How to Become an Agricultural Entomologist (Bugging Out Over Bugs)

how to become an agricultural entomologist

If you’ve ever dreamed of contributing to sustainable agriculture or wondered what it takes to become an agricultural entomologist, you’re in the right place.

In this guide, we’ll explore the EXACT steps you need to take to launch your career as an agricultural entomologist. We’ll talk about:

  • The skills you need.
  • The education that can help you get there.
  • How to land a job as an agricultural entomologist.

So, whether you’re a budding scientist or a seasoned professional looking to specialize, stay tuned.

We’re about to unravel the blueprint to become an agricultural entomologist.

Let’s get started!

Contents show

Steps to Become an Agricultural Entomologist


Step 1: Understand the Field of Entomology

Before beginning your journey to become an Agricultural Entomologist, it’s crucial to understand what the field of Entomology entails.

Entomology is the scientific study of insects, including their relationships with other animals, their environments, and human beings.

Agricultural Entomology, a subfield of this, focuses on the study of insects that directly affect agriculture by being either harmful pests or beneficial creatures.

Agricultural Entomologists work to understand the behavior, life cycle, and physiology of agricultural pests.

They also study methods of pest management for the benefit of agriculture, aiming to reduce damage to crops and increase yield.

This field requires not only a deep interest in insects but also an understanding of general biology, ecology, and agriculture.

It’s also highly research-intensive, so be prepared for a lot of lab work.

To get a feel for whether this path is right for you, consider volunteering or interning at a local farm, agricultural research station, or university entomology department.

The Agricultural Entomologist’s work is important to the future of food security and sustainability.

Understanding the complexities of this role is the first step toward a fulfilling career in this field.


Step 2: Pursue a Bachelor’s Degree in Entomology or a Related Science

To start your career as an Agricultural Entomologist, you must first obtain a Bachelor’s degree in entomology or a related field.

This is an essential step as it forms the foundation of your knowledge about insects and their relationships with plants, humans, and the environment.

A degree in biology, agricultural science, or even environmental science can also serve as a suitable foundation.

During your undergraduate studies, you should take courses that cover a wide range of topics including botany, chemistry, physics, calculus, and statistics.

Courses in insect physiology, pest management, and insect identification are also valuable.

These will provide you with a broad understanding of the scientific principles that govern the field of entomology.

Additionally, gaining practical experience through laboratory work and field studies is crucial.

These hands-on experiences will help you develop necessary skills such as insect identification, data collection, and analysis.

You could also seek internship opportunities in agricultural research centers, government agencies, or private companies that focus on pest control.

Remember that your undergraduate studies are your first opportunity to specialize in agricultural entomology, so choose your coursework wisely.

This will set the stage for more advanced study and research in the field.


Step 3: Gain Field and Laboratory Experience

In the field of Agricultural Entomology, practical experience is equally as important as theoretical knowledge.

You should aim to gain significant hands-on experience in both field and laboratory settings to fully understand the complexities and challenges of the role.

Field experience can be obtained through internships, part-time positions, or volunteer work in agricultural settings, such as farms or research centers.

Here you will learn how to identify and monitor pest populations, understand their impacts on crops, and implement integrated pest management strategies.

Laboratory experience is also crucial in this field.

This could be accomplished through coursework, research projects, or employment in a lab.

In a laboratory setting, you will gain an understanding of the physiological and genetic characteristics of different pests, learn how to run experiments, and analyze data.

The ability to perform microscopic identifications, carry out molecular techniques, and handle insects safely are essential skills you will acquire in the lab.

In addition, gaining field and laboratory experience will allow you to apply the theoretical knowledge you have acquired, develop problem-solving skills, and understand the practicalities of conducting research in Agricultural Entomology.

It’s a crucial step to becoming a competent and experienced Agricultural Entomologist.


Step 4: Specialize in Agricultural Entomology

After gaining a solid understanding of general entomology and agriculture, it’s important to specialize in agricultural entomology.

