Can you picture yourself working in a lab? Now, can you picture that lab
being a barn? Agricultural engineering students strike a balance between academic
study and practical fieldwork.
In a typical day, you might spend a few hours learning theories in the
lab. Or you might take a field trip to a machine shop, hydroelectric
generator plant or water treatment facility. It's all designed to expose
students to the wide variety of industries they could pursue work in after
Some programs are actually called biosystems or bioresource engineering.
That's because biology is playing a larger role in this field.
Students learn how to design buildings and environmental control systems,
agricultural waste treatment systems and power equipment. You may decide to
specialize in a field like hydroponics, which involves using fluid
instead of soil to grow plants.
If you specialize in biotechnology, you could design bioprocessing
systems, controls, bioreactors and equipment for the biotechnology industry.
Choosing the natural resources route could mean you'd be working
on constructed wetland design or irrigation and drainage design.
A bachelor's degree usually takes four years to complete, but it can take
longer for engineering students. This is because most engineering programs
include co-op work terms where students go to work in the industry and
receive a salary, work experience and academic credit. The co-op tends
to add a year to most programs.
Once you have your bachelor's degree, you'll be eligible to register as
a professional engineer.
The typical agricultural engineering student is a whiz in math and science.
"Someone who likes hands-on experience as well as design, calculation and
problem solving is well-suited," says R. Vance Morey. He's director of
undergraduate studies and a professor of agricultural engineering and biosystems
at the University of Minnesota.
Extracurricular activities that develop leadership skills may help
you prepare for this program. "These can range from sports to theater to participation
in math and science 'quiz bowls', etcetera," says Jim Leary. He is a professor
of agricultural and biological engineering at the University of Florida. Science
and agricultural clubs and fairs are also good experience.
There are all the usual costs of tuition and books. Sometimes there
is also a computer use fee.
Occupational Outlook Handbook
For more information related to this field of study, see: Agricultural
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