What is the Main Focus of an Agricultural Engineering Degree?
Agricultural engineering degrees prepare students to work professionally in the many fields of agriculture. Subsets of the studies belonging to the classification of agriculture offer unlimited opportunities for involvement in this field. Demand for Agricultural Engineers has grown over the last 10 years.
Degrees in agricultural engineering cover all aspects of the industry, from water and waste issues, massive farming of foods and livestock, water farming, farming equipment, and farm economics to genetically designed corn and cows.
Earning a degree gives students textbook knowledge and hands-on vision of their chosen field. Fieldwork and laboratory projects combined with actual practice provide a well-rounded education.
What Types of Agricultural Engineering Degrees Exist?
The bachelor of science is the first degree to obtain. While majoring in agricultural engineering, a student can minor is any other field. Often students will minor in a related subject such as economics, to enhance their food engineering major, for example.
Graduate students are eligible to pursue a number of advanced degrees, including the Master of Science, Master of Engineering, Master of Agriculture, Doctor of Philosophy and Doctor of Engineering. These students can major in bioacoustics, biomaterials science, bioprocess engineering, environmental and natural resource engineering, food engineering; food, feed and fiber processing; machine and energy systems; and systems analysis.
What Kinds of Classes Do I Take?
Typical of all B.S. degrees, agricultural engineering studies begin with English, math, political science, chemistry, humanities, economics and other basics. Gradually, students are introduced to their majors, and this one begins in the freshman year with an introduction to agricultural systems management. Agriculture courses that follow can include:
- Farm Tractors and Power Units
- Systems Analysis in Agriculture
- Operations Research and Systems Theory
- Agricultural Machinery Management
- Food Process Engineering Technology
- Agri-Industrial Applications of Electricity
- Water and Soil Management
- Technology for Environmental and Natural Resource Engineering
- Occupational Safety Management
- Processing and Storage of Agricultural Products
- Spatial Technology for Precision Agriculture
- Management of Agricultural Systems
- Geographic Information Systems for Resource Management
- Advanced GIS Analysis for Natural Resource Management
- Agricultural Electronics and Control
- IT for Agricultural Systems
Can I Get a Masters of Agricultural Engineering?
Yes. The master of agriculture gives students management-oriented graduate training. Emphasis is on problem solving through science and technology—not research. Problem-solving capabilities must be demonstrated, usually through an internship that provides practical experience. These candidates prepare a professional paper on a problem-solving accomplishment.
Can I Obtain a Degree through Online Study?
Graduate degrees in food engineering/technology through distance learning are available as are online graduate programs and courses. Online studies for B.S. degrees are not possible due to the required laboratory studies and fieldwork.
How Long Does it Take to Get a B.S. in Agricultural Engineering?
Standard B.S. degrees in agricultural engineering take about four years to complete, but students who want to add to their major or minor studies can take extend the journey. A master's degree generally adds another 12-18 months—time well invested.
What Are Some Agricultural Engineering Jobs?
Food will always be a growing commodity (no pun intended). Jobs for these engineers are found on farms, in manufacturing plants, equipment design, food production, animal production facilities, laboratories, construction, government systems that protect soil and water, and in biofuels engineering—worldwide (for the traveler in you) and just for starters.
These engineers are part of the leadership that help conserve, maintain, and improve our natural resources and environment. These employees will provide engineering assistance to his or her team, field office personnel, and landowners with planning, developing, and constructing on-farm conservation practices and irrigation projects statewide.
How much do Agricultural Engineers Earn?
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics from 2011 show 2,650 employed agricultural engineers, employment rising by 6.5%, the lowest annual wages at $44,180 and the highest at $118,330. The median pay in this group is $74,630 per year.
Are there Associations for Agricultural Engineers?
The most visible association for agricultural engineers in the U.S. is the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers (ASABE). Based in St. Joseph, Michigan, this international professional society is devoted to agricultural and biological engineering. The organization has about 9,000 members in more than 100 countries. ASABE provides opportunities to share research findings through conferences, journals, and a magazine. It has developed professional standards of practice and given members opportunities to network.
In 2005, the name was modified to better reflect the profession. The increase in biological engineering has greatly affected today's global agriculture systems. For example, genetically modified organisms have introduced massive changes in food production, logistics and trade.