Precision Agriculture Technicians
Overview | Specific Work Activities | Common Work Activities | Related Occupations | Skills and Abilities | Working Conditions | Physical Demands | Knowledge | Interests | Wages | Current Employment | Outlook | Helpful High School Courses | Preparation | Related Educational Programs | Hiring Practices | Licensing/Certification/Designation/Registration | Advancement Opportunities | Additional Sources of Information | Back to Green Careers
At a Glance
- Use computers and Geographic Information Systems (GIS)
- Help to improve agricultural practices so they are extremely efficient
- Train through one- and two-year programs
- Sit for long periods of time
- Are good at math and science
- Earn $49,350 per year (Hawaii median)
Precision agriculture technicians use Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and Global Positioning System (GPS) to improve agricultural practices. They use data to make precise decisions about watering, planting, and pesticide application.
Precision agriculture technicians make farming more efficient. They use technology such as GPS and GIS to make decisions about how to manage crops. This way, farmers and agricultural engineers can control many variables to make sure that crops grow well and high yields are delivered.
Technicians rely heavily on data and mapping from GPS and GIS systems. These kinds of maps typically don’t tell direction, but give information. Examples include where pests are or what areas need water. These kinds of maps can also give information about soil type, helping farmers decide on the best kinds of fertilizers to use and what kinds of crops to plant.
Using precision technologies gives technicians many advantages. It prevents planting corn in soil that would be better suited for cotton, for example. Technicians can avoid spraying pesticides and herbicides in areas where they are not needed. This way, dangerous run-off of these chemicals can be avoided. It can also save farmers money, because they are only using resources where and when they are needed. For these reasons, precision agriculture technicians have a growing future in the green economy. Combined with other environmentally friendly technologies and practices, precision agriculture can lessen the impact on our land.
Precision agriculture technicians must be knowledgeable about agriculture and GIS and GPS systems. They must have a solid background in agronomy, including soil and crop science. They must also be highly skilled in using sophisticated computer software. They need to know how to gather and analyze data so they can make informed decisions. They must be organized and detail-oriented. They must also be constantly aware of changing regulations related to agriculture.
Specific Work Activities
The following list of occupational tasks is specific to precision agriculture technicians.
- Collect information about soil and fields, crop yields, or field boundaries. Use field data recorders and basic geographic information systems (GIS).
- Create and analyze maps showing agricultural data such as crop yields, soil type, terrain, drainage patterns, and field management history.
- Document and maintain records of precision agriculture information.
- Compile and analyze data to determine soil quality, terrain, field productivity, fertilizers, and weather conditions.
- Divide agricultural fields into zones based on soil characteristics and production potentials.
- Identify soil sampling sites, using geospatial technology. Use this to test soils for nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium content, pH, and micronutrients.
- Compare crop yield maps with maps of soil test data, chemical application patterns, or other information to develop crop management plans.
- Apply knowledge of government regulations when making agricultural recommendations.
- Draw and read maps such as soil, contour, and plat maps.
- Recommend best crop varieties for specific field areas, based on analysis of geospatial data.
Common Work Activities
Precision agriculture technicians perform the following list of tasks, but the tasks are common to many occupations.
- Use computers.
- Get information needed to do the job.
- Document and record information.
- Analyze data or information.
- Process information.
- Make decisions and solve problems.
- Explain the meaning of information to others.
- Update and use job-related knowledge.
- Provide advice and consultation to others.
- Identify objects, actions, and events.
- Monitor events, materials, and surroundings.
- Communicate with people from outside the organization.
- Establish and maintain relationships.
- Organize, plan, and prioritize work.
- Communicate with supervisors, peers, or subordinates.
- Think creatively.
- Operate vehicles or mechanized equipment.
- Teach others.
- Perform activities that use the whole body.
- Schedule work and activities.
- Agriculture, Food, and Natural Resources
Hawaii Career Pathways:
Related O*NET Specialties:
Skills and Abilities
Precision agriculture technicians need to:
- Express ideas clearly when speaking or writing.
- Understand spoken and written information.
- Combine several pieces of information and draw conclusions.
- Use reasoning to discover answers to problems.
- Develop rules or follow guidelines when arranging items in a certain order.
- Notice when something is wrong or is likely to go wrong.
- Concentrate and not be distracted while performing a task.
- Choose a mathematical method or formula to solve problems.
Manage Oneself, People, Time, and Things
- Go back and forth between two or more activities or sources of information without becoming confused.