This field focuses on the study of insects that affect agricultural production and farm management.

Specializing in this area will involve studying various types of pests and beneficial insects, understanding their life cycles, behaviors, and the impact they have on agricultural crops.

You can specialize in this field through advanced courses in your undergraduate or graduate program, or by participating in research projects relevant to agricultural entomology.

Another effective way to specialize is through internships or work experience in agricultural settings such as farms, agricultural research facilities, or pest control companies.

Specializing in agricultural entomology will also require staying up-to-date on the latest research and developments in the field.

This can involve attending conferences, reading academic journals, and participating in relevant professional organizations.

Remember, the goal of specializing in this field is to gain a deep understanding of how insects interact with agricultural environments and how to manage them effectively to support sustainable and profitable farming.


Step 5: Pursue an Advanced Degree (Master’s or Ph.D.)

If you desire to work as an Agricultural Entomologist, it is highly recommended to pursue an advanced degree such as a Master’s or Ph.D. in entomology, agronomy, or a related field.

These programs delve deeper into the scientific study of insects, pest control, and their interactions within agricultural environments.

Within your graduate studies, you will have the option to focus your research on a specific area of interest such as pest management, insect biology, or crop protection.

Your choice should align with your career goals, whether you aim to work in academia, research, or the agricultural industry.

A Master’s degree generally takes two years and includes both coursework and research, culminating in a thesis.

A Ph.D., on the other hand, is more research-intensive and can take up to five years to complete.

It is also focused on contributing novel knowledge to the field, leading to a dissertation.

If you aspire to hold a leadership position, work in academia, or lead independent research, a Ph.D. is typically required.

However, a Master’s degree can be sufficient for many roles within industry and government.


Step 6: Conduct Research and Publish Findings

As an agricultural entomologist, it’s crucial to actively participate in research activities in your field.

This might involve studying the behavior, genetics, or life cycle of insects, and their interaction with the environment and plants.

Your research could be aimed at understanding how to control or utilize insects in agriculture, or uncovering new species and understanding their ecological roles.

Utilize your academic or professional affiliations to gain access to research facilities and funding.

Collaborate with other researchers, both within entomology and in related fields, to broaden the scope and impact of your work.

Upon completion of your research, it’s important to publish your findings.

This contributes to the body of knowledge in the field of agricultural entomology and helps other researchers in their work.

You can submit your research to scientific journals, present your findings at conferences, or even publish a book.

Publishing not only helps to share and spread knowledge but also establishes your credibility and expertise in the field.

It can lead to collaborations, job opportunities, and advancements in your career.

It’s also a way to give back to the scientific community by providing others with valuable insights and information that can help solve some of the most pressing challenges in agriculture and entomology.


Step 7: Gain Professional Certification

Earning a professional certification is a significant step in pursuing a career as an Agricultural Entomologist.

Such certifications provide credibility and demonstrate your expertise and commitment to the field.

One of the primary certifications in this field is the Board Certified Entomologist (BCE) credential offered by the Entomological Society of America (ESA).

This certification requires a degree in entomology or a related field, and at least three years of professional experience.

The certification process also includes passing a comprehensive examination that covers various aspects of entomology.

Alternatively, you may wish to obtain a Certified Crop Advisor (CCA) certification from the American Society of Agronomy.

This certification is specific to professionals working in the agricultural industry and covers a broad range of topics including pest management, soil and water management, and crop production.

Keep in mind that these certifications require ongoing education to maintain, which means you’ll need to stay current with the latest developments in agricultural entomology.

This can be achieved through attending conferences, workshops, seminars, and courses.

Remember, earning these certifications not only enhances your professional standing but also provides opportunities for career advancement.

It shows potential employers that you have met certain standards of proficiency and have a dedication to your profession.


Step 8: Network with Agricultural and Entomological Communities

As an aspiring agricultural entomologist, it’s vital to connect with individuals in the same field to gain insights, learn about industry updates, and discover job opportunities.

