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Soil Science

Entrance Exam: Not Required
College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

The Undergraduate Certificate in Soil Science offers an undergraduate course of study that enables students to obtain the minimum 15 credit hours of soil science courses that are required to become a licensed soil scientist in some states or, nationally, a certified professional soil scientist. In addition, the program provides subject area credits necessary to qualify for soil scientist and conservationist positions in the federal, state and local governments. Those who complete this program will meet the coursework requirements for all three career advancement opportunities and will be eligible to become licensed or certified soil scientists.

Graduates of this program working in the private sector will identify lands where new residential developments are most appropriate to maintain a community’s public health and environmental quality.  This program is unique among those with environmental interests in that it trains students to identify how lands can best be used to address smart urban growth while preserving wetlands and protecting other surface waters and groundwater quality. Target employers include engineering firms, environmental firms, and specialized soil consulting companies.

Graduates of this program working in the public sector will provide leadership in the areas of soil databases, soil interpretations and soil investigations for local, state and federal technical service centers. As a soil scientist you will write technical and non-technical articles dealing with soil surveys and the use of soil information. As a soil conservationist, you will provide assistance to farmers and ranchers needing natural resource conservation plans for compliance with the Highly Erodible Land and Swamp Buster provisions of the federal Food Security Act.

This program may lead to Professional Licensure.


Students must be in good academic standing to take courses at NC State University. Students pursuing undergraduate certificate programs are considered non-degree studies (NDS) students. Students desiring to earn the certificate should contact the certificate coordinator.

To pursue the certificate, students must have the following training in basic college-level science courses:

  • 2 semesters of chemistry
  • 1 semester of physics
  • 1 semester of biology
  • mathematics through algebra and trigonometry

Plan of Study

The certificate requires 15 credit hours. Students pursuing undergraduate certificate programs are considered non-degree studies (NDS) students for the purpose of university registration. NDS students may register for a maximum of six credit hours per semester. Thus, the certificate may take from three to five semesters to complete.

Career Prospects

This program enables students to obtain course credit hours necessary for advancement in soil-related careers. To become a Soil Scientist in the U.S. Federal Government, the Office of Personnel Management requires 15 credit hours in subjects such as soil genesis, pedology, soil chemistry, soil physics, and soil fertility. In states like North Carolina and others with a soil scientist licensing program, 15 credit hours of soil science related coursework is required to qualify for the licensing exam. Nationally, to become a Professional Soil Scientist certified by the Soil Science Society of America, individuals must have completed 15 course credit hours in soil science or a related area.

You can learn more about North Carolina’s licensed soil scientist program here. To learn about the national certification program, visit Soil Science Society of America.