Agricultural/Land-based Engineer

hat work is involved?

  As an agricultural engineer (or land-based engineer), you would be working as a specialist in technology related to agriculture or one of the allied land-based industries, including forestry, food engineering and technology, renewable energy, horticulture and the environment. These are highly mechanised industries and you would be involved with the design, development and maintenance of the specialised equipment currently in use. You could expect to be involved with: tractors and tillage machines, harvesting equipment, crop processing, animal welfare (handling and transport), irrigation and drainage schemes, earth moving and other construction equipment, pioneer road and bridge construction, forestry machines, horticultural machines and fish farming equipment.
  You could also work in areas such as field engineering, land reclamation, drainage and irrigation and the systems used for this or the management of the field-to-table supply chain. You could combine your technical engineering skills with management and economic knowledge and play a valuable role in many aspects of an industry that is undergoing rapid change at the moment.

pportunities for training

  This is a specialised area and there are few universities or HE colleges that run courses in engineering for the land-based sector. It is possible to take a three-year course that leads to the BEng or a four-year course leading to the MEng degree. There are also sandwich courses available, which allow for time to be spent working in industry as part of the course, and you could combine agricultural engineering with another subject, such as management. In order to become a chartered engineer, you would need to take an accredited course and to complete at least four years of academic study; to become an incorporated engineer, you would need at least a three-year accredited course (see separate article on engineering qualifications).
  A new chartered environmentalist (CEnv) award is now available from the Society for the Environment. It is available through a number of professional institutions, and is open to members of the Institution of Agricultural Engineers involved in environmental work.

equirements for entry

  Some universities would require you to have maths at A level/Advanced Higher, Higher or equivalent qualification, but even those that do not actually insist on maths would prefer you to have it. Most universities would also prefer you to have physics at A level/Advanced Higher, Higher or equivalent as well.

ind of person

  You would need to have a strong interest in and understanding of agriculture, horticulture or forestry and the ways that these industries work. You should have a very practical and logical approach to problem solving and a strong mechanical interest. You would need to be able to analyse problems clearly and then to produce workable solutions. In addition to your technical and engineering skills, you would need to be able to communicate your ideas to others. You may well find yourself working as part of a small team, in which case you would be required to tell others what you think and to listen to their points of view. You could find yourself explaining your proposals to others who do not have your expert knowledge, or having to 'sell' your ideas in other cases.

road outlook for the future

  There are good opportunities for well-qualified and knowledgeable engineers who can help to bring solutions to the range of problems facing the land-based sector. The industry needs to change and adapt to different demands and conditions both in the UK and abroad. There is a constant need to find more efficient and sustainable ways of using natural resources and more profitable ways of farming, with implications for recycling and environmental concerns. There are opportunities to work abroad, particularly in developing countries. You may be able to use your skills to work in development and relief projects, such as those organised by People and Skills for Disaster Relief.
  We are currently seeing the emergence of a new profession of biosystems engineer, combining knowledge of biological systems and processes with a strong engineering background. This allows practitioners to be involved with issues concerning human health and welfare, including biomedical engineering, regenerative medicine, innovative materials and biomaterials, bio-mechatronics, bio-fuels and alternative energy sources.

elated occupations

  You might be interested in working in another branch of engineering as, for example, a mechanical engineer, automotive engineer, manufacturing engineer, mining engineeror water engineer. Alternatively, you might consider soil scientist or farm manager, horticultural manager or estate manager/land agent.

mpact on lifestyle

  Whilst you might find yourself working normal office hours, you are also likely to be required to travel out to farms or factories, which could involve longer hours. You may need to be outside in all kinds of weather, which may involve you getting wet, cold and dirty, or hot and dusty in developing countries with primitive facilities. You may have to travel to get to your clients or to the areas where they need your advice. At times you might find yourself working with potentially dangerous equipment and be required to take the necessary safety precautions.

arnings potential

  You are likely to be paid around £22,000 to £25,000 when you first graduate. This can rise as you gain experience to around £50,000 to £70,000 for a chartered engineer and £36,000 to £42,000 for an incorporated engineer.

urther information/valuable websites

  Institution of Agricultural Engineers
  Agricultural Engineers' Association
  Society for the Environment
  RedR UK (People and Skills for Disaster Relief)
  International Commission of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering
  Farm Tractor and Machinery Trade Association, Ireland