The work of an agricultural engineer is as intensive and all-encompassing as that of any other engineer. Working to assess the environmental impact of production, supervise agricultural construction projects such as land drainage, reclamation and irrigation- as well as solving related problems (terramechanics etc.), this is an occupation that requires a great deal of commitment.
From testing and installing new equipment for clients, to advising on appropriate land use in relation to crop yields and the like- agricultural engineers are involved at most stages of production within modern farming. Far from unreachable as a career route, becoming an agricultural engineer does however require an abundance of dedication and hard work.
Here’s a more detailed breakdown of the role:
- 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.
As with any other field of engineering, the pay an agricultural engineer can expect to encounter is relatively attractive:
Average Basic Salary
Junior Level Engineer
£20,000 - £25,000
£26,000 - £35,000
Agricultural engineering is a career route that is most commonly pursued through degree-level education. Taking a specific foundation degree/Honours degree is the most direct way to gain employment in this sector, though there are various BTEC HNC/HND qualifications that serve more or less the same function.
The route taken in terms of course or subject will largely depend on the institution attended, though some relevant fields include:
- environmental engineering,
- electrical engineering
- mechanical engineering.
It may be worth performing a little preliminary research into the availability of such courses at colleges or universities that are of interest before commencing the all-important application process.
Whilst there are a host of higher education facilities that offer courses relative to the work and expertise of agricultural engineers, many of the best are central to the country’s agriculture-specific institutions. Places such as the Harper Adams University in Shropshire and the Royal Agricultural University in Gloucestershire host courses tailored towards all manner of areas of modern agriculture- including engineering.
As is the case with so many modern professions, agricultural engineering is a field accessible via vocational study. Upon gaining a foundation or entry level qualification in the area; or even upon completing a stretch of relative work experience- a technician’s or assistant’s role may make itself available.
From this entry-level foothold, the only way to move is up and forward. Further study and experience can and will only manifest itself as solid career progression, and as expertise develops all kinds of opportunities are likely to present themselves.
At present there is vast opportunity within this field, with plenty of work readily available for those with the necessary know-how both here in the United Kingdom as well as overseas. As a rather specialist and self-inclusive field of engineering, networking appropriately is not only key- but unavoidable!
Training and Development
Once a candidate has settled into an agricultural engineering role, it is likely that on-the-job training will be provided by their employer. As time progresses, scope for the improvement of career prospects will widen vastly on the back of this.
Another recommended action would be to gain membership of the IAgrE, a body which operates a system of CPD (continual professional development) for each of its members- allowing them to plan and record career progression appropriately. On top of this, individual professional registration with the Engineering Council UK, providing you have the necessary experience under your belt, is a no-brainer.