What Is Agricultural Engineering?
You might only think of fruits and vegetables when you think of agricultural engineering, but in this field, you may help with the production of cotton shirts or designing packaging to keep potato chips fresh. If this career interests you, continue reading to learn more about what job duties to expect and how to prepare to enter the field. Schools offering Engineering & Technology Management degrees can also be found in these popular choices.
Agricultural Engineering Overview
If you become an agricultural engineer, your work will often revolve around two issues - a growing world population and the reduction of farm land. You may have to figure out how to keep land fertile when over-planting drains it of essential minerals, find a way to water crops without depleting water sources or create methods of growing more crops in smaller areas of land.
Weeding Through Issues
The first thing you'll do as an agricultural engineer is examine the problem. For example, you may examine a crop that grew well, but is now failing even though the farmer hasn't changed anything. You'll look at contributing factors like erosion, seed quality and mineral depletion. You'll analyze the irrigation system to see if it needs to be altered or if the water has become contaminated. Your job as an agricultural engineer will be to discover what factors cause this problem and ways to solve it. To do this, you'll have to understand hydration, biology, agriculture and a host of engineering systems.
Once you understand what the problems are, you can begin to apply research and design skills. You might look at other cases that had the same problems and examine the solutions used in those instances. You may find that this area has unique challenges and a new type of equipment must be designed to address them. As an agricultural engineer, you may even be called upon to design a new type of packaging that preserves the crops longer after harvesting, or prolongs the usability lifespan of a product after it's been processed.
Reaping the Benefits
Most engineers find entry-level employment with only a bachelor's degree. If you want to go into a more research-oriented or advanced-level career, you'll need to consider a graduate degree. As an agricultural engineer, you can expect a 12% increase in job opportunities from 2008-2018, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov). In May 2010, the BLS reported a median salary for this field at $71,090 annually.
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