Choosing a career path is a major decision, and so is choosing the correct educational and professional path to reach that career goal. If you decide to pursue a career in engineering, you are setting yourself up for a profitable career. Over the course of a lifetime of work, engineers earn an average of $3.5 million even if they never decide to pursue an advanced degree. For agricultural engineers, the fulfilling job matches the rewarding pay. Agricultural engineers research and develop solutions to agricultural and biological problems, including inventing agricultural equipment, designing electrical systems and innovating new storage solutions for agricultural crops. Agricultural engineering plays a role in how society farms on land and in aquatic environments, how it develops and uses biofuels and how manufacturers process food products.
The first step in preparing for a career as an agricultural engineer is earning a college degree. Because this discipline of engineering requires a background in agriculture and biology as well as engineering, students should be sure to find an accredited degree program in agricultural engineering or a related discipline, like biological engineering. The Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology, ABET, currently accredits just 21 undergraduate degree programs in agricultural engineering and 26 in the related discipline of biological engineering. Still, the area of study is popular enough that U.S. News & World Report includes a section on biological/agricultural engineering as part of the publication’s annual best engineering rankings.
To qualify for ABET accreditation, a program must combine the theory and application of engineering concepts with high-level mathematics that include differential equations and studies in biology encompassing such topics as agriculture, aquaculture, forestry or natural resources. Students will learn textbook materials and engineering design principles through a combination of classroom lectures, laboratory research, field work and cooperative learning projects.
A bachelor’s degree is enough to fulfill requirements for many entry-level agricultural engineering jobs. To improve their prospects for future advancement into supervisory or management positions, some students choose to earn a master’s degree.
The Path to a License
Once a student has graduated from an undergraduate college degree program in agricultural engineering, the next step is to take an examination called the Fundamentals of Engineering exam. Passing this test is essential because it allows candidates to officially become engineer interns or engineers-in-training, the role they hold while acquiring the practical experience necessary to obtain a license. After gaining the required experience – typically about four years, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics – students can take the final test to get a license, the Professional Engineering exam.
A career as an agricultural engineer requires preparation in the classroom and in the work environment. Though obtaining a license as a professional engineer takes time and effort, it also opens up a world of exciting career opportunities. Agricultural engineers have the chance to make important changes in farming and food processing that could greatly benefit society as a whole.