Solve agricultural problems and streamline operations as an agricultural engineer. Whether you’re already working as an agricultural engineer or seeking to enter the field, find out if a Master in Agricultural Engineering degree is the right step for you. Explore online degree programs, agricultural engineering salary expectations, and expected courses to learn more about this career step.

What Is Agricultural Engineering?

A Master in Agricultural Engineering degree may offer fascinating courses, but what does agricultural engineering do for the industry? Be sure you thoroughly understand the field before choosing this career option. An agricultural engineer is dedicated to improving the efficiency of an agricultural system.

What Does an Agricultural Engineer Do?

Like other engineering specializations, agricultural engineering is a diverse field with a broad range of tasks and work environments. Some engineers work to improve existing structures and designs, while others are busy researching future systems and innovations.

This can involve a broad range of machines and systems. Some engineers focus on designing agricultural machinery. Others design and build storage structures to reduce food waste during harvesting and processing. Still others look to sustainable farm technologies, such as biofuel research or environmentally friendly water use.

Because of this broad range of tasks and goals, agricultural engineers need to study biology, chemistry, technology, business, computer science and other areas to best perform their tasks. While not all engineers work with computer programming, an increasing number are needed to program agricultural geospacing systems and artificial intelligence technologies.

Where Does an Agricultural Engineer Work?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 23% of agricultural engineers work for the federal government. The remaining engineers work in scientific worksites, colleges, state government offices, or in private industry. Some spend their time solely in offices and research facilities, while many share their time between indoor and outdoor worksites.

Why Get a Master’s Degree in Agricultural Engineering?

While entry-level agricultural engineer positions typically only require a bachelor’s degree in a relevant field, a master’s degree is a competitive career option for current and prospective engineers. Here are some key reasons to pursue an agricultural engineering master’s degree online as the next step in your career.

Competitive Pay and Advancement in Agriculture

The specific career track and position you choose have a large impact on your compensation. In general, however, master’s degree holders earn more than bachelor’s degree holders. Continuing your education can also improve your opportunities to negotiate for a raise or an upper-level career position. You can choose to earn a master’s degree while working in agricultural engineering or increase your expertise in the field before applying to positions.

Environmentally Friendly Career

Feel good about what you do with an environmentally friendly career. What does agricultural engineering do for the environment? Some primary goals of these positions include limiting or removing pollution from standard farming practices. This can be through alternative pesticide and fertilizer use or by targeting other inefficient areas of the food production process.

Agricultural engineers also focus on efficient resource management. You can find ways to reduce water usage or recycle water on a farm. This can be a helpful step in any agricultural setting but is particularly useful in areas susceptible to droughts.

Diverse Work Environment

Enjoy varied tasks, challenges, and work environments as an agricultural engineer. These professionals spend time inspecting farms, identifying issues in fields, and doing other outdoor activities. There are also many indoor activities performed by agricultural engineers. These include office work, laboratory research, and indoor inspections of food production facilities.

The specific tasks also vary. Some engineers in the agricultural industry spend their time designing new products and processes. Others, however, solve problems as they present themselves. This means that you may be handling unique and unexpected structural, mechanical, or environmental problems from day to day.

Flexible Degree Program

Once you decide to pursue a career as an agricultural engineer, you can enjoy a flexible degree program experience when you choose to study online. Master of Engineering degrees are available completely online, so you don’t have to commute to a nearby university or move to a campus in another state.

Many online master’s programs have a flexible pace, so you can earn your Master of Agricultural Engineering as you continue your part-time or full-time career.

How Much Does a Master’s Degree in Agricultural Engineering Cost?

According to the Education Data Initiative, the average cost of a master’s degree varies between $30,000 and $120,000. There are many factors that determine the cost of a Master in Agricultural Engineering degree. For example, private universities tend to have higher tuition rates than public universities. Studying online can cost less or more, depending on the university you choose.

Agricultural Engineering Scholarships and Grants

Agricultural engineering degrees can also be more affordable with the right scholarships, grants, and assistantships. Both teaching and research assistantships are more commonly offered to on-campus students, but they can be available for online students as well.

