Study Agricultural Engineering
Agricultural engineers apply their knowledge of biological and physical sciences and engineering principles to the production and delivery of foods and fibers, under safe working conditions, and while protecting the environment.
Due to advancements in biotechnology and growing concerns over environmental quality, there has been an increase in the number of opportunities for agricultural engineers in areas such as the design of fermentation and cell culture processes. The rapidly expanding global economy will result in a significant increase in national and multinational companies and government agencies hiring university and college graduates for employment in a global market.
Approximately fifty universities in the USA have departments of Agricultural Engineering. Each department maintains its autonomy with an individualized program; yet the field of agricultural engineering in the USA (especially Agricultural Engineering Education Programs) are composed of a close-knit group of engineers and scientists with common goals. This allows each Agricultural Department to benefit from the strengths of every other department. Many professional organizations contribute to the enhancement of the educational programs, of which the two most prominent are the American Society of Agricultural Engineers and the American Society for Engineering Education. This permits and cultivates a climate for unifying a direction for higher quality.
Educational programs in Agricultural Engineering in the USA are primarily limited to State Universities. It is significant to the quality of the programs that most, but not all, of these universities are those that have been designated as ‘Land Grant’ universities, that administer the primary agricultural research and extension programs for their particular state. The research programs relate primarily to the needs of each specific state, and secondarily to the larger need of the country and the world. The extension programs are charged with relating the latest scientific findings to practical application that can be used to enhance and optimize agricultural production.
All undergraduate educational programs provide a very standard engineering foundation that begins to specialize in the third year with a more direct emphasis on specialization in the fourth year. Graduate programs continue this specialization and, at the same time, permit an interaction across specializations that results in a diversified graduate.
Many agricultural engineering departments have dual programs: (1) a fully-accredited engineering program that requires a fundamental engineering science foundation and produces a qualified engineer; (2) a technology-based program directed to the student whose interest is in applied technology to the agricultural sciences or business. There is an industry need for graduates from both programs.
Often, teaching faculty are jointly associated with one or both of these two programs, which greatly enhances the undergraduate and graduate courses. Students are led by faculty that remain current in the latest scientific and engineering advances, which additionally permits graduate students to be involved in research programs at the cutting edge of science. Also, students have the opportunity to see practical application of the scientific advancements of the real world of industrial development and agricultural production.
Prior to the 1930s, most of the technology programs were simply called agricultural engineering technology, agricultural mechanization, or mechanized agriculture. Many of the 29 universities currently offering technology programs recently changed the scope of their programs to focus on emerging technologies, as they apply to food and agricultural systems. The names of the respective programs reflect the philosophy of the school in responding to these issues. So although they may have different names, the programs are really quite similar. Program names currently in use are:
- Agriculture and Environmental Technology
- Agriculture Engineering Technology
- Agricultural Operations Management
- Agricultural Systems Management
- Agricultural Systems Technology
- Agricultural Technology Management
- Agricultural Technology and Systems Management
- Bioresources Engineering Technology
- Mechanized Systems Management
- Technical Systems Management
Today, agricultural engineers and systems management graduates both work with the same types of buildings and equipment, the same crops and animals, and the global society - yet there is a distinct difference in what they do. The engineer is trained to analyze and design a process, system or mechanism, while the agricultural systems specialist is able to identify the system problems, formulate possible solutions, analyze the impact of alternatives (including social and economic dimensions) and then implement the best solution. When comparing systems management to engineering, the systems programs are less theoretical and more practical. Emphasis is on application experiences, and most courses have laboratory or recitation sessions.
An agricultural systems management degree combines an understanding of the agricultural, biological and physical sciences with managerial and technical skills. This understanding of science, systems management and applications engineering can be used in a career in the production and processing of food, fiber, feed, and fuel. Students focus on the application of engineering principles, the study of agricultural technology and the integration of business management concepts in the food and agricultural industry. This degree is ideal for students interested in technical sales or being a technical manager for an agricultural-related business involved in production, processing, service or manufacturing. Systems management graduates are in great demand. The average starting salaries are highly competitive, and among the highest of agricultural graduates, averaging in the mid-to-high $30,000 range.
A graduate for an agricultural engineering undergraduate education program (and similarly named engineering programs) in one country may be employed in another country by either a governmental agency or multinational company. Employers of graduates need assurance of quality, based on minimum qualifications. Likewise, educational institutions selecting international students for graduate study need assurance of the quality of the degree. Accreditation of programs in the US by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology, Inc. (ABET) since 1936 provides a model for agricultural engineering educators worldwide. This high level of quality would suggest that the USA is, arguably, the place to come and study if you are planning a career in agricultural engineering.