Joining professional organizations like the Entomological Society of America and attending their meetings or conferences can help you meet professionals and engage in insightful discussions.

Consider joining local farming communities to understand their experiences with pests and how it impacts their crops.

This real-world experience will not only improve your knowledge but also help you develop practical solutions for these issues.

You can also attend webinars, workshops, and seminars related to agricultural entomology to enhance your knowledge and skills.

Participate actively in online forums and discussions pertaining to agriculture and entomology.

Networking is not just about professional gain, it also helps in developing a sense of community, fosters collaboration, and keeps you updated with the latest research in the field.

Remember, the relationships you build in this step can greatly influence your career trajectory.


Step 9: Apply for Jobs in Academic, Government, or Industry Settings

As an agricultural entomologist, there are a plethora of job opportunities that you can pursue in different sectors, including academia, government, and industry.

These roles can range from teaching and research positions in universities to pest management and research roles in governmental agricultural departments or in agribusiness companies.

When seeking academic positions, consider roles in biological or agricultural departments of universities or colleges.

These positions may involve not only research but also teaching courses on entomology, pest management, or related subjects.

Remember, an academic career usually requires a strong publication record, so your doctoral and postdoctoral research could be key to landing these roles.

Government roles might be in federal or state departments of agriculture, environmental protection agencies, or research laboratories.

These roles often involve research into pest management, policies related to insect control, or the development of methods to combat invasive species.

For these roles, knowledge of regulations, as well as experience in field and lab research, can be advantageous.

In industry settings, opportunities may exist within biotechnology firms, agrochemical companies, or pest control companies.

These roles can involve product development, pest management, regulatory affairs or consulting.

For these roles, practical experience and knowledge of commercial insect management are often desirable.

Remember to tailor your application and resume to highlight the skills and experiences most relevant to the position you are applying for.

Also, do not underestimate the power of networking.

Attend conferences, join professional organizations, and connect with fellow entomologists to learn about job openings and industry trends.


Step 10: Stay Informed About Advances in Pest Management Techniques

As an Agricultural Entomologist, it is crucial to stay updated with the latest advances in pest management techniques.

This industry is dynamic, with new research and findings constantly emerging about how to more effectively control or eradicate pests that can cause harm to crops and other plant life.

You should regularly read scientific journals, attend industry conferences, and participate in professional development workshops to learn about cutting-edge techniques in pest control.

Topics may include new pesticide developments, advancements in biological control methods, improvement in pest monitoring technologies, and the latest trends in integrated pest management.

Staying informed about these advances can make you more effective in your role and provide you with more tools to help farmers and other agricultural professionals manage their pest problems.

Moreover, as an expert in your field, you may be called upon to educate others about these new methods and techniques, making ongoing learning and awareness essential components of your role.

Also, consider joining professional organizations such as the Entomological Society of America or the American Association of Professional Apiculturists.

These groups can provide networking opportunities and offer additional resources to help you stay on the forefront of your field.


Step 11: Engage in Continuing Education and Professional Development

As an Agricultural Entomologist, it’s important to continuously stay updated with new research, techniques, and advancements in the field.

This includes everything from the latest pest management strategies to new findings in insect biology or agriculture.

You can engage in this by attending professional development courses, workshops, webinars, and conferences related to entomology and agriculture.

Continuing education can also involve reading research publications in your field to stay aware of the latest developments.

Joining professional organizations such as the Entomological Society of America can provide resources for professional development as well as opportunities to network with other professionals in your field.

You might also consider obtaining additional certifications or licenses that are relevant to your work, such as pest management or crop consulting.

These can enhance your credentials and open up opportunities for career advancement.

Remember, the field of agricultural entomology is constantly evolving with new research and innovations.

So, staying informed and continuing to develop your skills and knowledge is crucial for your career growth and success.


Agricultural Entomologist Roles and Responsibilities

Agricultural Entomologists study insects and their relationship to plants, animals, and the environment.

