Agricultural Engineering is a branch of engineering that deals with design, construction and improvement of different farming machinery and equipment. Agricultural engineers integrate technology into farming by designing new and improved equipment that increase the efficiency and effectiveness of agricultural tasks. They design and construct agricultural infrastructure, such as water reservoirs, dams and warehouses. They may also help with pollution control methods at large farms.
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics lists their tasks as follows:
Use computer software to design equipment, systems, or structures
Modify environmental factors that affect animal or crop production, such as airflow in a barn or runoff patterns on a field
Test equipment to ensure its safety and reliability
Oversee construction and production operations
Plan and work together with clients, contractors, consultants, and other engineers to ensure effective and desirable outcomes
How to Get a Degree in Agricultural Engineering
To get into this field, aspiring agricultural engineers will have to complete certain educational requirements. This would start off with a high school diploma. At the high school stage, taking courses in math and science is advised. Following this, you should shortlist a few accredited schools you want to apply to and send in your application packages to them.
The minimum education you need to get into this field is a bachelor’s degree in agricultural sciences. During the four years of this degree, students will complete coursework such as Farm Tractors and Power Units, Systems Analysis in Agriculture, Operations Research and Systems Theory, Occupational Safety Management, Spatial Technology for Precision Agriculture, IT for Agricultural Systems, Processing and Storage of Agricultural Products.
Students also have the option of getting an online degree in agricultural engineering from an accredited online institute.
Advanced studies options include a Master’s Degree in Agricultural Engineering, which would typically take 2 years to complete and a PhD in Agricultural Engineering, which would take 4 to 7 years to complete.
Steps to Become an Agricultural Engineer
If you intend to become an agricultural engineer, the following steps would serve as a helpful guideline for you.
Step 1: Complete the Educational Requirements to Become an Agricultural Engineer
As discussed above, these would include getting an Agricultural Engineering Degree after completing a high school diploma. It is important to earn this degree from an institute that is accredited by the Accreditation Board of Engineering and Technology (ABET).
Step 2: Specialize in a Certain Sub-Field
Focusing your education on a specialization will make you more competitive in the job market. Many college level degrees in agricultural engineering would allow you to focus your education on a specific area. Areas of specializations can include management of natural resources, mechanical and electronic systems, processing management, agricultural research, agricultural equipment design and building design.
Step 3: Get a License
Even though agricultural engineers are not required to have a license for entry level positions, it is recommended that you get one, somewhere down the road in your career. A professional with Engineering (PE) license performs tasks such as working with other engineers, signing off on projects and providing services to the public directly. To get a state license, you will generally need the following:
A degree from an accredited program
Passing the Fundamentals of Engineering Exam (FE)
Getting 4 years of relevant work experience
Passing the Professional Engineering (PE) exam
Step 4: Consider Getting Certifications
Certifications are an ideal way to advance in your career. Many large scale employers might show preference towards hiring professionals with additional credentials. The National Institute for Certification in Engineering Technologies (NICET) provides several options to those looking for certifications.
How Much Can I Make as an Agricultural Engineer?
As per 2018 data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, Agricultural Engineers made an annual median income of $77,110, which roughly translates to $37.07 per hour. The top industry for this occupational group was Engineering Services, paying an annual median income of $87,330, followed by the Federal Government (excluding postal service), which paid $86,120. The top paying state for agricultural engineers was Illinois, paying an annual mean wage of $86,690, followed by Iowa ($85,320) and Ohio ($83,600).
What Is the Job Outlook for Agricultural Engineers?
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics has listed the growth in this occupation category at 5%, which is as fast as the average growth for all occupations.