By Dan Tashlykov, BSME
Agricultural engineering is an interdisciplinary field that combines the principles of engineering with the applied science of agriculture to create solutions for the planning and design of food production systems.
In this guide, we’ll dive into this exciting career in great detail, covering everything from coursework, to accreditation, to career salaries.
Online Master’s in Agricultural Engineering Degree Programs
Graduates of master’s in agricultural engineering degree programs develop the unique skills they need to become leaders in this rapidly evolving industry. With an online master’s in agricultural engineering, graduates can pursue careers as researchers, agricultural scientists, consultants, or top managers in agricultural settings.
Those with a master’s degree may also be qualified to teach courses at the college level; believe it or not, there are instructors without doctorate degrees who are qualified to teach as specialists in the field. With the right degree program, you can prepare yourself for a rewarding career that will tackle many of the world’s most pressing environmental challenges.
Read on to learn more about what to expect in an online master’s in agricultural engineering degree program and how you can take your next steps toward a successful future in this field.
Master’s in Agricultural Engineering Online Program Overview
The master’s in agricultural engineering online program is a comprehensive study of the theoretical and practical aspects of engineering for agricultural systems. Students will gain an understanding of the principles and practices behind soil conservation, water resource management, animal and plant health, crop productivity, and farm management information systems. Coursework includes a range of topics from agricultural system design to biochemistry, hydraulics, and hydrology.
Pursuing online engineering master’s degrees can provide students with an array of benefits, such as flexibility, convenience, savings in both time and money and greater access to educational resources. By eliminating travel costs and scheduling challenges associated with attending on-campus classes, students have the opportunity to balance personal responsibilities while still obtaining a quality education.
Specialties and concentrations agricultural engineering students may pursue include:
- Irrigation Engineering: Specializes in the design and management of water systems for agricultural purposes, with a focus on efficiency, cost-effectiveness, and environmental protection.
- Crop and Agronomic Engineering: Focuses on the integration of agricultural systems with the environment, particularly for the production of specialty crop varieties.
- Animal and Food Processing Engineering: Studies the handling of food from farm to table, creating technologies for raising and harvesting animals, and creating food processing systems.
- Soil, Plant, and Environmental Engineering: Investigates the interactions between plants, soils, and the environment for sustainable cultivation, as well as improving soil management to increase efficiency and reduce risk.
- Animal Health and Welfare Engineering: Develop systems to improve animal health and welfare, such as developing new automated monitoring methods, designing feed management systems, and improving safety protocols in the farm environment.
- Biotechnology and Genetic Engineering: Investigates the use of genetic engineering techniques to produce desired traits in crops, livestock, and other organisms.
Why Earn an Online Master’s Degree in Agricultural Engineering?
Earning an online master’s degree in agricultural engineering can be a powerful step toward a thriving future. With the world population steadily increasing, advances and innovations in agricultural sustainability are becoming increasingly important.
By earning a master’s degree in this field, you’ll gain the knowledge and skills to become a leader in the agricultural engineering industry. You’ll gain an understanding of the social, economic, and ecological principles of sustainable and efficient crop production, as well as techniques for managing land use and natural resources.
With a master’s degree in agricultural engineering, you can make a positive impact on the environment and people’s lives. This degree allows you to develop solutions that protect our valuable water and soil resources while also creating alternative sources of clean energy like biofuels.
You can help farmers increase their yields and, ultimately, their livelihood, as well as develop strategies to reduce pollution from animal agriculture operations.
The Benefits of Earning a master’s degree in agricultural engineering online:
- Flexible learning space: An online degree program offers the flexibility and convenience of studying at one’s own pace without the requirement of attending in-person classes.
- Advanced knowledge and understanding: Earning an online degree in agricultural engineering allows students to gain an in-depth understanding and knowledge of the principles and techniques involved in the development and management of sustainable agricultural practices.
- Expand one’s skill set: An online master’s degree program will provide students with the know-how and skills to develop innovative solutions for problems related to sustainable agriculture.
- Real-world applications: Taking an online course on agricultural engineering also offers students the opportunity to apply the knowledge acquired in real-world settings.
- Seamless integration of concepts: Through an online degree program, students can quickly and easily integrate concepts from multiple sources, allowing them to come up with creative solutions to pressing issues.