They use their knowledge to develop and implement pest management strategies in agricultural settings.

They have the following roles and responsibilities:


Insect Identification and Research

  • Identify and classify various types of insects.
  • Conduct research on insect behavior, life cycle, and the role of insects in the ecosystem.
  • Study the relationship between insects and plant diseases.


Pest Management

  • Develop and implement pest management strategies.
  • Monitor and assess the effectiveness of pest management strategies.
  • Advise farmers and agricultural businesses on pest control methods.


Field Work

  • Conduct field studies and investigations to collect insect specimens.
  • Perform tests and experiments on collected samples.


Documentation and Reporting

  • Document research findings and prepare scientific reports.
  • Present research findings to scientific peers and the public.



  • Provide consultation services to farmers, agricultural businesses, and government agencies.
  • Develop and deliver training programs related to pest management and insect biology.



  • Work closely with other scientists, farmers, and government officials.


Regulatory Compliance

  • Ensure all pest management strategies comply with local, state, and federal regulations.


Continuous Learning

  • Stay updated with the latest scientific research and developments in entomology.
  • Participate in professional development activities, such as attending conferences and workshops.


Grant Writing

  • Write proposals to secure funding for research projects.
  • Manage budgets and resources for research projects.


What Does an Agricultural Entomologist Do?

Agricultural Entomologists are specialized scientists who study insects and their impact on agricultural production.

They work in various settings such as universities, research institutions, government agencies, and agricultural businesses.

Their primary task is to understand the behavior, life cycle, and the role of insects in the ecosystem.

They aim to identify and classify species of insects, understanding their relationship with their environment, especially their impact on crops, livestock, and farming practices.

They conduct rigorous field and lab experiments to evaluate the effects of pests on crops and develop strategies to control these pests.

This includes researching and creating insect-resistant plant varieties, developing pest management programs, and promoting sustainable farming practices.

Agricultural Entomologists also provide training and advice to farmers and agricultural businesses on how to deal with pest problems in an environmentally friendly way.

They might also assess the damage caused by pests, recommend and implement pest control methods, and monitor their effectiveness.

In addition, they may write research papers, reports and make recommendations about the prevention and control of pest infestations.

They often work in collaboration with other scientists, agronomists, and farmers to implement these strategies and improve crop productivity and sustainability.


Essential Agricultural Entomologist Skills

  • Insect Identification: Agricultural entomologists must possess a detailed understanding of various insect species, their life cycles, and behaviors. This includes the ability to identify pests that can potentially harm crops and plants.
  • Disease Management: They need to know how to manage insect-borne diseases. This involves understanding how these diseases spread and how to prevent or control them in agricultural settings.
  • Scientific Research: Entomologists should be proficient in designing and conducting scientific research. This includes hypothesis formulation, data collection, interpretation of results, and reporting findings.
  • Pest Control: They must know about various pest control methods, including biological, chemical, and cultural control. They need to understand how to use these methods efficiently and sustainably to protect crops.
  • Knowledge of Agronomy: A basic understanding of agronomy, the science of soil management and crop production, is essential as it helps in understanding the interaction between pests and various crops.
  • Problem-solving: Entomologists often face complex problems regarding pest infestations and disease outbreaks. Problem-solving skills are crucial to find efficient and effective solutions.
  • Communication: They need to communicate their findings and recommendations to farmers, agricultural consultants, and other stakeholders. Hence, good written and oral communication skills are essential.
  • Fieldwork: Entomologists often work in the field, collecting samples and monitoring insect populations. They should be comfortable with outdoor work and have physical stamina.
  • Data Analysis: They must be proficient in statistical analysis to interpret research data correctly. Familiarity with statistical software like SPSS or R would be beneficial.
  • Teamwork: They often work in teams, collaborating with agronomists, biologists, and other scientists. Thus, teamwork skills and the ability to work well with others are crucial.
  • Patience and Attention to Detail: Research work often requires patience and meticulous attention to detail, from observing insect behavior to carrying out lengthy and complex experiments.
  • Lab Safety: Knowledge of lab safety procedures is essential to prevent accidents when handling potentially hazardous substances or equipment.
  • Knowledge of Regulatory Policies: Understanding the legal and regulatory framework around pesticide use and environmental conservation is important for recommending pest control strategies.
  • GIS Skills: Geographic Information System (GIS) skills can be beneficial in mapping pest infestations and studying their spread and impact over time.
  • Continual Learning: The field of entomology is constantly evolving with new research findings. The ability to stay updated and continually learn is essential to remain effective in the role.


