What You'll Do
By Jennifer Wegerer
Agricultural engineering professionals apply their knowledge of engineering technology and biological science to agriculture. They design agricultural machinery, equipment and structures; develop methods to conserve soil and water; and research ways to improve how agricultural products are processed. Depending on their career interests, agricultural engineers can choose from a number of specializations, such as power systems and machinery design, structural and environmental engineering, and food and bioprocess engineering.
Their unique education trains agricultural engineering professionals to understand the interrelationships between technology and living systems, preparing them for diverse career opportunities in ecosystem protection, food safety, bioenergy and human health.
Top employers for agricultural engineers include:
- Agricultural services
- Manufacturing companies
- The federal government
- Colleges and universities
Several factors have contributed to the rising need for agricultural engineers:
- An expanding population—agricultural engineers are at the forefront of researching ways to increase crop yields necessary to feed more and more people.
- Renewable energy—the high demand to produce crops for use as renewable energy sources inherently involves agricultural engineering expertise and technical knowledge.
- Conservation—agricultural engineers play a key role in uncovering methods for preserving natural resources and developing more efficient agricultural production.
The Future of Agricultural Engineering
The American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers (ASABE) describes the crucial responsibility that biological and agricultural engineers have in developing viable, environmentally sustainable solutions to the population and resource challenges impacting our present and future.
In the realm of green energy, agricultural engineering is essential to identifying and developing alternative, renewable energy sources, such as biomass, methane and vegetable oil. What's more, agricultural engineers focus on means for making these alternative energy sources cleaner and more efficient, developing energy conservation strategies that not only reduce costs but protect the environment.
Schools & Degree Programs
As ASABE indicates, undergraduate agricultural engineering students can expect to take classes in engineering fundamentals, agricultural and biological sciences, mathematics, economics, and general education courses in the humanities. Graduate-level programs in agricultural engineering typically involve intensive course work and in-depth research in the student's chosen specialty.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' 2018-19 Occupational Outlook Handbook, the median national annual salary for agricultural engineers is $73,640. Actual salaries may vary greatly based on specialization within the field, location, years of experience and a variety of other factors. National long-term projections of employment growth may not reflect local and/or short-term economic or job conditions, and do not guarantee actual job growth.