Career Development

What Does an Agricultural Engineer Do?

Find out what an agricultural engineer does, how to get this job, and what it takes to succeed as an agricultural engineer.

Agricultural engineers apply the principles of science and engineering to solve problems in agriculture. They may work on a wide range of projects, from designing automated systems for crop harvesting to developing new methods of animal husbandry.

Agricultural engineers are often involved with all aspects of production—from planning and planting to harvesting and processing. They may also be responsible for creating or maintaining equipment used in these processes.

Agricultural Engineer Job Duties

Agricultural engineers have a wide range of responsibilities, which can include:

  • Evaluating the productivity of farms, ranches, greenhouses, nurseries, forests, plantations, orchards, and other agricultural operations, using computer models to predict yields based on weather patterns and other data
  • Developing plans for improving the efficiency of farming operations by using new technology and equipment such as automated machinery and robotics
  • Conducting research on new technology applications in agriculture such as nanotechnology and biotechnology
  • Monitoring water quality in agricultural ecosystems and developing plans to mitigate any damage from pollution
  • Designing irrigation systems for farms, including identifying the source of water, selecting pumping equipment, and determining how water will be distributed
  • Testing new technologies for use in agriculture such as automated machinery and robotics
  • Designing, building, and maintaining structures such as fences, roads, dams, bridges, canals, and aqueducts
  • Identifying ways to increase crop yields through improved methods of cultivation or by using new technology such as genetically modified seeds
  • Scheduling work crews to perform agricultural tasks such as planting, harvesting, and applying fertilizers or pesticides

Agricultural Engineer Salary & Outlook

Agricultural engineers’ salaries vary depending on their level of education, years of experience, and the type of company they work for. They may also earn additional compensation in the form of bonuses.

  • Median Annual Salary: $72,500 ($34.86/hour)
  • Top 10% Annual Salary: $145,000 ($69.71/hour)

The employment of agricultural engineers is expected to grow slower than average over the next decade.

The need to increase food production in an environmentally responsible way will continue to drive demand for agricultural engineering services. However, increasing automation of agricultural equipment may limit the number of jobs for agricultural engineers.

Related: In-Depth Agricultural Engineer Salary Guide

Agricultural Engineer Job Requirements

Agricultural engineers typically need to have the following background:

Education: Most agricultural engineers have a bachelor’s degree in agricultural engineering or agricultural science. Some agricultural engineers choose to earn a master’s degree in agricultural engineering or agricultural science to increase their job opportunities and earning potential.

Training & Experience: Agricultural engineers typically receive on-the-job training after they are hired. This training helps them learn the specific requirements of the company and the industry. It also helps them learn the specific software and equipment they will use in their job.

Certifications & Licenses: Agricultural engineers need a Professional Engineer license to work in the field. This requires completing the necessary coursework to receive a bachelor’s degree and passing the Fundamentals of Engineering exam. After earning a bachelor’s, you can take additional coursework to earn a master’s degree in agricultural engineering and then take the FE exam.

Agricultural Engineer Skills

Agricultural engineers need the following skills in order to be successful:

Technical skills: Technical skills are the abilities to use tools and technology to complete a task. Agricultural engineers use technical skills to operate machinery, use software to create models and conduct research.

Communication skills: Agricultural engineers often work with other professionals in the agricultural industry, including farmers, ranchers, veterinarians and other agricultural specialists. Effective communication skills can help agricultural engineers convey their ideas and suggestions to others. They may also need to communicate with their clients to explain their ideas and proposals.

Problem-solving skills: Agricultural engineers use their problem-solving skills to find solutions to challenges in the agricultural industry. They use their problem-solving skills to find ways to increase crop yields, develop new methods of irrigation and find ways to prevent pests from destroying crops.

Analytical skills: Agricultural engineers use analytical skills to evaluate data and make informed decisions about crop production, soil quality and irrigation methods. They also use analytical skills to determine the most efficient methods for harvesting crops and maintaining soil quality.

Project management: Agricultural engineers often work with other professionals to complete projects, so project management skills can be very helpful. These professionals often have to manage budgets, deadlines and other aspects of a project.

Agricultural Engineer Work Environment

Agricultural engineers work in a variety of settings, including offices, laboratories, farms, and factories. They may spend time outdoors, working in the field with farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural workers. They may also travel to visit construction sites or to observe the operation of farm equipment. Agricultural engineers typically work a regular 40-hour week, although they may work longer hours during planting and harvest seasons. They may also be on call to respond to emergencies, such as floods, droughts, and crop failures.

Agricultural Engineer Trends

Here are three trends influencing how agricultural engineers work. Agricultural engineers will need to stay up-to-date on these developments to keep their skills relevant and maintain a competitive advantage in the workplace.

Agricultural Robots Are Here to Stay

Agricultural robots are here to stay, as they offer farmers a number of benefits. These include increased efficiency, reduced labor costs, and improved crop yields.

As agricultural robots become more popular, agricultural engineers will need to learn how to design and build them. This includes understanding the latest technologies and developing the skills needed to assemble these systems.

The Use of Drones in Agriculture Will Continue to Grow

The use of drones in agriculture will continue to grow as farmers look for new ways to improve their operations.

Drones can be used to monitor crops, detect problems early, and even spray pesticides. Agricultural engineers can take advantage of this trend by becoming experts in drone technology and developing new uses for it in agriculture.

More Focus on Sustainability

As sustainability becomes more important, agricultural engineers will need to focus on creating sustainable solutions for farms. This includes designing systems that use less water and energy, as well as developing new methods for recycling waste products.

In order to stay ahead of the curve, agricultural engineers will need to develop expertise in areas such as renewable energy and biotechnology. They will also need to be able to communicate effectively with other members of the farm team, such as farmers and veterinarians.

How to Become an Agricultural Engineer

Agricultural engineers have a lot of options when it comes to their career path. They can work for private companies, government agencies, or nonprofit organizations. They can also choose to specialize in one area of agriculture engineering or another.

No matter what direction they take, agricultural engineers should keep up with the latest technologies and trends in their field. They should also stay connected with other professionals in the industry and attend relevant conferences and workshops.

Related: How to Write an Agricultural Engineer Resume

Advancement Prospects

Agricultural engineers may advance to supervisory or managerial positions. With experience, they may become independent consultants or move into sales or marketing for agricultural equipment manufacturers. Some agricultural engineers may also become college or university professors.

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