Be sure to look for grants and scholarships to reduce the tuition rate of your online program. These are available through the federal government, state government, local non-profit organizations, and commercial businesses. Your chosen college may also have scholarship opportunities based on need or merit.

In-State vs. Out-of-State Tuition

Compare the cost of online master’s degrees. Even online programs can vary between in-state and out-of-state tuition rates. Some tuition rates are slightly higher for online programs, while many offer discounted rates. You can also save money by studying online because you don’t need to pay for on-campus housing, meal plans, or other fees.

Master’s Degree in Agricultural Engineering Salary and Job Outlook

Agricultural engineers earned median pay of about $82,640 in 2021, according to BLS. This equates to $39.73 per hour, on average. This data is for engineers with either a bachelor’s degree or a Master in Agricultural Engineering degree.

Nationally, the number of agricultural engineers is expected to increase by 5% between 2020 and 2030, according to BLS. This amounts to 100 additional jobs in the decade, which is slower than the average job growth across the nation.

Job Outlook by State

While engineers in the agricultural industry can work in any state, there are differences in salary and job outlook between states. Nebraska, Ohio, and Illinois have some of the highest employment levels of agricultural engineers, according to BLS.

These states also have higher-than-average agricultural engineering salary expectations. In Nebraska, the annual median wage for these engineers in 2021 was $92,740. Wisconsin ranked as the leading state in terms of annual median wage, at $109,920. 

Related Careers

A Master in Agricultural Engineering degree can prepare you for other careers. Similar occupations include agricultural and food scientists, environmental engineers, and agricultural managers. Median pay varies between these occupations. Agricultural managers earned a median salary of $73,060 in 2021, according to BLS, while environmental engineers earned a median 2021 pay of $96,820.

Common Courses in Agricultural Engineering Programs

Agricultural engineering degrees combine science, technology, biology, and business courses to prepare you for a diverse workplace. Whether working in a laboratory or in the field, here are some courses you may take to prepare you for your career:

  • Animal production systems
  • Ecosystem sustainability
  • Safety management
  • Agricultural and industrial electricity applications
  • Systems analysis
  • Natural resource engineering
  • Agricultural technology

Specializations in Agricultural Engineering

A Master in Agricultural Engineering can also include a particular concentration or specialization. While you’re not required to choose a specialization in most degree programs, it can help you focus on relevant classes and compete for a specific career pathway. Here are some common specializations that may be available for your online degree:

  • Bioengineering
  • Agricultural resource management
  • Agricultural machinery
  • Environmental and natural resources

The number of courses and credits can vary depending on your specialization. Explore degree programs and timelines before determining whether a specialization may be right for your career goals.

Required Skills

The required courses are designed to provide you with the knowledge needed to identify agricultural issues and research solutions to these problems. In addition to industry knowledge, a master’s degree in agricultural engineering is designed to help you improve the following skills:

  • Problem-solving
  • Communication
  • Collaboration
  • Analytics
  • Management
  • Attention to detail

Already possessing these skills can be a major advantage as you prepare for your master’s degree program. Coursework and hands-on tasks in the field can help you grow in these ways as you prepare to become an agricultural engineer or related professional.

Other FAQs About Master’s in Agricultural Engineering Degrees and Programs

What is the job outlook for master’s in agricultural engineering graduates?

The number of agricultural engineering jobs in 2020 in the United States was approximately 1,500, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That number is expected to increase by 5%, or 100 positions, between 2020 and 2030.

What are some jobs that require a master’s in agricultural engineering?

Most agricultural engineering positions only require a bachelor’s degree in a relevant field for entry-level employment. A master’s degree may, however, help you become a competitive candidate for leadership positions.

How long does it take to get a master’s degree in agricultural engineering?

It typically takes between one and three years to complete a master’s degree program. Your specific timeline depends on the program you choose and whether you enroll as a part-time or full-time student. Some online programs offer accelerated timelines, which allow you to work at your own pace and earn your degree quickly.

Sources:

Education Data Initiative, Average Cost of a Master’s Degree

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Agricultural Engineers

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics for Agricultural Engineers

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