- Improved job opportunities: An online master’s degree in agricultural engineering can provide qualified professionals with enhanced career opportunities in academia, government, and industry.
Master’s in Agricultural Engineering Curriculum and Common Courses
A well-rounded master’s in agricultural engineering curriculum offers students an extensive foundation in engineering principles, management strategies, and technologies related to contemporary agricultural production.
Through courses such as soil mechanics, biometrics, and irrigation engineering, prospective agricultural engineers learn how to design, analyze, manage, and optimize the various elements of a functioning agricultural system.
This section outlines the common courses one might expect to take when pursuing a master’s in agricultural engineering.
Agricultural Engineering Curriculum
- Soil Mechanics and Foundation Engineering: Learn the principles of engineering that are related to soil and earthwork construction, with a focus on subsurface construction, earth pressure theory, and propping systems.
- Irrigation and Drainage Engineering: Learn the basics of irrigation and drainage systems, including design, installation, maintenance, and operations of irrigation systems for agricultural production.
- Crop Production Technology: Students are exposed to the principles of crop production, emphasizing soil fertility, soil conservation, pest management, and crop biotechnology.
- Plant Genetics and Breeding: Gain skills in the basics of plant genetics and plant breeding systems, with a focus on the utilization of genetic variability in crop plants for increased productivity and stress tolerance.
- Agricultural Machinery: Understand the development, selection, and utilization of agricultural machinery and equipment for production.
- Bioenergy Engineering: Learn the principles involved in the processes of energy production from biomass and biogas resources.
- Sustainable Agriculture: Understand how to optimize natural resources such as soil, water, and energy to promote eco-friendly agricultural practices.
- Economics of Agriculture: Learn how to analyze the economic feasibility of various agricultural enterprises.
- Environmental Science: Gain in-depth knowledge of the impacts of various agricultural activities on the environment and how to mitigate them.
Agricultural Engineering Common Courses
- Soil Science: Learn the basics of soil science and how it relates to engineering principles such as water resources, food production, and landscape conservation. Expand your understanding of soil structure and chemistry and its impact on agriculture.
- Plant Science: Acquire a thorough understanding of plant growth, nutrition, and management based on the principles of genetics, biochemistry, morphology, and physiology. You will be introduced to various plant diseases and their control methods.
- Hydrology: Understand hydrologic principles and processes to be able to design and implement effective flood management systems and irrigation methods. Gain knowledge about the hydrologic cycle and its components, groundwater flow, runoff characteristics, and erosion control.
- Irrigation Engineering: Develop skills in planning and designing effective irrigation systems. Analyze soil and climate data to design efficient irrigation systems for agricultural fields. Gain hands-on experience with modern irrigation components like pumps and other equipment.
- Land Reclamation: Study the underlying processes that shape stream channels and how these change over time. Explore engineering techniques for the restoration of degraded watersheds, examine sediment transport processes, and assess their impacts. Learn about the potential of geomorphic engineering as a tool for flood mitigation.
- Agricultural Machinery: Study the various types of farm equipment and recommended methods for their utilization in crop production. Investigate tractor performance testing, mechanics, safety, and management. Learn maintenance and repair techniques for agricultural machinery.
- Agricultural Economics: Understand the economic impacts of agricultural engineering on land use, farm management, and food production. Explore global economic models related to agricultural production and analyze economic variables associated with market analysis.
- Natural Resources: Learn about concepts associated with ecosystem health, conservation, and sustainability. Investigate principles of forestry, rangeland, water, soil, and air relating to landscape ecology. Delve into socio-economic factors affecting natural resource availability.
Accreditation for Master’s in Agricultural Engineering Degree Programs
Accreditation is an important factor when pursuing any degree, particularly in the field of engineering. A master’s in agricultural engineering degree program requires specific accreditations for maximum credibility and industry acceptance.
In this section, we’ll cover the different types of accrediting bodies that certify degrees within the agricultural engineering field and explain why these programs are necessary.
ABET accreditation is the gold standard for engineering degree programs, ensuring the quality of students’ education and providing them with a high-quality degree that employers recognize and respect.
When looking for colleges and universities, ABET accreditation is critical for finding an agricultural engineering degree program, as it provides assurance that a school offers a rigorous curriculum and follows established standards for delivering that curriculum. ABET-accredited programs have been evaluated on criteria such as course content and instructional quality, student achievement and outcomes, and facility availability and appropriateness.