Agricultural Entomologist Career Path Progression

The Foundation: Junior Agricultural Entomologist

Your career journey starts as a Junior Agricultural Entomologist.

At this level, you gain valuable field experience and learn to identify various pest species, study their life cycles, and understand their impact on crops.

Here are some tips for success in this role:

  1. Continuous Learning: Stay updated with the latest research and advancements in entomology.
  2. Seek Mentorship: Learn from senior entomologists and develop your skills under their guidance.
  3. Hands-On Experience: Gain practical experience in pest identification, sample collection, and data analysis.


The Ascent: Agricultural Entomologist

As you gain experience and expand your knowledge, you transition to the role of an Agricultural Entomologist.

You’ll be responsible for designing and conducting studies to understand pest behavior, assessing the effectiveness of pest management techniques, and advising farmers on best practices.

Here’s how to thrive in this stage:

  1. Problem Solving: Develop effective and sustainable pest management strategies to address agricultural challenges.
  2. Collaboration: Work closely with other agricultural professionals, farmers, and stakeholders to implement pest control measures.
  3. Research Skills: Continuously conduct and publish research to contribute to the field of agricultural entomology.


Reaching New Heights: Senior Agricultural Entomologist

The next step in your career is the Senior Agricultural Entomologist position.

At this level, you’ll be recognized for your expertise and leadership.

You may lead research teams, develop new methodologies, and influence agricultural policies.

To excel as a Senior Agricultural Entomologist:

  1. Mentorship: Share your knowledge and help junior entomologists develop their skills.
  2. Innovation: Develop novel pest management strategies and technologies.
  3. Leadership: Lead research projects and teams to success.


Beyond the Horizon: Lead Roles and Beyond

As your career progresses, you may transition into leadership roles such as Department Head, Program Director, or Chief Entomologist.

These roles involve greater responsibilities including overseeing research programs, influencing policy decisions, and managing teams.

Here’s what to focus on:

  1. Leadership: Guide teams and oversee large-scale research projects or programs.
  2. Communication: Communicate effectively with various stakeholders, including scientists, farmers, policymakers, and the public.
  3. Strategic Planning: Shape the strategic direction of your organization or department, with a focus on innovation and impact.


Pinnacle of Success: Director of Entomology or VP of Agricultural Research

At the pinnacle of your career, you may hold positions such as Director of Entomology or VP of Agricultural Research.

Here, you’ll be responsible for shaping the overall strategy of the organization, making critical decisions, and contributing significantly to the field of entomology and agricultural sciences.


Agricultural Entomologist Salary

Entry-Level Agricultural Entomologist

  • Median Salary: $40,000 – $60,000 per year
  • Entry-level agricultural entomologists typically have 0-2 years of experience and usually hold a bachelor’s or master’s degree in entomology or a related field. Their work often focuses on research and field work, studying different insect species that affect agriculture.


Mid-Level Agricultural Entomologist

  • Median Salary: $60,000 – $80,000 per year
  • Mid-level agricultural entomologists have 2-5 years of experience. They often manage research projects and may start to specialize in a particular area of entomology, such as pest control or insect behavior.


Senior Agricultural Entomologist

  • Median Salary: $80,000 – $100,000 per year
  • Senior agricultural entomologists possess 5+ years of experience. They are often responsible for leading research projects, developing pest control strategies, and training junior entomologists.


