How to Become an Agricultural Engineer: Career Path Guide
If you want to become an agricultural engineer, you will need a degree in agricultural or bio-resource engineering.
Having a degree in other areas of engineering, such civil, mechanical or chemical engineering, can qualify you to work in certain types of agricultural engineering jobs.
If you want to become a successful agricultural engineer, you will also need to make sure this career aligns with your interest, skills, and personality traits.
Does the following describe you?
• You have a keen interest in improving sustainable agriculture production
• You have an interest in math, science, engineering and agriculture
• You have strong project management abilities
• You have a strong enough imagination to see how systems and machinery function as part of larger, more complex systems
• You enjoy the idea of having a well-paying career
• You enjoy the idea of a career field with diverse possibilities for specialization
Below we've provided detailed information on what you'll need to become an agricultural engineer. We've also included helpful information for this career, such as salary expectations, working conditions, a list of possible employer types, and much more!
Education Required to Become an Agricultural Engineer
The educational requirements for becoming an agricultural engineer vary by employer. Typically, the minimum requirement to get a job in this field is a bachelor’s degree in agricultural or bioresource engineering.
Individuals who have degrees in civil, mechanical, chemical or other branches of engineering may work in certain types of agricultural engineering positions.
Some employers will prefer to hire agricultural engineers who have a masters’ degree or higher in agricultural engineering. A master's degree is also typically needed if you want to become a highly specialized agricultural engineer.
If you want to work as an agricultural engineer that teaches or conducts research, you will likely need a doctoral degree (Ph.D.).
Agricultural Engineer Job Description
Agricultural engineers integrate engineering principles and design with applied biological science to solve problems in agriculture, food and other resource industries.
They analyze agricultural operations and weigh the use of new technologies and methods to increase yields, improve land use, and conserve resources like seed, water, fertilizers, pesticides and fuel.
Depending on the job they are hired to do, agricultural engineers may have a variety of responsibilities ranging from designing improved drainage and irrigation systems, to studying the genetics of a species of plant.
Agricultural Engineer Job Duties
Although the job duties of an agricultural engineer can vary significantly from one job to the next, they are generally responsible for the following:
• Recommending strategies to protect the health, safety and security of worker's, animals and agricultural products
• Finding better ways to reduce crop loss from field damage, during handling, sorting, packing and processing
• Designing and supervising the construction of crop storage structures and animal shelters
• Planning the heating, cooling, ventilation, post-harvest handling, and logistics of food and fiber warehousing
• Designing and supervising the installation of farm product processing and evaluation instruments
• Designing, constructing and using sensing, measuring and recording devices to study problems related to effects of temperature, humidity and light on plants and animals
• Studying the relative effectiveness of applying insecticides
• Planning and directing the construction of irrigation, power, drainage, and soil and water conservation systems
Licensing for Becoming an Agricultural Engineer
You do not need licensing to become an entry-level engineer (also known as an Engineer-in-Training). In fact, engineers can only be licensed after having accumulated a few years worth of work experience.
Agricultural engineers who become licensed carry the designation of professional engineer (PE). To be licensed as a professional engineer, you generally need to meet the following requirements:
• A degree from an accredited engineering program
• A passing score on the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam
• Relevant work experience (typically 2-3 years)
• A passing score on the Professional Engineering (PE) exam
Skills Needed to Become an Agricultural Engineer
Agricultural engineers must have a wealth of knowledge and skills to function effectively in the agricultural and agribusiness industries.
Some agricultural engineers will specialize in certain areas, and will thus require a certain, specific skill set. In general however, agricultural engineers must have the following skills:
• An aptitude for mathematics, physics, chemistry, mechanics and the biological sciences
• Strong project management abilities
• Knowledge of databases, Excel and 3D design software
• Strong working knowledge of machine design and fabrication
• Able to foresee how their system designs will interact with other components of the larger system
• Conversant with design and selection of mechanical equipment like pressure vessels, heat exchangers, pumps, conveyors, tanks, piping etc.
• Have sound knowledge of applicable codes and standards
• Able to work with technicians, scientists and other engineers toward a common goal
• Able to solve multiple issues when designing facilities and processes, from workers’ safety to environmental protection
• Able to anticipate problems in order to prevent losses for their employers, safeguard workers’ health, and mitigate environmental damage
Characteristics Needed to Become an Agricultural Engineer
In order to become a successful agricultural engineer, you have to truly enjoy what you do. If you have the following personal traits and interests, then this career is likely well suited for you:
• A deep interest in mathematics, science, engineering, economics and agriculture
• An interest in improving sustainable agriculture production
• A strong work ethic
• Enjoy being innovative
• Enjoy doing work that involves precision
• Interest in a well-paying career
• Interest in a career that allows you to work indoors and outdoors
• Enjoy the idea of a career field with diverse possibilities for specialization
Who Creates Jobs for Agricultural Engineers?