Additionally, for agricultural engineering degrees, potential students should look for corroboration from the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers (ASABE) where possible. If your university has on-campus professional organizations such as ASABE, you can take advantage of membership and boost your career prospects.
What Can I Do with a Master’s Degree in Agricultural Engineering?
With a master’s degree in agricultural engineering, the career options are vast and ever-expanding. From research in food production to designing automation systems that increase productivity, those who possess a rigorous technical education can find themselves paving new paths in global agricultural development.
With an education focused on the biological and physical sciences, graduates have access to highly sought-after technical skills in the industry. As an agricultural engineer, you will be able to work with farmers and other agricultural professionals to develop ways to improve methods for crop production, soil conservation, irrigation, and harvesting technology.
You can also specialize in developing tools and systems for more efficient cold storage, animal husbandry, and implementing eco-friendly farming practices. Additionally, graduates can look into roles such as designing greenhouses and aquaculture systems or developing automated equipment for operations research. There are also numerous opportunities in the planning, construction, and maintenance of agricultural infrastructure systems.
With a master’s degree in agricultural engineering, the possibilities are almost limitless.
Agricultural engineers have a median annual salary of $82,640, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Their job is to develop engineering solutions to advance agricultural processes and technologies. This could include designing new machines to increase crop yields, improving water irrigation systems, and more.
An agronomist typically earns around $74,160 per year, according to BLS data. They are responsible for studying crop production and soil management, as well as developing new methods for producing higher yields from existing crop varieties.
Farm Management Consultant
Farm management consultants typically make around $73,060 per year. They provide advice and help farmers develop plans to increase efficiency on their farms. This could include advising on technology, harvesting methods, record-keeping, and more.
Soil & Plant Scientist
The average soil and plant scientist makes $74,160 per year, according to the BLS. Their job is to analyze the physical properties of soil and plants and identify the best types of soil for different types of agricultural crops.
How Much do Agricultural Engineering Graduates Make?
Agricultural engineering is an increasingly in-demand field of study as the global population continues to grow and the demand for food increases. Graduates of this field can look forward to a wide range of opportunities and excellent remuneration for their expertise in applying engineering principles to manage agricultural resources.
Salaries for those with an agricultural engineering degree vary greatly depending on geographic region, experience, and industry; however, agricultural engineers typically make more than the national average salary due to the skills and knowledge they possess.
Many employers offer bonuses, medical benefits, paid vacation time, and other perks that can help increase total compensation. With a focus on sustainability, research, and problem-solving, graduates of agricultural engineering programs are well-prepared to thrive in a variety of professional settings.
Starting Salary for Agricultural Engineering
As an agricultural engineer, you can expect to receive a competitive starting salary when entering the field. According to the BLS, entry-level agricultural engineers earned a median salary of around $55,810 in 2021. This amount can vary depending on your experience level, geographical location, and education. With higher levels of education and more experience with technology, equipment, and engineering principles, the potential for higher pay is increased substantially.
Average Salary for a Master’s in Agricultural Engineering
According to the BLS, someone who has obtained a master’s in agricultural engineering has a median salary of $82,640 and up. Because agricultural engineering is the application of engineering principles to agricultural production and resource management, obtaining an advanced degree in this field is often paid off with higher salaries than those without such qualifications. This data from the BLS is from May 2021 and is subject to change over time, so it’s important to stay up-to-date on market trends if you are considering pursuing a master’s in agricultural engineering.
What’s the Most an Agricultural Engineering Graduate Makes?
For agricultural engineering graduates, peak career salaries can exceed $127,030 and up. This is the expected salary after many years of experience and dedication to the field of engineering. With a profound understanding of agronomy, farming technology, soils, hydrology, and water management, professionals in this field are well-placed to solve complex problems related to our growing population and changing food systems. Through their extensive research and development expertise, agricultural engineers can help shape the future of agriculture on a global scale. As the demand for food continues to increase, so does the need for experts in the field – making it an attractive proposition for those looking for a rewarding and long-term career.
Tips for Increasing Salary Potential
Agricultural engineering is a unique field that involves optimizing agricultural production and environmental protection. As an agricultural engineer, you are tasked with finding innovative ways to improve efficiency, maximize productivity and increase sustainability.
