Agricultural Engineer: Job Description, Duties, Salary, and Other Requirements

FT Contributor  | 

An agricultural engineer uses engineering principles and knowledge of the agricultural sector to make improvements to farming practices. Many improvements in the farming industry and advancements in farming equipment can be attributed to dedicated agricultural engineers.

As problem-solvers with farming and agriculture industry knowledge, agricultural engineers use their talents to make farming more sustainable, efficient, and productive. If you’re considering a job as an agricultural engineer, review this guide to learn more about the job description, salary, outlook, and education requirements.

What Does an Agricultural Engineer Do?

The farming industry faces many challenges and agricultural engineers tackle these problems in an attempt to design processes, systems, and equipment to make this crucial activity more productive. The specific tasks agricultural engineers complete each day can vary, depending on the projects they’re working on. On any given day, an agricultural engineer may be tasked with:

  • Designing new systems or equipment, such as food processing plants, using advanced computer systems.
  • Creating ways to amend environmental factors that are hindering farming production or agricultural activities, such as redistributing airflow in a barn or changing water runoff patterns.
  • Designing new farming environments or animal housing with the goal of more productivity in mind.
  • Working with other engineers, clients, or scientists to identify problems and create plans of action.
  • Overseeing production and construction of their designs.
  • Testing modified or newly created agricultural and farming equipment to ensure it’s safe and efficient.

Agricultural engineers may work in aquaculture (fishing), agriculture, crop farming, forestry, or food processing. The projects they focus on can vary depending on the field they work in and the specific farming issue they’re attempting to solve. Projects that agricultural engineers may work on could include developing solutions for animal waste disposal, improving refrigeration efficiency, developing climate control systems, or creating an automated system for harvesting.

Work Schedule

Agricultural engineers generally work 40 hours each week but overtime may be required if they’re working on an advanced project. Weather conditions can affect an agricultural engineer’s ability to work, so hours may need to be made up at night or on the weekends to complete outdoor projects.

Average Agricultural Engineer Salary

Agricultural engineering is not one of the highest-paying engineering jobs, but your salary can increase with experience and as you move into a supervisory role. The salary of an agricultural engineer varies, depending on education, training, experience in the field, job title, and location. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in May 2018, agricultural engineers earned a median salary of $77,110, which averages out to $37.07 in hourly pay. Engineering services and federal government jobs earned the highest salaries in the industry.

Agricultural Engineering Education, Licenses, Certifications, and Training

To become an agricultural engineer, you must be dedicated to secondary education and gaining experience in the field.

Education Requirements

You must earn a bachelor’s degree to become an agricultural engineer. It’s beneficial to major in either agricultural engineering or biological engineering so you can learn more about the field while gaining your education. You should consider earning your master’s degree in agricultural engineering if you want to become deeply involved in research and development activities or a postsecondary engineering teacher.

Licenses/Certifications

Licensure isn’t necessary to obtain an entry-level position in agricultural engineering. However, if you want to work independently or eventually take on a leadership role, you may be required to obtain a Professional Engineering (PE) license. To be licensed, you must have your bachelor’s degree, at least four years of relevant work experience, and pass two exams. Depending on the state you reside in, you may also be responsible for completing continuing education to renew your license.

Training

Most entry-level agricultural engineers work under licensed and experienced engineers for years before advancing into more independent roles. After proving you’ve obtained the required knowledge and experience, you may be put on more difficult projects or asked to manage more important tasks.

Eventually, you may be asked to lead a team of agricultural engineers on a project or manage the department. It’s important to understand your personality type so you know if you would enjoy managing and leading a team.

Agricultural Engineer Job Outlook

Agricultural engineer jobs are expected to grow by 5% from 2018 to 2028, which is about as fast as all other occupations. These workers will remain in demand because, as the population grows, agricultural production system efficiency becomes increasingly important. Environmental issues and the way agricultural activities negatively impact the environment are also cause for concern. Agricultural engineers must create efficient and environmentally-friendly solutions to these problems.

Should I Become an Agricultural Engineer?

A job as an agricultural engineer may be right for you if you have an interest in agriculture and farming activities and enjoy creating solutions to inefficiencies as they relate to the industry. In addition to having a passion for engineering and agriculture, you also need to possess certain skills to be successful in a position as an agricultural engineer. These workers must possess:

  • Skills in problem-solving: Your main job as an agricultural engineer is to solve problems in the agricultural and farming industries with innovative and detailed solutions.
  • Skills in communication: Not only will you likely work with a team of agricultural engineers, you’ll also need to communicate effectively with manufacturers, scientists, and clients.
  • Skills in mathematics: To analyze, design, and troubleshoot the functionalities of farming equipment, you must demonstrate advanced skills in trigonometry and calculus, as well as basic math skills.

Agricultural engineers must also have strong analytical and listening skills so they can create solutions and work together with other professionals to execute their plans. If you’re not sure whether becoming an agricultural engineer is the right career for you, try taking a career test so you can identify a better match that suits your personality.


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This post was updated December 24, 2019. It was originally published December 24, 2019.