Agricultural engineers solve problems concerning power supplies, machine efficiency, the use of structures and facilities, pollution and environmental issues, and the storage and processing of agricultural products.
What they do
Agricultural engineers typically do the following:
- 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
Agricultural engineers work in farming, including aquaculture (farming of seafood), forestry, and food processing. They work on a wide variety of projects. For example, some agricultural engineers work to develop climate control systems that increase the comfort and productivity of livestock whereas others work to increase the storage capacity and efficiency of refrigeration. Many agricultural engineers attempt to develop better solutions for animal waste disposal. Those with computer programming skills work to integrate artificial intelligence and geospatial systems into agriculture. For example, they work to improve efficiency in fertilizer application or to automate harvesting systems.
Agricultural engineers typically work in offices, but may spend time at a variety of worksites, both indoors and outdoors. They may travel to agricultural settings to see that equipment and machinery are functioning according to both the manufacturers’ specifications and federal and state regulations. Some agricultural engineers occasionally work in laboratories to test the quality of processing equipment. They may work onsite when they supervise livestock facility upgrades or water resource management projects.
How to become an Agricultural Engineer
Agricultural engineers must have a bachelor’s degree, preferably in agricultural engineering or biological engineering.
Students who are interested in studying agricultural engineering will benefit from taking high school courses in math and science. University students take courses in advanced calculus, physics, biology, and chemistry. They also may take courses in business, public policy, and economics.
Entry-level jobs in agricultural engineering require a bachelor’s degree. Bachelor’s degree programs in agricultural engineering or biological engineering typically include significant hands-on components in areas such as science, math, and engineering principles. Most colleges and universities encourage students to gain practical experience through projects such as participating in engineering competitions in which teams of students design equipment and attempt to solve real problems.
The median annual wage for agricultural engineers was $80,720 in May 2019. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $47,330, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $160,950.
Employment of agricultural engineers is projected to grow 2 percent from 2019 to 2029, slower than the average for all occupations.
Farming establishments will continue to require more machinery, equipment, and buildings to increase the efficiency of agricultural production systems and to reduce environmental damage, which should maintain demand for these workers.
Agricultural engineers are expected to continue working on projects such as alternative energies and biofuels; precision and automated farming technologies for irrigation, spraying, and harvesting; and growing food in space to support future exploration.
More efficient designs for traditional agricultural engineering projects such as irrigation, storage, and worker safety systems will also maintain demand for these workers. Growing populations and stronger global competition will result in the industry needing more efficient means of production, which will increase demand for agricultural engineers.
Similar Job Titles
Agricultural Engineer, Agricultural Safety and Health Program Director, Agricultural Systems Specialist, Conservation Engineer, Engineer, Product Engineer, Product Technology Scientist, Project Engineer, Research Agricultural Engineer, Research Leader
Chemical Engineer, Civil Engineer, Environmental Engineer, Energy Engineer, Hydrologist
The trade associations listed below represent organizations made up of people (members) who work and promote advancement in the field. Members are very interested in telling others about their work and about careers in those areas. As well, trade associations provide opportunities for organizational networking and learning more about the field’s trends and directions.
- Agronomic Science Foundation - Mission is to provide leadership and financial resources to further the role of the agronomic, crop, and soil sciences in global crop production, and to promote human welfare within a sustainable environment.
- American Dairy Science Association - ADSA is an international organization of educators, scientists, and industry representatives who are committed to advancing the dairy industry and keenly aware of the vital role the dairy sciences play in fulfilling the economic, nutritive, and health requirements of the world's population.
- American Society of Agronomy - ASA is a progressive international scientific and professional society that empowers scientists, educators, and practitioners in developing, disseminating, and applying agronomic solutions to feed and sustain the world.
- Association of Official Seed Analysts/Society of Commercial Seed Technologists - AOSA is an organization of member laboratories dedicated to education and research, including state, federal, and university laboratories from the United States and Canada.
- Crop Science Society of America - CSSA is a progressive international scientific society that fosters the vision to improve the world through crop science. Based in Madison, WI, and founded in 1956, CSSA is the professional home for 4,000+ members dedicated to discover and apply plant science solutions to improve the human condition and protect the planet.
- International Society for Seed Science - ISSS is a professional organization of seed scientists committed to fostering and promoting research, education and communication in the scientific understanding of seeds.
- American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers - ASABE membership is open to all—engineers as well as non-engineers—who are interested in engineering and technology for agricultural, food, and biological systems. Students, check out awards, competitions and scholarships.
- American Society of Agronomy - The American Society of Agronomy is the professional home for scientists dedicated to advancing the discipline of the agronomic sciences. Of particular interest for students and educators may be the Agronomy4me online resource.
Magazines and Publications
- Food Technology Today
- Annual Review of Food Science and Technology Journal
- Progressive Farmer Magazine
- Farm World Online
- Food Science News
- Food Science Magazine
- ASABE Resource Magazine
Reducing pollution in a farm’s water supply… Improving the efficiency of a rural electric power system… Discovering a new way to extend the life of a tomato… These are some of the projects an agricultural engineer might work on in the quest to make agricultural operations as efficient and productive as possible. Most agricultural engineers work in offices, with frequent research visits to farms, labs or rural areas. They work for government offices, engineering firms, universities and manufacturers. The ultimate goal for these engineers is to improve crop and livestock production. This career focuses on the design and manufacture of the equipment and facilities needed to reach that goal. Agricultural engineers examine the impact of plant and food production on the greater environment, and look for ways to reduce negative impacts. Sometimes they even make news headlines with breakthroughs on production techniques, such as genetic engineering and cloning. Agricultural engineers need an aptitude for science and technology, along with good oral and written communication skills. They rely heavily on their ability to recognize and solve problems. A bachelor’s degree in agricultural or biological engineering is the entry-level education needed. As the world population continues to expand, the need for the work of agricultural engineers will only continue to grow.
Content retrieved from: US Bureau of Labor Statistic www.bls.gov/ooh,
CareerOneStop www.careeronestop.org, O*Net Online www.onetonline.org