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Agricultural Engineer Job Description, Career as an Agricultural Engineer, Salary, Employment

Definition and Nature of the Work, Education and Training Requirements, Getting the Job

Education and Training: College

Salary: Median—$56,520 per year

Employment Outlook: Good

Definition and Nature of the Work

Agricultural engineers use their knowledge to solve the problems of farmers and the agricultural industry. They work to improve the quality and increase the production of farm products. Most agricultural engineers work for manufacturing companies that design and supply equipment. In these companies engineers work in sales, research and development, marketing, advertising, and management. Some engineers teach in colleges and universities. Others work as technical writers and editors for agricultural publications. Engineers also do extension service work or work for banks or insurance companies. A few are self-employed as consultants to farmers, manufacturers, and government agencies.

Agricultural engineers generally specialize in one of five major areas: farm structures, mechanical power, electrification, soil and water conservation, and food engineering. Engineers who work in farm structures design farmhouses, barns and other animal shelters, and crop storage facilities such as silos and granaries. In addition, they plan sanitation, ventilation, and heating systems for these buildings. Agricultural engineers also design power machines used on farms for land tilling, insect control, fertilization, and harvesting.

Agricultural engineers involved in electrification may design an electric power system for a rural region. Others develop or improve ways to use electric power for such purposes as curing and drying crops or dehydrating food. Engineers who work in soil and water conservation develop irrigation, drainage, and flood control systems. The newest specialty of agricultural engineers is that of food processing. In this work, engineers design efficient food plants and new machinery to preserve, package, and distribute foods.

Education and Training Requirements

The minimum requirement for agricultural engineers is a bachelor's degree in agricultural engineering. Colleges offer four- and five-year programs. Research and college-level teaching positions generally require a master's or doctoral degree.

Engineers whose work affects public health and safety must obtain a state license. Requirements for licensing generally include a degree in engineering, several years of work experience in the engineering field, and a good score on a written test.

Getting the Job

Interested students should contact their college placement office for job assistance. Industries involved in agriculture regularly send representatives to colleges to discuss job openings. In addition, professional societies and journals may list openings. To get a government job, apply to take the necessary civil service test.

Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook

Researchers may advance to chief of a research division. Those who work in the industry may become top managers for their company. Some open their own consulting firms.

The employment outlook for agricultural engineers is good. Although the growth rate in many agricultural fields is expected to be small, agricultural engineers will make gains by diversifying from their original domain and extending into the conservation industry, where the reuse of agricultural waste materials is an important development. The increasing world population will also prove a boon to the agriculture industry as a whole, as the demand for farm products increases.

Working Conditions

Working conditions for agricultural engineers depend on the kind of work they do. Some of their work may be done in laboratories, in offices, or at the designing table. Sometimes their work requires observation in the field. They may need to investigate farm operations, survey land use and conditions, or test new equipment. Engineers normally work thirty-five to forty hours a week. However, they may work more hours when a project is near completion or to meet a deadline.

Where to Go for More Information

American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers (ASABE)
2950 Niles Rd.
St. Joseph, MI 49085
(269) 429-0300

National Association of Environmental Professionals
P.O. Box 2086
Bowie, MD 20718
(888) 251-9902

Earnings and Benefits

Salaries vary with education and experience. Agricultural engineers holding a bachelor's degree can start at $42,987 per year. Those with a master's degree may earn $54,000 per year. Those with doctoral degrees can earn annual salaries of $70,000 or more. The median annual salary is $56,520, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Engineers receive paid vacations and holidays, health and life insurance, and pension plans.

Additional topics

Job Descriptions and Careers, Career and Job Opportunities, Career Search, and Career Choices and ProfilesAgribusiness, Environment, and Natural Resources