Frequently Asked Questions about Agricultural Engineering
Agricultural Engineering is one of three majors in the Department of Biological Systems Engineering. This major offers students many opportunities, ranging from computer modeling, machine testing, to hands-on activities in the field.
1. What does an Agricultural Engineer do? Engineering is a large field and there are many career possibilities. Agricultural Engineers do what other engineers do-they invent, design, test and evaluate ideas and concepts to solve problems-as applied to the agricultural sector. Many are registered professional engineers, working in such fields as the farm and construction equipment industries, animal housing and environment, soil and water conservation, and irrigation.
2. Does your department offer scholarships for Agricultural Engineering? Our department has a long and justifiably proud record of helping established upper class students secure scholarships for their education. In the academic year of 2004-2005, 37 scholarships were awarded to students in the three department majors; 9 of these students were Agricultural Engineering majors. The total monies awarded to all students was approximately $24,000. (October 2004) In addition to the department and other sources, the College of Engineering also awards scholarships, which in 2006-07 totaled about $280,000.
3. Where does your department rank nationally among comparable schools offering an Agricultural Engineering degree? Out of the eleven schools that offer Agricultural Engineering degrees (Oct. 2004), both our undergraduate and graduate programs rank in the top 5.
4. What academic strengths does a student need to become a good Agricultural Engineer? Math and the sciences, such as physics, chemistry, and biology are basic aspects of engineering, so the student must be comfortable working with math and science.
5. Do I need a background in agriculture to enter this major? No. The curriculum has the flexibility to allow students from both rural and urban backgrounds to succeed in the program and meet their personal career goals.
6. What percentage of students in the College of Engineering are Agricultural Engineering students? In the department? Within the college, about 1% of 2,420 students. (as of Oct. 2004) Within the three majors offered by the Department of Biological Systems Engineering, 21% are Agricultural Engineering majors. (as of Oct. 2004)
7. What is the minority makeup of the Agricultural Engineering program? Most of the students in this program tend to be white males, though we welcome all interested students to become involved in the program.
8. How many students graduate from our Agricultural Engineering program? 5 to 10 students graduate in a typical year.
9. Is an internship required for graduation? An internship is not required although it is strongly recommended. There are many opportunities in this job sector for internships, and experience shows that internships lead to permanent jobs for many of our students after graduation.
10. Do you provide on-site training in the program? Attending an educational institution is in itself on-site training; in the course of their education, students learn to navigate computer packages and operate equipment integral to their interests. Our department provides many opportunities and settings for students to gain experience, such as the Nebraska Tractor Test Laboratory and the University Rogers Memorial Research Farm. We educate students and help them develop skills they will use as engineers; how students use this education and the career they choose after graduation is up to them.
11. Do students have the opportunity to be involved in research projects? Yes, students can perform research on their own as honor students or work on a faculty member's project. Some of the on-going and recent projects include: tractor performance, efficient application of anhydrous ammonia, opto-electronic instrumentation for evaluating planter seed spacing, irrigation and water applications, and precision agricultural instruments and applications.
12. Is Agricultural Engineering a physically dangerous field? Engineering is not traditionally thought of as a dangerous occupation. The likelihood of injury increases when one is working hands-on with equipment or animals. Whether one works inside an office or outside, the chance of injury decreases when safety is one of the job priorities.
13. What does the future of Agricultural Engineering look like? There are many areas of growth within agricultural engineering that will require engineers, such as hydraulic systems, food safety, air filtration systems, efficient water application and utilization, worker health & safety, ergonomics for agriculture, and computer controls. As long as we need and raise plants and animals for food, fuel and fiber there will be a need for agricultural engineers to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of agricultural systems.
14. What salary range might an Agricultural Engineer expect when beginning this career? If working for a large corporation, a beginning engineer might expect an annual salary of about $50,000. That salary will usually rise once licensure as a professional engineer has been attained. Working for a small company has many advantages that a large company can't offer, but the salaries are usually lower. The potential earnings over a lifetime will be determined by many factors, such as region, type of employment, and whether one chooses a managerial track or stays on the engineering staff.
15. Do employers prefer a B.S., M.S., or Ph.D. degree? A broad range of career possibilities await our graduates. There are a variety of companies and government agencies that hire our students. Our students successfully find jobs at all degree levels. A Ph.D. can lead to research and development or an academic position.
16. What types of companies hire your graduates? Large and small companies have been pleased with our graduates. Some students prefer to work with large manufacturers such as Caterpillar, John Deere or Case New Holland, while other students seek opportunities with small manufacturers or government agencies. Still others work as private consultants in their area of interest.
17. How soon, on average, do your students find jobs? Most students secure employment before they graduate. The remainder wait until graduation since they might be deciding between employment or graduate education. Within 3 to 6 months, probably most students are working in their field of interest.
18. Is there a typical work environment for an Agricultural Engineer? Not really; Agricultural Engineers work in a variety of environments from an office setting to working in the field. A desirable aspect of the major, according to several of our graduates, is that the work environment is variable.
19. Other than computers, what technologies do Agricultural Engineers work with? Though skilled computer usage is certainly a necessary component of engineering, some of the other technologies Agricultural Engineers work with include transducers, signal conditioning, data acquisition, lasers, hydraulics, electrical controls, robotics, Global-Positioning Systems, and guidance systems.
20. Do Agricultural Engineers work directly with the public? Yes, whether working with a client or members of a team, today's engineers work with people. Good written, oral, and interpersonal communication skills are important for all engineers.
21. What is the most enjoyable aspect about being an Agricultural Engineer? Most engineers enjoy seeing the fruits of their labor—a successfully completed product—whether it is a piece of machinery or a water delivery system. Solving problems, working with ideas, equipment and people that one enjoys makes any career more satisfying.