Similar Titles

Agricultural Systems Specialist, Conservation Engineer, Engineer, Product Engineer, Product Technology Scientist, Project Engineer, Research Agricultural Engineer

Job Description

Agriculture is a trillion-dollar business and a huge part of our nation’s economy. It’s also much more complex than most people realize. There are numerous machines, equipment, power supplies, irrigation systems, and facilities to take care of, requiring the skills of an Agricultural Engineer. 

Agricultural Engineers apply engineering principles to improve the sustainability and productivity of processes, equipment, and systems. This includes environmental management, to reduce pollution and harmful effects on ecosystems. They also help integrate automation and robotics into agribusiness operations, study soil fertility and nutrient content, estimate potential crop yields, and optimize food processing methods. 

In short, though they work in a relatively small career field, their insights, knowledge, skills, and services are invaluable to society! 

Rewarding Aspects of Career
  • Improving agribusiness processes to benefit owners, consumers, and the environment
  • Being part of a massive sector that’s vital to the economy and the food supply chain
  • Working in a lucrative, specialized niche with great career opportunities
  • Impacting the financial health and stability of rural communities 
2023 Employment
2033 Projected Employment
The Inside Scoop
Job Responsibilities

Working Schedule

  • Agricultural Engineers work full-time jobs, typically with nights, weekends, and holidays off. Overtime may be needed to meet deadlines. Occasional travel and exposure to inclement weather may be necessary. 

Typical Duties

  • Work with farmers, seafood farmers, forestry professionals, and food processing teams on various projects
  • Meet with employers, clients, contractors, developers, city representatives, and fellow engineers to review projects, goals, timeframes, and costs
  • Create proposals, presentations, graphics, budgets, and reports for projects
  • Use computer-aided drafting programs to design agricultural equipment, irrigation systems, climate control systems, facilities, sensor devices, layouts, parts, etc.
  • Work with artificial intelligence and geospatial systems to improve and automate processes
  • Design methods to alter and maximize where sun, rain, and wind affect fields and structures
  • Assist with creating more efficient climate control and refrigeration systems, facilities for food and crop processing and storage, animal housing, land reclamation projects, and more
  • Provide guidance and oversight for new construction projects (such as electric-power distribution systems, irrigation, or flood control systems), new mechanical systems, or production plant operations
  • Offer expert advice regarding water quality issues, pollution management, and resource utilization

Additional Responsibilities

  • Quality test machines and equipment for performance and safety
  • Conduct site visits and offer consultations 
  • Train and mentor team members, as needed
  • Maintain good relations with local farmers, agribusiness owners, industry associations, and related organizations or agencies
  • Create or present educational materials to farmers or farm co-ops to enhance sustainability 
  • Research and develop new technologies and potential capabilities
  • Stay up to date on manufacturers’ manuals, federal and state regulations, industry changes, and technological advancements
  • Attend professional organization events to share information and learn from others
Skills Needed on the Job

Soft Skills

  • Activities Coordination 
  • Analytical 
  • Attention to detail
  • Business acumen
  • Collaboration 
  • Creativity
  • Critical thinking
  • Decisive
  • Deductive and inductive reasoning
  • Detail-oriented
  • Independent
  • Monitoring 
  • Objective
  • Organized
  • Patient
  • Perceptive 
  • Problem-solving
  • Reading comprehension 
  • Safety-oriented
  • Strong communication skills
  • Visualization 

Technical Skills

  • Computer-aided design
  • Engineering and technology 
  • Familiarity with applicable federal and state regulations
  • Knowledge of fabrication and manufacturing
  • Knowledge of the agricultural sector 
  • Mechanical aptitude
  • Operations analysis
  • Risk assessment principles
  • Strong science and math skills
Different Types of Organizations
  • Governmental agencies
  • Educational institutions
  • Consulting service and engineering agencies
Expectations and Sacrifices

The work of Agricultural Engineers is vital for helping agribusinesses improve efficiency and become more sustainable. The national economy—and all food consumers—depend greatly on the success of such businesses. 

Surrounding rural communities are also deeply affected by how well local farms and agribusinesses are doing. Meanwhile, local citizens in general often take a keen interest in environmental and food safety issues. Suffice it to say, Agricultural Engineers carry a lot of responsibility on their shoulders! 

Current Trends

The agricultural sector is continuously impacted by climate and environmental factors that affect crop production, exacerbate costs, and may result in economic losses. Agricultural Engineers do their best to assist these businesses as they try to adapt to changes. Part of this includes helping them be more “climate-smart” by incorporating sustainable, environmentally-friendly equipment, machines, systems, and processes. 

Agricultural Engineers assist with designing and adopting automation and robotics technologies; leveraging the power of data-gathering sensors and the Internet of Things; creating more climate-resilient infrastructures and better water management strategies; helping build robust food safety protocols; and devising strategies to reduce waste and create circular economies.

What kinds of things did people in this career enjoy doing when they were younger…

Agricultural Engineers may have shown early interest in science, nature, plants and animals, or building and tinkering with things. Many grow up in rural areas and are exposed to farming and gardening at a young age. Others simply love STEM-related activities and want to apply what they learn to improve the world around them! 

