificate: Poultry Meat – for a career as a Poultry Meat Inspector20 days in-service training. Self study with the completion of applicable assignmentsUniversities of TechnologyCertificate in Poultry Meat Examiners / equivalent manager, supervisor or quality control certificate with applicable experience. A complete curriculum vitae with registration.

Job opportunities

  • poultry meat industry / poultry meat inspector
  • poultry abattoirs
  • state veterinary regulatory services
QualificationDurationInstitutionEntry Requirement
Certificate: Red Meat Examination – for a career as a red meat examinerTheory and practical theory: minimum 30 hours tuition co-operative training / in-service training 80 days divided as: 30 days bovine; 30 days pigs (minimum 3 000 pigs). 20 days sheep (minimum 2 000 sheep)Universities of TechnologyMinimum Grade 10 with at least one of these subjects: Mathematics, Biology, Science or Agricultural Science. Experience will be considered if you do not comply with these requirements.

Job opportunities

  • red meat industry
  • red meat abattoirs
  • state veterinary regulatory services
QualificationDurationInstitutionEntry Requirement
National Diploma Environmental Health – for career as a meat inspectorThree years – the last three months are co-operative training.Universities of TechnologySenior certificate / equivalent qualification with Level 3 (40-49%) Mathematics and Physical Science
BTech Environmental Health – for career as a meat inspectorTwo years on block studyUniversities of TechnologyNational Diploma Environmental Health or equivalent qualification

Job opportunities

  • environmental health officer
  • health advisor
  • air pollution control officer
  • meat inspector
  • occupational hygienist
  • private consultant

Find out more at, website of the Red Meat Abattoir Association (RMAA), and, website of the South African Poultry Association.



Viticulturists apply plant science principles to manipulate the vine to produce the kind of grapes necessary for the production of different wine types and styles.

Compulsory school subjects: Mathematics, Physical Science, Biology

Career opportunities in Viticulture and Oenology

QualificationDurationInstitutionEntry Requirement
BSc Agric Viticulture and Oenology – for a career as a viticulturist/oenologistFour years (full time)Stellenbosch UniversityMathematics and Physical Science Level 5 (60-69%)
Higher Certificate in Agriculture – for a career as a viticulturist / oenologistTwo yearsElsenburg Agricultural Training Institute, Cape Peninsular University of TechnologySenior certificate / equivalent qualification. If students fail a Mathematics evaluation in the advent of the academic year, they will need to register for Mathematics.
Diploma in Agriculture: Cellar Technology – for a career as a viticulturist / oenologistThree years with practicalsElsenburg Agricultural Training Institute, Cape Peninsular University of TechnologyMathematics, Biology and Physical Science. Higher Certificate in Agriculture programme, with Viticulture and Wine Science as selected subjects – or equivalent qualification.

Job opportunities

  • entrepreneur manager
  • product developer
  • technical food marketer
  • winemaker

The South African Society for Enology & Viticulture website is



Work in the field involves searching for natural enemies (either insects or disease-causing organisms such as fungi) of invasive plants (weeds) in the weed’s country of origin and studying the natural enemies in quarantine to determine whether they have potential in controlling the invasive plant, and whether they are host-specific. The host-specific and damaging insects and fungi are released from quarantine and placed onto their target weeds in the field. The release sites are regularly visited to see whether they have become established and are controlling the weed. Biocontrol scientists specialising in aquatic weeds regularly wade in polluted, weed infested rivers or dams, wearing waders, or use boats.

Career opportunities in Weed Biocontrol Science

QualificationDurationInstitutionEntry Requirement
BSc or BSc (Hons) EntomologyFour years (full time)Most universitiesMathematics, Physical Science and Biology or Agricultural Science Level 4 (50-59%)

Job opportunities

  • government departments
  • ARC centres
  • universities: lecturers, researchers
  • private consultants
  • private companies

See the “Biocontrol” page.

Careers related to agriculture

Find details of the following (and more) in the Water@Work career guidance resource.


Aquaculture is the cultivation of plants and animals that live in water, including fish, shellfish, waterblommetjies, crustaceans, and even crocodiles. These creatures are harvested for food, pets, aquariums, and for restocking wild populations. Aquaculturists usually work as farmers or technicians. Like farming, stock needs to be cared for all the time, even over weekends and public holidays.


As an aquatic scientist, you will study various aspects of inland and marine water environments. These cover the physical (e.g. temperatures, water currents and rates at which water flows); the biological (e.g. plants, animals and microbes that live in water); the chemical (e.g. the organic and inorganic composition of water, water cleansing and water quality) and the ecological (the ways in which organisms interact with their environments).


