How to become an Agricultural Engineer. Read through our comprehensive job guide to learn more about this career.
What does an Agricultural Engineer do?
Agricultural engineers develop and install agricultural, horticultural and forestry machinery and processes. They also advise farmers, companies and government departments on rural development issues, for example crop diversification and sustainable land use.
As an agricultural engineer, your work would involve:
- assessing the environmental impact of intensive production
- supervising agricultural construction projects like land drainage, reclamation and irrigation
- solving engineering problems, for example, making it easier for machinery to move over uneven ground in different weather conditions (known as terramechanics)
- testing and installing new equipment, such as harvesters, crop sprayers, storage facilities and logging machinery
- analysing data and using computer modelling to advise farmers and businesses on land use, for instance how to increase crop yields
- planning service and repair programmes for machinery.
Depending on the size of the company you work for, you might also be involved in managing and coordinating sales, marketing and technical support.
You would normally work 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday. Your actual hours of work could vary depending on the contract.
You could be based in a laboratory, workshop or office for design and research duties. Site work would be in all weather conditions, for example on a farm or construction project. You may have to travel around the country, possibly overseas, depending on your role.
How much does an Agricultural Engineer earn?
Salary and pay information:
- Starting salaries can be between £22,000 and £27,000 a year.
- Experienced engineers can earn between £28,000 and £38,000.
- Chartered engineers can earn over £45,000 a year.
Some overseas relief and development positions may be offered on a voluntary basis.
Figures are intended as a guideline only.
To become an agricultural engineer you would need a foundation degree, BTEC HND or degree. Relevant subjects include:
- agricultural engineering
- environmental engineering
- electrical or mechanical engineering.
To search for foundation degrees, HNDs and degrees, see the University and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) website.
- University and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS)
If you have a BTEC National Certificate or Diploma in Land-based Technology, or relevant experience, you may be able to start work as an agricultural engineering technician then complete further study to qualify as an agricultural engineer. See the job profile for Agricultural Engineering Technician for more information.
You may be able to use your skills to work in overseas development and relief projects. For more information see the Engineers for Disaster Relief (RedR) website. The recruitment section of the Department for International Development (DFID) also contains links to a large number of organisations involved in development and relief work.
- Engineers for Disaster Relief (RedR)
For more information about careers and courses, see the Institution of Agricultural Engineers (IAgrE)website. The Engineering Training Council (Northern Ireland) has course information for colleges in the region.
Training and Development
Once you start work you would be given on-the-job training by your employer. If you have a degree, this could be gained through a place on a graduate apprenticeship scheme.
You could improve your career prospects further by applying for membership of the IAgrE at a grade that suits your level of experience. The IAgrE operates a system of Continuing Professional Development (CPD) for its members, which would help you to plan and record your career progression. With experience you could apply for professional registration and gain chartered status through the Engineering Council (UK). To find out more, visit the IAgrE website.
- The IAgre
You may be able to apply for Chartered Environmentalist (CEnv) status with the Society for the Environment if you have experience of environmental or sustainable development projects. See the Society for the Environment website for more details.
- Society for the Environment
Skills and Knowledge
- the ability to analyse large amounts of information
- a creative approach to problem solving
- excellent technical, scientific, maths and IT skills
- the ability to prioritise and plan work effectively
- good budgeting skills
- the ability to take responsibility and lead a team
- the ability to meet deadlines
- excellent communication and presentation skills
- a willingness to work flexibly
- a commitment to keep up to date with new developments in technology and production methods
- an interest in environmental issues.
Foreign language skills would be useful for work with overseas clients or travel abroad.
Typical employers include equipment manufacturers, agrochemical companies, government departments, forestry companies, overseas development agencies and educational institutions.
With experience you could move into project management, specialist technical research and development, technical sales, business development, teaching or consultancy work.
You could also move into related areas like manufacturing and electrical or mechanical engineering. Other options include overseas agricultural development and disaster relief.
You may find the following useful for job vacancies and general reading:
- Institution of Agricultural Engineers
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