Lead Agricultural Entomologist / Research Manager

  • Median Salary: $100,000 – $130,000+ per year
  • These roles come with significant experience and often involve managing large research projects, making strategic decisions, and leading teams of entomologists.


Principal Entomologist / Director of Research / VP of Research

  • Median Salary: $130,000 – $160,000+ per year
  • These high-level positions require extensive experience, and deep technical expertise in entomology. Responsibilities often include setting research strategies, overseeing multiple research projects, and making strategic decisions that impact agricultural practices.


Agricultural Entomologist Work Environment

Agricultural Entomologists usually work in laboratories and in the field.

They can be employed by various organizations such as government agencies, agricultural companies, universities, research institutions, and non-profit environmental organizations.

Their work primarily involves researching and studying insects and their relationship with agricultural environments.

This may require them to spend considerable time outdoors, in farms and fields, collecting insect samples and conducting experiments.

The work hours of an Agricultural Entomologist can be regular, but may extend in case of specific research requirements or fieldwork.

Traveling to various agricultural sites might be a part of their job.

Advanced roles could involve teaching in universities or leading research projects, which may also entail administrative and management responsibilities.

Some Agricultural Entomologists may also choose to become consultants, providing guidance on pest management to farmers and agricultural companies.


FAQs About Becoming an Agricultural Entomologist

What is needed to become an Agricultural Entomologist?

Becoming an agricultural entomologist usually requires a bachelor’s degree in a field such as biology, entomology, or a related field.

Advanced positions often require a master’s degree or Ph.D. in entomology.

Coursework should include subjects like biology, entomology, plant pathology, and chemistry.

Practical experience, such as internships or laboratory work, is also beneficial.

Key skills include observational skills, patience, precision, and a good knowledge of various insects and pests that affect agriculture.


How long does it take to become an Agricultural Entomologist?

The length of time it takes to become an agricultural entomologist can vary.

A bachelor’s degree typically takes four years of full-time study, while a master’s degree can take an additional two to three years.

If one decides to pursue a Ph.D., it may take an additional four to six years, depending on the program and the time it takes to complete the doctoral research.


Can I become an Agricultural Entomologist without a degree?

Most positions in agricultural entomology require at least a bachelor’s degree in entomology, biology, or a related field.

While it may be possible to gain some entry-level positions with practical experience in the field, most advanced and research positions require further education.

A degree provides the necessary scientific background and training in research methods that are crucial for this role.


Is Agricultural Entomology a stressful job?

The level of stress in agricultural entomology can vary depending on the specifics of the job.

Fieldwork can be physically demanding and may involve working in challenging conditions.

Research roles may also have deadlines that can cause some stress.

However, many agricultural entomologists enjoy the opportunity to work outside and study insects, which can offset the potential stress.


What are the prospects for Agricultural Entomologists in the next decade?

The job prospects for agricultural entomologists are expected to grow in the next decade, as there is a continual need to protect crops from pests and to develop more sustainable agricultural practices.

Climate change and the increasing resistance of pests to pesticides are also creating new challenges in the field, which agricultural entomologists will be vital in addressing.



And there you have it.

Embarking on the journey to become an agricultural entomologist is certainly a unique and challenging endeavor, but the rewards are bountiful.

Armed with the correct knowledge, comprehensive education, and unwavering determination, you’re well on your way to making a profound difference in the world of agriculture.

Remember, the path may be demanding, but the potential to contribute to food sustainability and pest management is immense. Your expertise could lead to revolutionary discoveries that transform our farming practices and ecological conservation efforts.

So, take that initial step. Delve deep into research. Collaborate with fellow scientists. And most importantly, never stop investigating the world of insects.

Because the world of agriculture is waiting for your contributions.

If you’re looking for personalized guidance on starting or advancing your career in agricultural entomology, explore our AI Career Path Advisor.

This free tool is designed to offer tailored advice and resources to help you navigate your career path effectively.

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