The agricultural engineer can be found working in industry with organizations associated with agriculture such as:
• Manufacturers and suppliers of agricultural equipment, machinery and structures
• Power and light companies
• Agri-food processing firms
• Large farm operations
• Firms in the energy industry
• Environmental and agricultural consulting firms
There are also a number of places agricultural engineers can find employment outside of industry. Other organizations that hire agricultural engineers include:
• Federal, provincial/state, and municipal government departments
• Colleges, universities, and research institutes
• Not-for-profit and non-governmental organizations
Agricultural engineers may work as:
• Project managers
• Project consultants
• Chemical engineers
• Civil engineers
• Design engineers
• Design consultants
• Sales and service advisors
• Production managers
• Community educators
• Industry regulators (in government)
Agricultural Engineer Job Opportunities
Agricultural Engineer Jobs - Canada
Agricultural Engineer Jobs - United States
Job Prospects for Agricultural Engineers
It is speculated that because of rising populations, the continuous rise of agricultural costs, and increasing food production regulations, that there should be a strong demand for agricultural engineers for the foreseeable future.
Agricultural Engineer Salary
The salary level of agricultural engineers can vary, typically depending on the following factors:
• Their level of education
• Their level of experience
• The size and type of their employer
• The region in which they work
• The specific responsibilities of their job
Agricultural Engineer Salary Alberta: According to the 2013 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey, Albertans working in the Other Professional Engineers, n.e.c. occupational group earn an average salary of $103,915 per year.
Agricultural Engineer Salary Canada: According to ECO Canada, an entry to junior-level environmental engineer-in-training in Canada makes $40,000 to $43,000 a year, and a senior level environmental engineer with over seven years of experience will make between $67,000 and $85,000 a year.
Agricultural Engineer Salary United States: According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary level of American workers in the Environmental Engineers occupational group is $80,890 per year.
Career Advancement for Agricultural Engineers
With experience and a good track record, environmental engineers are given additional responsibilities, and additional pay. They may also advance to positions within their organization with management responsibility, such as project manager, department head, division manager and vice president.
Agricultural Engineer Career: Work Environment
Work Setting: Agricultural engineers are based out of offices, but are sometimes required to travel to production or processing sites, research laboratories or other locations in order to do field tests, or study equipment and processes.
Working Hours: Agricultural engineers typically work full-time hours during the week. They may be required to work overtime to meet project deadlines and ensure design specifications are met.
Working Conditions: When required to visit production and processing sites, agricultural engineers may be exposed to a wide variety of weather conditions. Although since they are based out of offices, they primarily work in comfortable conditions. Their work can be very demanding and time consuming due to the seasonal and weather-dependent nature of the industries in which they work.
Depending on the work environment of the job, agricultural engineers may be required to:
• Work outdoors in all types of weather
• Climb stairs and ladders and work at heights
• Pass a pulmonary breathing test/wear a gas mask-type respirator
• Travel and enter plant-operating sites to access and inspect equipment
• Be available for shift work and emergency call outs
• Work in an industrial manufacturing environment
• Have manual dexterity for using desktop computer and peripherals
• Be available for flexible hours based on job requirements
Agricultural Engineer Jobs
Our job board below has "Agricultural Engineer" postings in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia.
Careers Similar to Agricultural Engineer
Listed below are careers in our database that are similar in nature to Agricultural Engineer, as they may involve many of the same skills, competencies and responsibilities.
Agricultural Engineer Career: References
To find out more about what an agricultural engineer does, how much they earn, and other details of this career, please consult the following resources:
Alberta Learning and Information Service website - Agricultural Engineer: alis.alberta.ca
ECO Canada website - Agricultural Engineer: www.eco.ca
North Carolina State University website - What does an Agricultural Engineer do?: www.bae.ncsu.edu
United States Bureau of Labor Statistics website - Environmental Engineers: www.bls.gov
Scholarships for Becoming an Agricultural Engineer
Looking for Canadian or American scholarships to help you on your way to becoming an agricultural engineer? We’ve got you covered! Here's how to find the best-suited scholarships:
• On academicinvest.com, our scholarship listings are sorted by major
• The “Applicable Majors” section below shows what majors apply to this career
• Search scholarships by major on our All Scholarships by Major page
Success Tip: Be sure to apply for any scholarships that you even barely qualify for, as there are millions of dollars of scholarships that go unused every year due to a lack of applicants!
Becoming an Agricultural Engineer: Applicable Majors
Studying one of the university majors listed below is an excellent starting point for becoming an Agricultural Engineer. Click on the links to find out what else you can do with these majors!