Agricultural engineers use engineering science to solve problems in the agricultural industry. They design, develop, test and manage agricultural machinery and equipment. Most agricultural engineers specialise in a particular area. They are also known as engineers, agricultural farming engineers or land-based engineers.
Land based engineering covers all aspects of the appliance of science, engineering and technology to the land, crop production, farming and food production. By putting the knowledge of oil, water, crops and livestock, together with the more traditional areas of engineering, those working in the sector help to:
- Put the food on your table through mechanisation
- Provide the biomass and energy crops for paper, fuel and structures
- Preserve the rural and sports environment for your enjoyment
- Develop techniques and equipment to reduce our impact on the planet.
Specialisms can include:
The sector is creative, dynamic and wide ranging and can provide a wide range of opportunities.
Land based engineers get involved in the following:
- Tractors and tillage machines
- Harvesting equipment
- Crop processing
- Animal welfare (handling and transport)
- Irrigation and drainage schemes
- Earth moving and other construction equipment
- Pioneer road and bridge construction
- Forestry machines
- Horticultural machines
- Fish farming equipment
Your day-to-day duties might include:
- assessing the environmental impact of agricultural production methods
- supervising construction projects, like land drainage, reclamation and irrigation
- solving engineering problems, like designing all-terrain vehicles to move over uneven ground in different weather conditions
- testing and installing new equipment, like harvesters, crop sprayers and logging machinery
- using GPS, weather data and computer modelling to advise farmers and businesses on land use
- planning service and repair programmes for machinery
- you may also manage and coordinate sales, marketing and technical support.
Personal Qualities and Skills
- A broad-based knowledge of engineering, eg, mechanical, electronic, civil and environmental engineering
- An understanding of the problems that exist in agriculture
- To solve problems combining technical ability with a creative approach
- To be good at generating new ideas
- To work well in a team
- An interest and understanding of environmental issues
- The ability to analyse data
- A willingness to learn and develop new knowledge and to keep up to date with advancing technology
- Good organisational skills to plan and co-ordinate resources, as well as work to deadlines
- The ability to prioritise and plan work effectively
- Good budgeting skills
- To communicate effectively when explaining technical information to people from non-engineering backgrounds and good leadership skills
Pay And Opportunities
Typical employers of agricultural engineers
There are a wide range of employers, including those that make agricultural machinery and equipment.
Some engineers choose to become self-employed or take contract work on a freelance basis.
Starting salaries are around £25,000, going up to about £40,000 with experience.
Entry routes and training
You'll need a foundation degree, HND or degree in:
- agricultural engineering
- environmental engineering
- electrical or mechanical engineering
Entry routes for courses vary so it is important to check with individual universities. But subjects like maths, sciences, engineering, design technology and geography are useful.
If you've got a further education qualification in a land-based engineering subject, or relevant experience, you could start as an agricultural engineering technician. You'd then complete further study to qualify as an engineer.
It is also possible to become an agricultural engineers through an apprenticeship.
The Institution of Agricultural Engineers (IAgrE) has more information about becoming an agricultural engineer.
Depending on their level of entry, engineers can gain Chartered Engineer (CEng) or Incorporated Engineer (IEng) professional status. Both are highly regarded by employers throughout industry.
To become a CEng or an IEng, you need to demonstrate the appropriate competence and commitment. The standards for this are set out in the Engineering Council's UK-SPEC document, which can be downloaded from their website.