Agricultural Engineering is the area of engineering concerned with the design, construction and improvement of farming equipment and machinery.
Agricultural engineers integrate technology with farming. For example, they design new and improved farming equipment that may work more efficiently, or perform new tasks. They design and build agricultural infrastructure such as dams, water reservoirs, warehouses, and other structures. They may also help engineer solutions for pollution control at large farms. Some agricultural engineers are developing new forms of biofuels from non-food resources like algae and agricultural waste. Such fuels could economically and sustainably replace gasoline without jeopardizing the food supply.
Agricultural Engineer Education
Students who are interested in studying agricultural engineering will benefit from taking high school courses in mathematics and sciences. 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, mathematics, 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.
Getting an Agricultural Engineering Degree
Entry-level jobs in agricultural engineering require a bachelor’s degree, preferably in agricultural or biological engineering. Such programs typically include classroom, laboratory, and field studies in science, math, and engineering. Participating in a cooperative program to gain practical experience while in college is highly recommended.
Agricultural engineers who offer their services directly to the public must be licensed as professional engineers (PEs). Licensure generally requires:
A degree from an ABET-accredited engineering program
A passing score on the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam
Relevant work experience, typically at least 4 years
A passing score on the Professional Engineering (PE) exam
College graduates may take the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam immediately. Engineers who pass this exam are called engineers in training (EITs) or engineer interns (EIs). After gaining four years of work experience, EITs and EIs can go on to take the Principles and Practice of Engineering exam to qualify for licensure.
Several states require engineers to participate in professional development activities in order to keep their licenses. Most states recognize licensure from other states, as long as that state’s requirements meet or exceed their own licensure requirements.
Presently, there are around 15 colleges in the US that specifically offer Agricultural Engineering or similar at bachelor’s. Most students will apply for a standard Engineering degree and then attempt to focus their majors on agriculture, land planning, GIS (Geographic Information Systems) or similar. You will be expected to display proficiency in math, hard sciences (especially physics) and English.
Engineering is a STEM subject, highly sought and well paid. Generally, you may not expect to struggle to find the sort of work that you want regardless of your qualifications. However, Agricultural Engineering is an area of low growth and limited jobs. A postgraduate qualification will improve your employability considerably, but you should look on the periphery and outside the immediate subject area. Academia may be one route available to you, but it is one of the lowest paid roles with this type of qualification.