Biochemistry is the basis of all the life sciences. As a biochemist, you study the cells of living things such as animals, plants, and micro-organisms, their chemical composition and their metabolic processes. You apply your knowledge in fields such as medicine, veterinary science, agriculture, forestry, horticulture, environmental science, and manufacturing.


In general, biologists study living organisms (i.e. their structure, functions, evolution, distribution, and the way they relate to each another). As a biologist, you research the life cycles of living things (e.g. humans, animals, plants) and how these cycles relate to their environments.


Botanists study the biology and ecology of all types of plants. As a botanist, you could use your knowledge in areas such as conservation, management of natural resources, agriculture, forestry, horticulture, medicine, and biotechnology.


Ecologists study the relationships of plants, animals, and their environments, and the ways that all these interact with each other.


As an environment engineer, you assess and manage the effects of human and other activity on the natural and built-up environment; you conduct environmental impact assessments, manage natural resources, and control pollution.


In this career, you develop, regulate, enforce, and monitor laws and regulations that deal with public health, building, and environment management, so as to promote good health, hygiene, and safety.


If you become an environmental protection officer, you will look after the environment by monitoring the quality of effluents being discharged from individual plants/processes or larger industrial or manufacturing sites.


There are many different kinds of work in environmental science. You can deal with the conservation and management of natural ecosystems in water and on land, habitats, rare or endangered fauna and flora, or nature reserves.


Find notes at


A geographer studies the Earth’s surface, land features, climate, vegetation, and physical conditions. You also look at and analyse the relationships between human activities and the natural and built environment.

  • climatologist is a geographer who studies climates, their phenomena, and causes;
  • geomorphologist studies the geological aspect of the Earth’s land and seafloor surfaces;
  • fluvial geomorphologist studies river formation.

Geology is an earth science, or geoscience, and includes knowledge from fields such as physics, chemistry, biology, and palaeontology.

  • Geotechnologists and geotechnicians work closely with geologists.

As a geophysicist, you use physics, mathematics, and chemistry to understand and explain the physical features of solid earth, fluid earth, and the upper atmosphere (i.e. the Earth’s surface and interior, and its atmosphere and hydrosphere).


As a geotechnologist, you work in a very complex area, studying the crust of the Earth to help locate and extract natural resources such as water, minerals, and metals, and to determine conditions below the surface.


Hydrologists study water in streams, rivers, and underground. In this career, you evaluate different processes in the water cycle, such as rainfall, evaporation, groundwater, and river flows so as to find out how much water is available and how reliable is the supply.


Find Microbiology under the previous heading. Careers here include: agricultural scientist; aquatic scientist; biologist; botanist; ecologist; entomologist; horticulturist; medical technologist; microbiologist; pharmacist; zoologist; bacteriologist; virologist and mycologist.


Zoologists are biologists who study animals. In this career, you study the structures, characteristics, functions, ecology, and environments of animals; the evolution of animal forms; and animal anatomy, physiology, embryology, behaviour, diseases, and geographical distribution. You may work as a researcher at a university or research institute, as a laboratory or fieldworker, in a museum, in education, or in wildlife management, conservation, agriculture, and medicine.

Other careers – people and companies listed on this website

Find details of the following (and more) in the Water@Work career guidance resource.


As an accountant, you will prepare financial statements, budgets, accounting systems, and cash flows so that managers can make sensible business decisions and improve profits.

Accounting careers include chartered accountant, cost accountant, financial accountant, accounting management consultant, financial manager, auditor, credit controller and bookkeeper.


Administrators and clerks do all the general office work that helps other professional staff and managers to do their jobs e.g. keeping records, writing up accounts, preparing and typing reports and letters, and filing. You could be in charge of a company’s administration, or you could become an office manager, bookkeeper, cashier, personal assistant, typist or secretary, or receptionist.


This industry, which has only been active in South Africa for about a decade, is expected to grow annually by 50 percent for the next four years. It provides an opportunity to create many jobs for unemployed South Africans: all one needs is a basic matric. It includes jobs like call centres.


Cartography is the science of making maps, as well as their study as scientific documents and works of art. In particular, it concerns all stages of evaluation, compilation, design and graphic representation required to produce new or revised maps from different forms of basic data, such as aerial photographs, field records, historical manuscripts, other maps, and statistical reports.

The introduction of GIS (geographic information systems) and other computer assisted mapping systems; wireless applications and GPS (global positioning systems) have added new dimensions to cartographic techniques and the use of digital spatial information. Conventional map production techniques are giving way to the application of computer technology.


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