Education and Training Needed
  • Agricultural Engineers generally need an ABET-accredited bachelor’s in agricultural engineering, agriculture, agricultural operations, biological engineering, or related fields
  • Many students opt to pursue a dual bachelor’s/master’s which can save time and money
  1. A master’s may not be needed but can make you more competitive and may qualify you for a higher starting salary or position
  2. Common master’s degrees for this field include a Master of Science in Agriculture or a Master of Engineering 
  3. Per O*Net, 69% of workers in this field have a bachelor’s, 12% have a post-baccalaureate certificate, and 12% have a master’s 
  •  A lot of college programs partner with local businesses to offer internships and cooperative experiences to develop practical skills 
  • Students should gain a strong understanding of the agriculture sector and the variables which impact it
  • Common college courses include:
  1. Agricultural Electronics and Control
  2. Agri-Industrial Applications of Electricity
  3. Farm Tractors and Power Units
  4. Food Process Engineering Technology
  5. Geographic Information Systems for Resource Management
  6. IT for Agricultural Systems
  7. Management of Agricultural Systems
  8. Processing and Storage of Agricultural Products
  9. Spatial Technology for Precision Agriculture
  10. Technology for Environmental and Natural Resource Engineering
  11. Water and Soil Management
  • Optional certifications include:  
  1. American Society for Quality’s Certified Reliability Engineer    
  2. American Society of Agronomy’s Certified Crop Advisor and Certified Professional Agronomist
  3. American Society of Farm Managers and Rural Appraisers’ Accredited Agricultural Consultant
  4. Irrigation Association’s Certified Irrigation Designer - Landscape    
  • A license isn’t needed to get started, but there are state licensure options to consider later in one’s career
  1. Professional Engineering (PE) licensure leads to greater scopes of responsibility 
  2. A PE must pass two exams:

            - Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) - to be certified as an Engineer in Training (EIT) or an Engineer Intern (EI)
            - Principles and Practice of Engineering (PE) exam

Things to look for in an University
  • Students should seek colleges offering majors in agricultural or biological engineering
  • Look for programs that have internships or other opportunities where you can gain practical experience, especially related to agriculture credit management 
  • Always compare the costs of tuition and other fees. Review your options for scholarships and financial aid
  • See if the program has any partnerships with companies that hire grads! 
  • Take note of graduation and job placement statistics for alumni 
Things to do in High School and College
  • Sign up for HS classes in biology, chemistry, physics, advanced math (algebra, geometry, trigonometry, and calculus), environmental studies, computer programming, drafting, business, shop, and writing
  • Ask a teacher or counselor about school-related agriculture programs you can participate in
  • Volunteer for school activities where you can learn to work effectively as a team and manage projects 
  • Look for internships, cooperative experiences, or part-time jobs while in college
  • Write down the names and contact info of people who can serve as job references 
  • Study books, articles, and video tutorials related to different aspects of Agricultural Engineering. Think about any areas you might want to specialize in!
  • Start drafting your resume early and keep adding to it as you go, so you don’t lose track
  • Consider doing ad hoc courses via Coursera or other sites to learn more about agribusiness
  • Request an informational interview with a working Agricultural Engineer
  • Join professional organizations to learn, share, make friends, and grow your network (see our list of Resources > Websites)
Typical Roadmap
Agricultural Engineer Roadmap
How to land your 1st job
How to Climb the Ladder
  • Communicate regularly with leadership and stakeholders to ensure objectives and timeframes are clearly defined and achievable. Don’t make promises you can’t keep!
  • Use your industry knowledge to anticipate and mitigate issues before they become problems
  • Speak with colleagues working in other agribusinesses to exchange information and tips (when possible. Some information may be proprietary or otherwise restricted)
  • Solve tough challenges for your employer. Add tangible value by boosting efficiency, productivity, and sustainability
  • Have a contingency plan to respond to critical issues quickly and decisively
  • Study trends and advances in applicable technologies, equipment, and processes
  • Participate in professional organizations like the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers. Keep learning and expanding your knowledge base and skills
  • Collaborate effectively with team members and develop strong relationships with local farmers, agribusiness owners, and other stakeholders in the community
  • Don’t be shy! Speak with your boss about career progression
  • Knock out a specialty certification such as the American Society for Quality’s Certified Reliability Engineer or the American Society of Agronomy’s Certified Crop Advisor and Certified Professional Agronomist
  • Complete a graduate degree such as a Master of Science in Agriculture or a Master of Engineering
  • Earn your Professional Engineering license
  • Consider applying to work for a larger organization with more advancement opportunities
Plan B

Agricultural Engineering is a vital but relatively small field. The current job outlook from the Bureau of Labor Statistics does not suggest much growth in the coming years. This means that to find work, you may have to wait for a currently-working Agricultural Engineer to retire!

If you’re curious about related career options, consider the below similar occupations: 

  • Agricultural or Food Scientist    
  • Architectural and Engineering Manager    
  • Biofuels Production Manager
  • Civil Engineer    
  • Conservation Scientist
  • Environmental Engineer    
  • Farmer/Rancher
  • Hydrologist    
  • Industrial Engineer    
  • Mechanical Engineer


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