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:
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.
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.
As an agricultural engineer you will need:
In addition, an aptitude for foreign languages will be useful, particularly if working abroad or dealing with overseas clients.
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.
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