Perceive and Visualize
- Identify a pattern (a figure, object, word, or sound) that is hidden in distracting material.
- Imagine how something will look if it is moved around or its parts are rearranged.
- Quickly and accurately compare letters, numbers, objects, pictures, or patterns.
In a typical work setting, precision agriculture technicians:
- Have a medium level of social interaction.
- Usually talk to others by e-mail, phone, or in person. They sometimes write letters and memos.
- Sometimes work as part of a team.
- Are somewhat responsible for the work done by others.
- Have limited responsibility for the health and safety of others.
- Usually work outdoors.
- Sometimes work indoors, usually when analyzing data. These locations may not be temperature-controlled.
- Are sometimes exposed to hot or cold temperatures, depending on the weather.
- Often travel around work sites in a truck, tractor, or other farm vehicle.
- Must be very exact and accurate when analyzing data and making decisions.
- Usually do not consult a supervisor before making a decisions or setting tasks and goals.
- Meet strict weekly deadlines. This makes the work atmosphere somewhat competitive.
- Weekly make decisions that strongly impact coworkers and their company.
- Repeat the same mental and physical tasks.
- Usually work a standard work week, but their schedule may vary due to weather or to harvest, planting, and related schedules.
Precision agriculture technicians frequently:
- Sit for long periods of time.
It is important for precision agriculture technicians to be able to:
- See details of objects whether they are nearby or far away.
- Speak clearly so listeners can understand.
- Understand the speech of another person.
- Make quick, precise adjustments to machine controls.
- Use fingers or hands to grasp, move, or assemble very small objects.
- Hold the arm and hand in one position or hold the hand steady while moving the arm.
It is not as important, but still necessary, for precision agriculture technicians to be able to:
- Move arms and legs quickly.
- Determine the distance between objects.
- See differences between colors, shades, and brightness.
- Hear sounds and recognize the difference between them.
- Use stomach and lower back muscles to support the body for long periods without getting tired.
- Choose quickly and correctly among various movements when responding to different signals.
- Use muscles to lift, push, pull, or carry heavy objects.
- Make fast, repeated movements of fingers, hands, and wrists.
- Bend, stretch, twist, or reach out.
- Adjust body movements or equipment controls to keep pace with speed changes of moving objects.
- Coordinate movement of several parts of the body, such as arms and legs, while the body is moving.
- React quickly using hands, fingers, or feet.
- Be physically active and use muscles for long periods without getting tired or out of breath.
- Focus on one source of sound and ignore others.
Precision agriculture technicians need knowledge in the following areas:
- Computers and Electronics: Knowledge of computer hardware and software.
- Customer and Personal Service: Knowledge of providing special services to customers based on their needs.
- Mathematics: Knowledge of the rules and uses of numbers. Areas of knowledge include arithmetic, algebra, geometry, and statistics.
- English Language: Knowledge of the meaning, spelling, and use of the English language.
- Biology: Knowledge of plants, animals, and living organisms and how they function.
- Food Production: Knowledge of planting, growing, and harvesting food for eating.
- Geography: Knowledge of land, sea, and air masses. Also includes knowledge of how to describe their location, features, and relationships.
- Clerical: Knowledge of general office work such as filing and recording information.
- Engineering and Technology: Knowledge of how to build machines, buildings, and other things. Also includes knowledge of how to use computers, machines, and tools to do work more usefully.
Precision agriculture technicians are people who tend to:
- Consider good working conditions important. They like jobs offering steady employment and good pay. They want employment that fits their individual work style. They may prefer doing a variety of tasks, working alone, or being busy all the time.
- Consider independence important. They like to make decisions and try out ideas on their own. They prefer jobs where they can plan their work with little supervision.
- Consider achievement important. They like to see the results of their work and to use their strongest abilities. They like to get a feeling of accomplishment from their work.
- Consider support from their employer important. They like to be treated fairly and have supervisors who will back them up. They prefer jobs where they are trained well.
- Have realistic interests. They like work activities that include practical, hands-on problems and solutions. They like to work with plants, animals, and physical materials such as wood, tools, and machinery. They often prefer to work outside.
- Have investigative interests. They like work activities that have to do with ideas and thinking. They like to search for facts and figure out solutions to problems mentally.
- Have conventional interests. They like work activities that follow set procedures, routines, and standards. They like to work with data and detail. They prefer working where there is a clear line of authority to follow.
