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Opportunities in Agricultural Engineering

Individuals who are interested in agriculture and who possess excellent analytical and mathematical skills may find the idea of a career in agricultural engineering an exciting proposition. Agricultural engineers utilize their knowledge of the biological and physical sciences as well as fundamental principles of engineering to provide viable answers to agricultural problems.

Agricultural engineers devise effective solutions for the production of food and grain in the United States. They also apply scientific principles and engineering technology to promote the efficient utilization of biological resources. Moreover, agricultural engineers provide help and assistance with a range of diverse technical problems related to agriculture. Some of their duties include: 

  • designing machinery and equipment for agricultural use
  • specializing in areas like agricultural power systems, food processing, bioprocessing, and environmental engineering
  • developing soil and water conservation methods and improving existing methods of agriculture
Additional opportunities exist in research and development, production, sales, and management.

Educational Requirements

Currently, approximately 50 state-level universities offer agricultural engineering programs in the United States. In the past, universities offered only basic agricultural technology or mechanized agriculture programs. However, with the advent of modern technology, many universities have revamped their courses to give them relevant focus and direction.

Presently, there are agricultural engineering programs in agriculture and environmental technology, agriculture engineering technology, agricultural operations management, agricultural technology and systems management, bioresources engineering technology, and mechanized systems management, among other areas.

Most undergraduate programs provide strong foundations in engineering followed by relevant specializations. Additionally, most participating universities offer dual programs in agricultural engineering. Graduates are either equipped with fundamental agricultural engineering skills or obtain technological skills that they apply to related disciplines and business sectors.

A number of professional bodies also contribute to the advancement of agricultural engineering in the United States. Two prominent bodies are the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers and the American Society for Engineering Education.

Employment Prospects and Earnings

Agricultural engineers work in a variety of fields, including food processing, forestry, soil and water conservation, renewable energy, farm power and machinery, aquaculture, environmentalism, and conservation. They usually find employment with professional, scientific, or technical service providers. Agricultural engineers also provide consulting services to farmers and others in farm-related industries.

Additionally, agricultural engineers may find employment in agriculture-related industries, with agricultural equipment manufacturers, and with regional, state, and federal government departments. Opportunities for agricultural engineers will increase in response to growing concerns about the environment, increasing reliance on farm equipment, and the need to feed a growing population in the United States.

According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were about 3,400 agricultural engineers in the United States in 2004, constituting 0.2% of the total engineering workforce. According to a survey conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers in 2005, the average annual starting salary for agricultural engineers with bachelor's degrees was around $46,172, while that of agricultural engineers with master's degrees was around $53,022. With advancements in technology and growing awareness regarding agriculture-related issues, employment opportunities for agricultural engineering graduates will increase significantly across the country.
On the net:Bureau of Labor Statistics: Engineers

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