Agricultural Engineer Career Facts

An agricultural engineer uses science, engineering principles and technology to improve food production. This field of engineering can overlap with mechanical and civil engineering, as well as biology and environmental science. An agricultural engineer will work on a wide range of tasks, depending on their employer, but generally, they examine how food, fiber and energy are produced and improve existing technologies.

Basic Tasks

Agricultural engineers:

  • Increase crop yields.
  • Improve transportation and manufacture of food and fiber products.
  • Apply scientific principles to improve food and fiber production. This means working in farmers’ fields, forests and in aquaculture facilities.
  • Mitigate harm to the environment from pollutants originating from the agricultural industry.

Hours and Work Schedule

Many agricultural engineers work full time, permanent positions, usually in the office environment. However, you would occasionally have to travel to where an item is produced. Engineers will be required to travel into rural or forested areas, onto bodies of water if you worked in aquaculture or to manufacturing and refineries, as required.

Salary and Wages

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, most agricultural engineers with an undergraduate degree will receive an initial salary of $49,000 per year. The nationwide average for agricultural engineers is $72,000 per year.

Types of Agricultural Engineering Jobs

Though there are a wide range of agricultural engineering jobs, up to twenty-five percent of all agricultural engineers are involved in food production. This area of agricultural engineering includes processing and transporting food, as well as food packaging, and many of the positions are to be found with large food processing and agricultural corporations.

Agricultural engineers that use biological engineering principles would investigate areas such as natural pest control and hazardous waste treatment. They will also identify and remediate waste from agricultural facilities.

If your training includes work in mechanical engineering, you may work in machinery design and create farm equipment for tilling, storing, irrigation, and pesticide and herbicide dispersal. Also, you will be responsible for the harvest and transportation of food products and  creating energy sources, such as renewable fuels.

Food products are a concern for agricultural engineers, but so is the processing and production of fibers and wood products, so forest engineering is also considered a part of agricultural engineering. In this field you would design operating plans, create structures and install, improve and repair machinery that assists in forest product harvesting and in the manufacture of wood products. Installing and designing these products also requires an understanding of the environment so the products can be harvested while still protecting the environment or mitigating harm from the industry.

You can find out more about the different types of agricultural engineering on American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers’ (ASABE) website. These engineers are employed by private industry, corporations, as well as the government and conservation groups. There are many opportunities to work abroad in this field in international development.