Occupational Interest Codes:
Wages vary by employer and area of the country. The individual's specialty and level of experience and responsibility also affect wages. Those who have supervisory duties usually earn higher wages.
Precision agriculture technicians who work full time usually receive benefits. Typical benefits include sick leave, paid vacation, and health insurance. Some employers also provide a retirement plan.
Specific information about the number of precision agriculture technicians in Hawaii and nationally is not available.
- Consulting firms
- Federal, state, and local government agencies
In Hawaii, outlook information is not available specifically for precision agriculture technicians. However, they are part of a larger group of "life, physical, and social sciences technicians, all other." Little change in employment is expected for workers in this group through 2018.
Nationally, employment of workers in this group is expected to grow as fast as the average through 2018. The growing number of people in the world will increase demands for food and energy.
Precision agriculture technicians will be needed to find better ways to produce food. They will also work to save natural resources such as soil, air, and water. Opportunities will be best for technicians with strong technical, computing, and communication skills.
The use of advanced technologies, such as GPS, and GIS, will continue to increase both the accuracy and productivity of these workers. This will limit job growth to some extent. However, job openings will continue to arise from the need to replace workers who leave this occupation.
The table below provides information about the number of workers in this occupation in various regions. It also provides information about the expected growth rate and future job openings.
Helpful High School Courses
In high school, take classes that prepare you for college. A college preparatory curriculum may be different from our state's graduation requirements. Click here for public school graduation requirements for students graduating in 2011 or 2012. Click here for public school graduation requirements for students graduating in 2013 or later. If you attend a private school, check with your school counselor for graduation requirements.
You should also consider taking some advanced courses in high school. This includes Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) courses if they are available in your school. If you do well in these courses, you may receive college credit for them. Advanced courses can also strengthen your college application.
Helpful electives to take in high school that prepare you for this occupation include:
- Computer Applications
- Computer-Assisted Design (CAD)
- Computer Science
- Plant and Soil Science
The courses listed above are meant to help you create your high school plan. If you have not already done so, talk to a school counselor or parent about the courses you are considering taking.
You should also check with a teacher or counselor to see if work-based learning opportunities are available in your school and community. These might include field trips, job shadowing, internships, and actual work experience. The goal of these activities is to help you connect your school experiences with real-life work.
Join some groups, try some hobbies, or volunteer with an organization that interests you. By participating in activities you can have fun, make new friends, and learn about yourself. Maybe one of them will help direct you to a future career. Click here for examples of activities and groups that may be available in your high school or community.
To work as a precision agriculture technician, you must:
- have a high school diploma or GED;
- complete a certificate or two-year associate degree;
- have practical, hands-on skills;
- have good computer skills; and
- have good communication skills.
Education after high school
Most people prepare for this occupation by getting a certificate or associate degree in this field. Certificates typically take one year to complete while associate’s degrees usually take two. Many community colleges and vocational schools offer one-year programs in this field. Because this degree combines two distinct fields, it is becoming more common for schools to offer bachelor’s degrees in precision agriculture.
Working in jobs that give you practical experience in the areas you wish to work is good background for this occupation. The fields of civil engineering and geography are very helpful as they focus on use of the Geographic Information Software (GIS). Work in a farm or ranch setting is helpful, too.
As a new technician, you perform routine tasks while closely supervised by an experienced technician or agricultural engineer. As you gain experience, you work on tasks that are more difficult. Training may last a month up to a year.
Related Educational Programs
- Agricultural Business and Production
- Construction Trades
- Drafting/Design Technologies
- Engineering Technologies
- Geological and Earth Sciences
Employers look for precision agriculture technicians who have at least a one-year degree in this field. Employers also look for applicants with strong technical, computing, and mechanical skills. Good communication skills are very important because technicians work with engineers and other team members. An interest in math, science, and farming is also important.
Precision agriculture technicians usually begin by doing routine duties. They work under the close supervision of experienced technicians, technologists, or managers. As they gain experience, technicians are given more difficult assignments and have less supervision. Precision agriculture technicians with leadership skills may advance to supervisor positions. Keeping their skills current through continuing education classes helps technicians to advance.
Additional Sources of Information
- "Occupational Outlook Handbook" (Free on the Internet or $23.00 paper cover/$39.00 hard cover to purchase; p. 201)
Publication Date: 2010-2011
Bureau of Labor Statistics
Career Information Available on the Internet
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