It's amazing to see the advancement of food production in the United States over the years. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, in 2012 each American had the ability to consume, on average, 67 pounds more of commercially grown vegetables than in 1970; 6 pounds more fruit; 35 pounds more poultry; 22 pounds more cheese and 38 pounds more of grain products--all thanks to the advancement of machines and agricultural practices that allow for more efficiency.

Biological and agricultural engineering deals with the science of food production, processing and distribution all while protecting the environment. Since engineering is encompassed with the major name, math and science skills--specifically biology--are helpful. Having a curiosity of how machines operate and a problem-solving mindset are good as well.

You don't have to come from a rural community or have farming passion running through your veins — all you need is a willingness to work on-site and occasionally get your hands dirty.

Something to consider

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, every state in the United States has "at least one land-grant college or university with a school of agriculture." So be sure to know your school options when applying to college.

While in school, consider some specializations within biological and agricultural engineering, such as natural resources engineering or structural systems and environmental control. Check your school to see what they offer.

After graduation

Because the careers vary greatly with this specific major, some job duties include: designing food-processing plants, supervising manufacturing operations, designing agricultural machinery equipment and supervising environmental and land reclamation projects in agriculture. Engineering titles with this major include: biological engineer, environmental engineer, soil and water conservation engineer or quality control engineer.

Corporations both big and small need agricultural engineers for their products, and can include: Caterpillar, John Deere, Modjeski and Masters Engineering, and NASA. Other agricultural engineering job industries can include: food manufacturing, federal government and agriculture/construction/mining machinery manufacturing.

Where you could end up living

According to My Next Move, in 2013 there were 10 states that had average to above-average career opportunities as an agricultural engineer, including: Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas and Washington. Job environments do involve worksites, including visiting machinery on a farm or food processing site.

Salary and occupational outlook

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in May 2013 there were over 2,500 people working as agricultural engineers, and the average salary was $78,880. The growth rate from 2012—2022 is expected to only be five percent, which is slower than the average for all occupations. Agricultural engineers are branching out into new areas of work, including alternative energies and water resource management, plus developing new machinery/equipment will be needed with future farming.

Your college courses will vary from system optimization to hands on experiences. It's possible you will participate in an internship, co-op or senior capstone to gain real life experience with the major. Be sure to visit with a department advisor and recent students to know your options.

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