How To Become an Agricultural Engineer (With Average Salary)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated September 29, 2022 | Published January 29, 2021

Updated September 29, 2022

Published January 29, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

If you regularly spend time outdoors and are interested in farming technology, you might consider a career in agricultural engineering. This field involves brainstorming and implementing innovative ways to keep farms sustainable, efficient and environmentally friendly. Learning more about the field and its requirements can help you decide if pursuing a career in it is right for you.

In this article, we explain agricultural engineering, list common duties in the field and share how to become one.

What is agricultural engineering?

Agricultural engineering involves designing, building and enhancing farm machinery, equipment and technology to increase the efficiency of farmers. This field requires professionals to formulate ideas and strategies to resolve environmental challenges like farm pollution control. They may also solve these problems by using agricultural waste or algae to create new non-food resources or biofuels to potentially replace gasoline without affecting food supply deliveries for community members. Agricultural engineers also design different agricultural infrastructures, including warehouses, water reservoirs and dams.

Related: 12 Careers in Agriculture To Explore (With Salaries)

Agricultural engineering duties

Agricultural engineers are responsible for effectively keeping farms safe, environmentally friendly and sustainable. They usually combine their advanced knowledge of chemical, mechanical, electrical and civil engineering principles with their agricultural abilities to find innovative technology solutions for farmers. Agricultural engineers often develop machinery, tools and equipment items with artificial intelligence integrations to improve farming and agriculture efficiencies.

Common job duties of agricultural engineers include:

  • Designing agricultural machinery and equipment items to complete basic field preparation tasks, including harvesting, spraying and seeding

  • Performing research in both the field and laboratory to brainstorm ideas for safe, efficient and environmentally friendly food production

  • Staying updated on studies and materials discussing current technological advancements in the industry

  • Planning and detailing designs for drainage, flood and water control and irrigation systems

  • Gathering non-living media and biological samples to conduct experiments and analyses

  • Checking farming equipment designs to ensure they follow local, state and federal agricultural codes

  • Overseeing the entire agricultural product creation process from production to delivery

  • Presenting technical reports and providing regular updates on farming processes to stakeholders and leadership members

Related: What Is Environmental Engineering?

A person standing in front of a building wearing a blue cap and gown and holding a diploma.

How to start a career in agricultural engineering

Here are some steps you can follow to become an agricultural engineer

1. Earn your bachelor's degree

Many employers typically require candidates to earn at least a bachelor's degree in either agricultural or biological engineering from an institution accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. These courses usually take place in the classroom, field and laboratory. Some subjects you study within these courses include:

  • Biology

  • Calculus

  • Physics with calculus applications

  • Geology

  • Ocean and atmospheric dynamics

  • Soil mechanics

  • Soil physics

  • Micro-climatology

Related: What Can You Do With an Engineering Degree? Top 17 Engineering Degree Jobs

2. Pass the fundamentals of engineering exam

Many states require you to earn a professional engineering license. To qualify, you first pass the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam. This test typically consists of 110 questions quizzing you on topics like mathematics, ethics and professional practice, engineering economics, water and wastewater and hazardous waste. After passing this exam, you earn a title as an engineer in training or an engineer intern.

Related: 35 Sample Interview Questions for an Agricultural Engineer

3. Receive your professional engineering license

Once you've passed the exam and gained practical experience as an engineer in training or engineer intern for four years, you can officially pursue your professional engineering license by taking and passing the Principles and Practice of Engineering (PE) exam. This test is only available one day each year. It typically takes around 9.5 hours to complete and features 85 questions. The subjects covered include common system applications, process engineering, natural resources and ecology, machines and facilities. Once you pass, you earn your professional engineer license.

Related: Choosing the Best Engineering Major

4. Join a professional organization

Though most employers don't typically require it, you can consider joining a professional organization. These allow you to expand your knowledge of new agricultural technologies and make strong connections within the industry. Professional organizations are an effective way to receive updates on technological farming advancements, so you can quickly adopt these technologies in your workplace after you learn about them in your organization. Some professional organizations to consider joining include:

National Society of Professional Engineers

Licensed professional engineers in any specification or field can join this organization. It even allows individuals currently pursuing their license to join, as members offer guidance, tips and advice to help people navigate this process. This organization also acts as the authority on professional practice and ethics.

American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers

Members of this organization can communicate their ideas and update each other on current and upcoming industry trends. They can also build new skills or develop current ones through the advice and guidance offered by other current members. This is a great place for members to build connections that could lead to potential advancement in their careers.

International Commission of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering

This is one of the largest global organizations in the agricultural engineering field. It connects the worldwide agricultural engineering professional community and encourages members to share ideas and advancements from different parts of the world. This society represents national organizations, public entities and private bodies.

Related: 57 Professional Associations To Boost Your Resume

5. Pursue additional educational opportunities

To perform more advanced tasks, make big-picture environmental designs and create more complex agricultural technologies, you can pursue your master's degree in agricultural engineering. Many programs teach you how to address and resolve problems beyond the basic field scale, which can lead to finding effective solutions to high-level and advanced issues in the farming and sustainability fields.

Most programs typically teach you how to interpret complex data analyses and improve your research presentation skills. This degree is also valuable to researchers who aim to advance the resources currently available to agricultural fields through innovative, strategic, and technological solutions.

Salary and job outlook for agricultural engineers

The salary and job outlook of an agricultural engineer can vary depending on the responsibilities, location and your experience. According to United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average salary for an agricultural engineer is $82,640 per yearThe BLS also predicts careers in this field to grow 5% by 2030.

Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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