To reach your full potential, it’s important to understand several key strategies you can use to increase salary potential in this rewarding profession. This section will provide helpful tips on how to further develop your career in the field of agricultural engineering.
- Research positions in the agricultural engineering field: Research current agricultural engineering positions, job descriptions, and required qualifications to get a more in-depth understanding of potential career paths and salary levels.
- Get additional qualifications: Pursue certifications or degrees that are highly sought after in the agricultural engineering sector, such as any specialized engineering degrees or technical certificates.
- Network with agricultural professionals: Expand your networks and contacts by connecting with other agricultural professionals in your industry or attending conferences, seminars, and workshops related to your field.
- Develop your skills in data analysis: Employers are often looking for agricultural engineers who can not only understand complicated problems, but also develop solutions to them. Developing skills in data analysis and other computer-aided design platforms can help in this regard.
- Search for higher-paying positions: Keep an eye out for positions offered by research institutes, government organizations, and universities that pay significantly more than those offered in the private and industrial sectors.
- Consider relocating: Moving to a new location can provide access to more job opportunities with higher salaries. Consider the cost and benefits of relocating to get yourself a better-paying position.
Continuing Education After a Master’s in Agricultural Engineering
After obtaining a master’s in agricultural engineering, many professionals may feel they have reached the highest level of education available. However, there are still more opportunities to continue learning and hone their skills; this includes diploma programs, advanced certificates, and even Ph.D. programs.
Let’s take a closer look at advanced educational options available to professionals who already hold a master’s degree in agricultural engineering and discuss how earning additional qualifications could benefit them in the future.
Those who hold a master’s degree in agricultural engineering can pursue advanced certificates to boost their career and remain competitive in the ever-changing job market. Advanced certificates are a great way to gain specialized knowledge and skills in specific areas of expertise.
With advanced certificates, engineers can become experts within certain branches of engineering related to agriculture or other fields. For example, those with a background in agricultural engineering could pursue an advanced certificate in precision farming, which would provide them with the understanding of managing large-scale crops and developing precision farming methods.
Advanced certificates in agribusiness and food science could also be pursued. By obtaining these certifications, engineers can gain additional experience in managing large farms and optimizing processes for cost savings and resource utilization.
Additionally, pursuing advanced certificates in geospatial technology can be beneficial for those wanting to stay ahead of the curve. This type of technology combines geographic information systems (GIS), global positioning systems (GPS), and remote sensing technologies together, enabling agricultural engineers to quickly pinpoint areas of land that need more attention or improvement.
Ultimately, by getting multiple types of advanced certificates related to the field, agricultural engineers can stay up to date and knowledgeable about current trends, technologies, and methodologies that can help their professional development.
Doctorate in Agricultural Engineering
Continuing your education in agricultural engineering with a Doctorate is an excellent way to further develop and make use of your current expertise in the field. A Doctoral program can provide you with unique opportunities to gain knowledge and experience in applied research, allowing you to apply advanced technologies to agricultural-related challenges. Additionally, a concentration in a particular sub-field, such as water resources or soil science, can open up opportunities for specialized work within the industry.
Doctorate degrees can also provide increased knowledge and insight into the management of farming/agricultural operations and allow you to advise industry leaders on policy matters; having a doctorate degree will increase your credibility and give you more persuasive power in discussing key issues.
Scholarship and Financial Aid Information
Financing a degree in agricultural engineering can be costly, but there are scholarship and financial aid options available to help make the path of higher education more obtainable. This section will provide an overview of two major sources of funding for master’s-level engineering programs: scholarships and financial aid. We will then go on to explore scholarships and financial aid for the specific field of agricultural engineering in greater detail.
Pursuing a master’s in agricultural engineering can be expensive, but there are several types of financial aid and assistance options available. Federal Grants, such as the Pell Grant or Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (FSEOG), are awarded based on financial need and help ease the burden of tuition costs. These grants do not have to be repaid.
Filing a FAFSA provides you with access to federal student aid and loan options, which generally offer lower interest rates than non-federal loans. Further, some employers may provide tuition reimbursement programs or scholarships for employees pursuing a master’s degree.
Various schools, government, and private agencies offer scholarships for students studying Agriculture Engineering. Applying for these awards requires researching individual criteria and completing applications by set deadlines.
With so many potential sources of financial aid, aspiring agricultural engineers can certainly find ways to successfully finance their postgraduate studies.
