Technical Officer

Technical officers are employed by many different types of businesses and organisations in the rural sector. These may include chemical and fertiliser companies, plant and animal breeders, seed suppliers, machinery suppliers, consultants, soil testing companies, irrigation companies, research organisations, and a host of others. A technical officer may be involved in providing technical or scientific support to farmers or anyone else involved in rural industries.

Technical officers may work in conjunction with sales staff for a farm supply company; providing after sales service; or conducting on farm trials (experiments).


Typical Jobs

The work of a technical officer may be varied and may sometimes overlap into other areas oF work such as contracting, marketing, sales or research.

  • Providing on site technical advice to farmers
  • Identifying problems (pest, disease, weed, environmental)
  • Assisting marketing staff in devising strategies for marketing
  • Assisting scientists in research


Remuneration and Advancement Opportunities

Remuneration can be variable. Some rural companies will provide a car with the job (given that the work may involve a lot of travelling to farms). Rate of pay and job security can be good with some larger companies; though this can also depend upon the general strength of  rural industries in the country. Government jobs often offer greater security, but might also offer lower remuneration than the private sector.

A technical officer may be a step below a Research officer or scientist. With experience and/or further education, an experienced technical officer may move into a more advanced scientific position. There is little doubt that someone who has worked as a research assistant has an increased likelihood of success as a scientist, compared with someone who is employed fresh from university.

Risks and Stresses

Sometimes the chemicals and conditions worked with are unknown factors; so safety protocols are very important if risks are to be minimised.

Research is often subject to funding decisions made by politicians and bureaucrats. It is always possible that a research program can loose funding and jobs can disappear with little notice.

The viability of any agricultural enterprise is dependent upon external factors such as weather (drought, flood) and markets (supply and demand; both local and overseas prices). When times are good, work opportunity and remuneration can be good; but when times are bad, the workplace can become more stressful and opportunities less certain. Enterprises that are less susceptible to such fluctuations are likely to be more secure, less stressful and offer more opportunity for advancements. This varies depending upon the type of farm, and the financial position of the employer.


What Employers Seek

This can vary. If you are looking to enter this industry straight into a technical officer position, a diploma or degree may be preferred by many employers; however, technical officers can enter these positions by being promoted from lower positions.

For example: A research assistant or sales assistant in a company who learns on the job, and shows initiative by taking short courses or a certificate in their own time, can develop product knowledge and technical skills and become increasingly noticed by management. When the time comes to employ a new technical officer, a person such as this may often be a more attractive candidate than a raw graduate from a diploma or degree course.


How to Distinguish Yourself from the Competition

Study a different combination of modules or a different course. Be sure to only study courses that enhance your ability to think laterally -something that is critical for success in research.

Get experience and become very familiar with the products and services of any job you apply for before attending an interview.


Recommended Courses

A good starting point is a Certificate in Agriculture (click to see details). If you have limited time, and are already working in the agriculture industry; you may be wise to undertake short courses or modules one by one. (eg. Farm Management )

If you have the time to devote 10-20 hours or more a week to study, an Associate Diploma may be a better starting point.