Agricultural Engineers Careers: Employment & Salary Trends for Aspiring Agricultural Engineers

Agricultural Engineers at a Glance

Agricultural engineers apply physical sciences and engineering technology to agricultural systems. They design agricultural production systems, machinery, and equipment whose main purpose is to capture carbon dioxide, sunlight, and water which mixes with mineral compounds from soil to produce energy that contain chemical compounds. These chemical compounds are the main source of nutrition for all living things. In addition, agricultural engineers design these systems to produce chemical compounds to be used as raw material for processors and manufacturers in order to produce dozens of products outside of nutrition for humans and animals.

Agricultural engineers may specialize in power systems, machinery design, food and bioprocess engineering or structures and environment. They may work in just about any area ranging from production and research & development to management and sales. Agricultural engineers can find jobs in the construction, architectural, and scientific industries as well as telecommunications, wholesale trade, and federal, state, and local governments.

Employment Trends

Job Outlook: Average increase
Annual Openings: Fewer than 500
Percent Growth: 12%
Total Jobs Held: 3,100 (2006)
Projected Employment: 3,400 by 2016
The Best 500 Jobs Overall Ranking: 84

Source: “Best Jobs for the 21st Century,” JIST Publishing 2009. Farr, Michael and Shatkin, Laurence, Ph.D.; “Salary Facts Handbook,” JIST Publishing 2008. Editors @ JIST.

Agricultural engineering is not a career one would just fall into, so aspiring agricultural engineers can expect a respectable, but average, number of job openings over the next several years. Advances in processing renewable energy sources has created a new demand for agricultural engineers skilled in this area. The need for agricultural engineers will also increase as a result of a growing population that will naturally consume more crops. The development of advanced treatment systems a predictors will also contribute to job growth in this occupation.

Salary Trends

In 2009, agricultural engineers earned an average salary of $64,890 per year. Agricultural engineers in the 90th percentile can expect to earn around $96,270 per year, while 75th percentile agricultural engineers can expect to earn $80,370 per year. Entry-level agricultural engineers can expect to earn a starting salary of around $42,390 per year. It is important to note that aspiring agricultural engineers with a bachelor’s degree or higher may be offered a starting salary of $49,000 or more. Agricultural engineers working in federal government departments earn more as well. The average salary for a federal agricultural engineer is around $75,144.

Degrees and Training Programs

The vast majority of agricultural engineers hold a bachelor’s degree or higher. While it is possible to gain entry into the field with an associate degree, it is not likely. An aspiring agricultural engineer has less than a 13% chance of gaining entry into the field without a bachelor’s degree. Currently, 1.1% of all agricultural engineers has a first professional degree, 4.5% hold a doctoral degree, 20.2% hold a master’s degree, and 36.6% hold  bachelor’s degree.

Aspiring agricultural engineers should earn an engineering degree with a concentration in any given specialty. An engineering degree allows individuals to work in a number of different branches. To date, 1,830 accredited colleges and universities offer bachelor’s degrees in engineering. These programs are accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology, Inc., or ABET.

In addition to successful completion of an accredited engineering program and four years work experience in the field, aspiring agricultural engineers must pass a state exam in order to obtain a license. All 50 states and the District of Columbia require licensure in order to work with the public.

Coursework Required

Aspiring agricultural engineers should be excellent in math and science. Agricultural engineering students will take chemistry, math, and physics, as well as courses that cover thermodynamics, agricultural structures, capstone design, electrical power systems for agriculture, and soil and water engineering, computer graphics, and fluid mechanics to name just a few. In addition, aspiring agricultural engineers will have to take English and communications courses and at least 5 courses in the areas of history, arts & humanities, and social sciences.
Did you know that China produces roughly 351,537 engineers each year and India produces around 137,437 each year? Currently, the U.S. produces 112,000 each year, but guess what? This figure represents more degrees per million residents than either nation.

Career Info