Agricultural engineers apply engineering knowledge to the many forms of agriculture, from traditional farming to forestry to aquaculture. Agricultural engineers help to design the machinery that makes agriculture possible, and they work to improve the ways in which food and other agricultural products are processed and brought to market. Most agricultural engineers have a bachelor's degree in the field.
National Pay Scale
As of 2011, about 2, 650 agricultural engineers were employed in the United States, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Half of these workers reported hourly wages of between $27.15 and $45.13, and annual salaries ranging from $56, 470 to $93, 880. The average earnings for this occupation in 2011 were $37.69 an hour and $78, 400 a year.
Pay by Industry
About 20 percent of agricultural engineers were employed by private engineering firms in 2011 and made an average of $83, 540. Those employed by the federal government earned comparable pay, averaging an annual salary of $81, 550. Those employed in the construction of agricultural machinery recorded somewhat lower average pay, $67, 870, as did those employed by colleges and universities, who averaged $59, 490. Agricultural engineers employed directly by the sugar manufacturing industry had some of the highest average salaries for this occupation, $90, 230.
Related Reading: Agricultural Engineering vs. Civil Engineering
Pay by Location
Georgia reported the highest average pay for agricultural engineers in 2011, $95, 500 a year. Maryland ranked second at $88, 660, followed by Texas at $85, 560, Tennessee at $85, 070 and Ohio at $79, 980. South Dakota reported the lowest average salary by state, $57, 620. Because of the concentration of high-paying federal jobs, the highest-paying metropolitan area for this occupation was the area around Washington, D.C. and Arlington and Alexandria, Virginia, where the average salary was $111, 500.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that job prospects for agricultural engineers will be somewhat unfavorable for the next decade. Although some demand for new workers is expected to come from companies that design new farming equipment and market it both domestically and internationally, agricultural engineering jobs are expected to grow at a relatively slow rate of 9 percent. This means that only about 200 jobs are expected to be created between 2010 and 2020.