Agricultural Engineer Careers

How to become an Agricultural Engineer

What does a Agricultural Engineer do?

Agricultural engineers, also known as land-based engineers, plan, design, develop and install agricultural, horticultural and forestry machinery and equipment. They are also involved in advice work, planning and implementation of land use projects, such as irrigation systems or large-scale greenhouse cultivation.

Agricultural engineers are employed by a wide range of organisations and roles can range from the technical side through to business and management. Jobs include working for machinery, equipment and agrochemicals manufacturers in the research, design, development, sales and marketing fields; government departments and partner groups, providing guidance and advisory services in rural development, crop production and diversification; and overseas economic development agencies, drawing on experience and expertise to pass on skills and techniques to indigenous farmers. As well as longer term projects, engineers may have the opportunity to work in disaster relief, responding to immediate humanitarian crises.

Specific duties depend upon the area of work but may include:

  • designing, testing, installing and maintaining new equipment, such as harvesters, crop sprayers, transporters, milking, feeding, crop processing and storage systems, and logging equipment; modifying existing equipment to make it more efficient; and carrying out repairs and scheduled servicing – for more specific details about this role, see profile for Agricultural Engineering Technician
  • researching and investigating problems associated with crop production and mechanised equipment, for example, terramechanics - how agricultural machinery moves over different terrain types and under different weather conditions
  • managing or coordinating regional, national or international sales, marketing and technical support teams for an equipment manufacturer or specialist service and repair company
  • undertaking environmental impact assessments to evaluate the consequences of bringing uncultivated or semi-natural areas under intensive production; and carrying out studies and making recommendations for sustainable land use, for instance soil and water conservation
  • supervising agricultural construction projects such as land drainage, reclamation, clearance and irrigation
  • offering consultancy services to farmers and businesses to help increase production, for example the use of precision farming concepts and computer modelling (used to identify variations in crop yields within an area, and simulate the effects on yields by adjusting variables such as crop position, and amount and type of fertilizer applied).

Agricultural engineers also work in colleges and universities, teaching on agricultural courses and carrying out research. Others may be involved with non-governmental organisations (NGOs), working on agricultural projects in developing countries. Engineers working for government departments are involved in research and analysis of agricultural data with a view to formulating policy on farming and agricultural land use.

Fully qualified professional engineers usually hold incorporated or chartered status:

Chartered engineers are normally involved at a strategic planning level, researching and developing new designs, innovations and more efficient processes. They are often project leaders and are responsible for teams of incorporated engineers and technicians.

Incorporated engineers specialise in managing the day-to-day process of applying current engineering solutions in the most cost-effective manner. They often hold key operational management roles.

What's the working environment like working as a Agricultural Engineer?

Agricultural engineers work varied hours, depending on the particular job role. For those involved with research or design, hours are normally 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday. Engineers in the field may work longer and irregular hours. Work settings also vary from laboratory, workshop and office-based duties to working on-site on a farm or construction project.

Engineers may be required to travel around the UK and overseas for periods of time. A driving licence is often essential.

What does it take to become a Agricultural Engineer?

As an agricultural engineer you will need:

  • strong analytical skills and an innovative approach to problem solving
  • excellent technical, scientific, mathematical and IT skills
  • to be able to prioritise and plan effectively
  • to be able to work within budgetary constraints
  • to be able to take responsibility and lead a team
  • the ability to meet deadlines
  • excellent communication and presentation skills
  • to keep up to date with new developments in technology, production methods and environmental issues
  • a willingness to work flexibly and to travel.

In addition, an aptitude for foreign languages will be useful, particularly if working abroad or dealing with overseas clients.

Agricultural Engineer Career Opportunities

Opportunities for engineers exist with a range of organisations, including equipment manufacturers, dealerships, government departments, forestry companies, overseas development agencies and teaching institutions.

Promotion prospects are likely to involve general project management positions, specialist technical research and development, business development and teaching. With experience, engineers may set up as consultants to agricultural companies, government departments and non-governmental agencies involved in agricultural development. The technical skills used at this level will also allow movement into related engineering sectors such as manufacturing, electrical or mechanical engineering. See related profiles in the Engineering and Manufacturing job family.

Further information

If you would like to know anything about Agricultural Engineer that does not appear on Hotcourses, further information can be found below.

Institution of Agricultural Engineers (IAgrE)
West End Road
MK45 4DT
Tel: 01525 861096

RedR London
1 Great George Street
Tel: 020 7233 3116

Department for International Development (DFID)

Society for the Environment
Hunters Walk
Tel: 0845 226 3625

SEMTA (Science Engineering and Manufacturing Technologies Alliance)
14 Upton Road
WD18 0JT
Tel: 0808 100 3682

Women into Science and Engineering
22 Old Queen Street
Tel: 020 7227 8421

Engineering Training Council (Northern Ireland)
20-24 York Street
BT15 1AQ
Tel: 028 9032 9878

Engineering Council
10 Maltravers Street
Tel: 020 7240 7891

The UK Standard for Professional Engineering Competence (UK-SPEC)

Facts and Stats:

  • Isambard Kingdom Brunel was only 5ft tall and wore a top hat to make himself look taller
  • Engineering generates more than 40 per cent of the UK¿s national wealth
  • The Box Hill tunnel, part of Brunel¿s Great Western Railway, took five years to dig and at two miles long was the longest tunnel in the world at the time

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