There are many scholarships available that can help reduce the cost of tuition. These scholarships may come from government organizations, private institutions, and universities. Different types of scholarships include need-based awards, merit-based awards, and student-specific awards, such as those for women or minorities. To apply for any type of scholarship, students should submit a written application that includes their academic history, extracurricular activities, and community involvement.
When applying for need-based awards, applicants must provide proof of financial hardship. Merit-based awards are typically given based on academic excellence or other achievements. Student-specific awards are reserved for students who meet certain criteria, like being a first-generation college student or engaging in volunteer work in the community.
Regardless of the type of scholarship awarded, the benefits are numerous. Scholarships can help cover tuition fees, living expenses, and other educational costs. They may also provide students with specialized mentors or access to research opportunities. Obtaining a scholarship can also be a significant boost to a student’s resume and open up more career opportunities in the future.
Pursuing an advanced degree in agricultural engineering requires a commitment to learning and practical experience.
One way to gain meaningful experience related to your studies is to take advantage of internship opportunities. Internships provide invaluable hands-on training that allows you to apply the theoretical knowledge from your coursework in a real-world setting, enhancing your understanding of the field and developing important skills.
Benefits of pursuing agricultural engineering internships:
- Develop Valuable Technical Skills: Internships in agricultural engineering provide students with the opportunity to develop hands-on experience and build technical and organizational skills that are valuable for employment. Agriculture engineering internships may focus on irrigation and water management, designing and improving equipment, developing pest control and fertilization strategies, developing agricultural structures, formulating bio-utilization methods and processes, and more.
- Learn from Industry Professionals: Getting into internships in agricultural engineering is a great opportunity to learn from experts in the field. Experienced professionals can help guide students to develop their knowledge and skill set, along with offering tips and resources that can be invaluable.
- Network with Peers: Internships are an excellent way to make connections with other industry professionals and peers that could be helpful later on in one’s career. Internships also give students a chance to develop their own contacts and create job opportunities down the line.
- Get Paid: Many internships in agricultural engineering are paid, giving students some level of financial compensation while gaining valuable experience. This can be especially beneficial for students that want experience but need to earn money while they grow their skill set.
FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)
How Much Does a Master’s 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. Factors such as distance learning fees and the type of institution (public or private) will determine the final tuition cost. Additionally, many students can secure scholarships and financial aid to reduce the overall costs associated with the program.
Is a Master’s in Agricultural Engineering Degree Worth It?
A master’s degree in agricultural engineering is a great asset and could open up many new career opportunities in this growing field. Many employers prefer those with a master’s degree, as they demonstrate dedication and the ability to manage complex projects.
How Long Does it Take to Earn an Online Master’s Degree in Agricultural Engineering?
The primary benefit of completing an online master’s degree in agricultural engineering is that it can typically be completed in two to three years. This can depend on how many classes someone takes at once and how quickly they can complete the program.
Is a Master’s Degree Required to Advance in Agricultural Engineering?
Earning a master’s degree in agricultural engineering is not always required to advance in the field; however, it is recommended for those aiming for leadership and upper-level management roles. By gaining a more in-depth understanding of the principles of agricultural engineering, those with a master’s degree would be better suited to design, plan, and manage complex projects. Holding a master’s degree is considered a strong indicator of commitment within the field.
Are Agricultural Engineering Jobs in Demand?
Yes, agricultural engineering jobs are in high demand due to the rise of the global food industry. Thanks to agricultural engineers, farmers, and other experts can develop new technologies that increase crop yields and reduce production costs. Increasing population growth is driving the need for agricultural engineers who can design and develop efficient and sustainable farming systems.
What Industries Are Hiring Agricultural Engineering Graduates that have a Master’s Degree?
Agricultural engineering graduates with a master’s degree can find employment in various industries, such as government research organizations, state and federal agencies, and food processing and production companies. Private consulting firms may also hire graduates as agricultural engineers to work on projects related to land management, water resources, and soil and crop management.
Is an Online Master’s in Agricultural Engineering the same as an On-Campus Degree?
No, an online master’s in agricultural engineering is not the same as an on-campus degree. An online degree typically offers a flexible and convenient learning environment, with courses available online and accessed according to a schedule that fits the student’s needs. On-campus courses may offer more hands-on opportunities to the student, with additional practical experience gained through laboratory work and field trips.