If you have green fingers and a love for plants and trees, you’ll be pleased to hear that there are many career options available to you. As well as garden nursery assistant and florist another option you might want to consider is pomologist, one of the most respected and prestigious careers in horticulture.
Here, we are going to take a closer look at what exactly it is that pomologists do, how you can become one yourself and how you can advance your career in this fruity field.
Research the role of a pomologist
First things first: what is a pomologist?
A pomologist studies the cultivation of edible fruit and nuts, including pears, oranges, strawberries, walnuts and almonds.
Generally speaking, they are responsible for cultivating new fruits and nuts, as well as maximising the production of existing varieties. They also make sure that crops are more resistant to diseases and adverse weather and that they remain commercially viable.
The profession can be traced back to the late 19th Century when the United States Department of Agriculture established the Division of Pomology in response to agriculturalists bringing new fruit tree varieties into the country from foreign expeditions and developing experimental lots for these fruits.
As a pomologist, your job duties will typically include:
- Developing new fruit and nut cultivars
- Studying pruning practices, fertilisation and other activities to ensure trees and crops remain healthy and productive
- Dealing with crop pests, infections and diseases which could threaten the health of a crop
- Determining the best ways to harvest and transport fruit and nuts, eg: developing specialised crates
- Analysing shelf life and storing conditions to ensure crops last as long as possible once harvested
- Cope with adverse weather to ensure survival of crops across changing climate conditions
- Studying the growing conditions of various fruit and nut trees
- Watering, pruning and transplanting crops, when necessary
Essential skills and qualities
First and foremost, you’ll need a love for outdoor gardening and an eagerness to learn about horticulture subjects like fruit tree propagation to become a pomologist.
You’ll also need:
- Excellent research and laboratory skills
- Strong analytical skills
- An interest in fruit cultivation
- Strong critical thinking and problem-solving skills
- Good outdoor/field skills
- A good level of attention to detail
- Good report-writing skills for creating research reports
- Excellent speaking skills
- Inquisitiveness and persistence
- An up-to-date knowledge of the industry’s trends
Working hours and conditions
Pomologists usually work Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm, but working hours and workloads can vary according to the season. Long hours and working on weekends is to be expected.
Work is usually carried out in the field where you will work with actual trees. Outdoor work can be challenging as you will often have to perform your job in all sorts of weather, including in the freezing cold, rainstorms and blistering heat. A hands-on approach is, therefore, critical.
You will also work in an office or conduct theoretical research in a lab.
Salary information for pomologists is obscure but since this is a specialised profession, a generous salary is to be expected.
That said, similar horticultural professions command an average annual salary of £29,000.
While the study of pomology has somewhat dwindled over the past century, the horticultural industry is one of the largest employers in the UK. Moreover, the products and services that horticulture (pomology included) provides will always be in demand.
But, opportunities can be few and far in between, meaning competition will be extremely high.
How to become a pomologist
If you’ve decided that a career in pomology is right for you and you want to become a pomologist, we’ve put together this quick step-by-step guide to help you get started and take your first steps toward a hopefully long and successful career.
1. Obtain a degree
To become a pomologist, you will first need to obtain a bachelor’s degree in a relevant subject, like:
- Soil microbiology
- Plant sciences
You’ll then need to pursue a master’s degree in a horticultural subject whose coursework includes pomology. The following are some of the very few universities in the world that offer such courses:
- University of Life Sciences in PoznaΕ„ (Poland)
- University of California, Davis (United States)
- Zhejiang University (China)
Make sure you spend some time researching other universities that offer courses in pomology and remember to carefully read the admission requirements of each university, in case additional education, qualifications and experience is expected.
2. Get a Job
Upon completing your education, you can find employment opportunities in the government, universities, greenhouses, private research facilities or agricultural organisations where you may work in a laboratory, orchard or greenhouse or on a farm.
Remember to brush up on your interviewing skills and highlight all relevant experience and qualifications on your CV to give yourself an edge over the competition. Don’t forget to check out our comprehensive guide about how to find a job!
3. Advance your career
With vast experience in the field, you could become a senior pomologist where you will be in charge of research programmes.
Career advancement opportunities are also available to you through the completion of a doctoral degree which can make you a strong candidate for lecturing positions at universities around the world.
Are you considering a career in pomology? Do you already work in this field and would like to share your experiences and advice with aspiring pomologists? Or perhaps you have something you’d like to add? Join the conversation below and let us know!
This article was originally published in February 2015.