Agricultural engineer essential career information:
- 2011 median pay: $74,630
- 2010, number of jobs: 2,700
- Employment growth forecast, 2010-2020: 9 percent
- Entry level education requirements: Bachelor’s degree
Agricultural engineers; what they do:
“Agricultural engineer” may sound like a fancy word for farmer, but these professionals handle a complicated array of responsibilities. Depending on their area of specialization, an agricultural engineer’s scope of expertise can focus on bioprocess technology, aquaculture, forestry, traditional farming, developing biofuels and conservation methods, planning animal environments or improving the way industry processes food.
Agriculture engineers tackle problems encompassing every aspect of farm operation: machinery, power, buildings, crops and animals. Some people who work in agricultural engineering develop new tools and methods for using them; design food processing plants; provide advice on water quality and pollution management and oversee land reclamation projects. An agricultural engineering career typically involves computer-aided design technology.
An agricultural engineer career may involve testing agricultural equipment to ensure proper performance. Agriculture engineers work indoors and outdoors, visiting agricultural sites to ensure equipment functions according to manufacturers’ instructions and government regulations. Professionals in agriculture engineering also work in research and development laboratories.
Agricultural engineers job duties:
- Supervising manufacturing operations.
- Designing machinery using sophisticated computer software.
- Designing food-processing plants.
- Developing living environments that ensure animals’ comfort, health and productivity.
- Designing crop processing and storage buildings.
- Planning and managing installation of electric power-distribution systems.
- Communicating with all those involved in an agricultural project.
- Providing advice on pollution issues, controlling rivers and ways to protect and use other water resources.
Agricultural engineers job titles:
- Research agricultural engineer
- Project engineer
- Conservation engineer
- Agricultural safety and health program director
- Agricultural systems specialist
- Research leader
Agricultural Engineers Education, Certification and License Requirements
Candidates for an agricultural engineer career typically need a bachelor’s degree in agricultural engineering or biological engineering. Agriculture engineers who offer services to the public must earn a license, which typically requires four years of experience as an agricultural engineer (which can include an internship), a degree from an accredited program and passing scores on the Fundamentals of Engineering and Professional Engineering exams.
Among agriculture engineers’ key skills are critical thinking, mathematics, problem-solving, listening and experience with common office software and computer-aided design software.
Career Advancement Opportunities
As agriculture engineers gain experience, they work more independently and may advance to leading a team of agricultural engineers. Some agriculture engineers choose roles as engineering managers or segue into sales work.
Agricultural engineers programs cover subjects such as:
- Geology and soil physics
- Soil mechanics
- Ocean and atmospheric dynamics
- Environmental microclimatology
Agricultural Engineers Job Outlook
Forecast: 9 percent employment growth from 2010 to 2020 for agriculture engineers. While projected job growth in agricultural engineering doesn’t meet the average for all occupations, agriculture engineers’ ability to use their expertise to branch out into new areas will increase their hiring potential.
New agriculture engineering arenas include high-tech applications to agricultural products, water resource management and alternative energies, as well as designing new machinery and equipment. United States companies selling to farmers internationally will have an increased need for agricultural engineers.
Agricultural Engineers Salary
- 2011 median annual wage: $61,460
- 2011, workers at the 75th percentile annual wage: $93,880
- 2011, workers at the 25% percentile annual wage: $56,470
Agricultural Engineers Major Employers
- Architectural, engineering and related services
- Federal government
- Agriculture, construction and mining machinery manufacturing
- Food manufacturing
- Educational services