Agricultural Engineer Job Description
Agricultural engineers use their knowledge of engineering and biology to improve the quality of agricultural production and the products that are used on farms.
Because agricultural engineering is such a broad field, many engineers choose to specialize in solving a particular type of problem. Depending on their area of specialty, an agricultural engineer may design agricultural machinery, food processing plants, housing environments that improve the health of livestock, solutions to water quality issues, and many other solutions that impact both farming and the food that we eat.
Since most of the work that agricultural engineers do results in providing a more sustainable and safe food supply for humans, this can be a very rewarding occupation.
If you want a career where you can use math and science to improve our quality of life, then this field might be a good fit for you.
Work Environment and Schedule
The majority of agricultural engineers are employed by engineering firms, the federal government, and food manufacturers. Don’t limit your job search to just these industries, though — there are opportunities in other places as well.
If you want to work for the federal government, the Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the Food and Drug Administration are just about always hiring agricultural engineers.
The work environment for people in this occupation varies depending on the type of work that they do. Some agricultural engineers are able to spend all of their time working in an office, while others spend a lot of their time in laboratories, and worksites.
Most agricultural engineers work full time. Because engineering is a deadline driven business, working overtime is common as deadlines approach.
Additionally, some agricultural engineering projects require good weather in order for the work to get done. In these cases, engineers may work very long days when the weather is good, and then shorter days when the weather is poor.
Depending on the proximity of a project to their home, extended travel is sometimes required for agricultural engineers.
How to Become an Agricultural Engineer
A minimum of a bachelor’s degree is required to become an agricultural engineer. Though a degree in any engineering discipline may qualify you for a position in this field, a degree in biological engineering or architectural engineering will give you the best chance of employment.
While in college, getting a summer internship can be very valuable once it comes time to get a job. Employers prefer candidates who have practical experience, and any time you spend learning more about the field will be valuable to you after graduation.
If you are thinking about enrolling in an engineering program, you should check to see if it’s accredited by ABET. If it isn’t, your opportunities for employment may be limited.
If you’re still in high school and you think that a career in agricultural engineering sounds interesting, you can start preparing yourself by taking high level math and science courses.
There are currently 2,700 agricultural engineers in the United States, with 80 new agricultural engineer job openings created each year.
Agricultural Engineer jobs are not expected to see much growth beyond their current levels in the next decade.
Agricultural Engineer Salaries
Agricultural Engineer salaries can vary depending on your experience, the location, company, industry, and benefits provided. Nationwide, most agricultural engineers make between $56,500 – $93,900 per year, or $27.15 – $45.13 per hour.
Career in Agriculture – Description, Income, & Qualification
An agricultural engineer’s job is to do research on how to make farming, food processing and storage, safety, etc. more effective. They don’t have one specific task at hand; each job have its own specific set of tasks, some of which are listed below:
- Research on machinery and equipment currently used in farming
The goal is to design new and improved tools that can make farming more cost effective.
- Saving time
Agricultural engineers design new equipment that can do more work in less time. Look at the farming history; we have come a long way. The machinery farmers use today are very advance thanks to all the engineers who helped in making this possible. However, the process of improving farming machinery hasn’t stopped; somewhere around the country, someone might be working on a new tractor design as you are reading this article!
- Safer Environment
One of the tasks an agricultural engineer do is improving safety/security of animals and workers; there are a number of ways they can achieve this goal. The process usually involves analyzing the environment, machinery, chemicals used in farming, and equipment. Their goal is to keep everybody healthy and safe, and keep an eye on anything that can increase pollution.
- Food storage
One of the most important part of farming is to store crop in a way that is most cost effective and can safely store crops for longer period.
Work Conditions and Timings
There are a number of different industries that require expertise of agricultural engineers. As an agricultural engineer, you can get a job at food processing companies, farming equipment makers, farming research companies, seed producing, and many other industries.
Agricultural engineers usually spend time in office and in the fields as well; it depends on what kind of job you are doing. Inspecting the equipment and machinery often requires them to visit worksites. Very few people in this industry are doing a job in which they sit in office chair all day. This job requires a lot of practical work. Some spend most of their time testing for chemicals in laboratories.
High school and university students should focus on Math, Physics, Chemistry, and Biology if they want a career in agricultural engineering. To get an entry-level job, you need at least a Bachelor’s degree in Bio or agricultural engineering. To improve your job prospects, you should consider getting a Professional Engineering License; to get a PEL, you must meet certain requirements one of which is four years of work experience. Check the following websites for courses and degrees in agricultural engineering:
1. Becoming a Professional Engineer (PE)
2. Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University
3. Iowa State University
4. North Dakota State University
5. Purdue University
6. South Dakota State University
7. TEXAS A&M UNIVERSITY
8. The Ohio State University
9. University of Florida
10. University Of Georgia
11. University of Idaho
According to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, job growth in agricultural engineer will be around four percent for period between the years 2014 to 2024. As of 2016, there are 2,330 agricultural engineers in United States. The demand for agricultural engineers is steadily increasing. The need to make farming and other agricultural activities cost effective and finding ways to reduce environmental damages are two main goals that are increasing job growth in this industry.
With mean hourly rate of $37.73, agricultural engineer jobs let you make a decent living. Employees made an annual income of ~$47,500/year doing the lowest paid jobs in this industry; on the other side of the spectrum, the highest paid employees made ~$117,000/year.