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Agricultural Engineer

by Staff Reporter
If you have a scientific mind, enjoy problem-solving and have an interest in the environment, a career as an Agricultural Engineer could be for you.

Career Overview

Agricultural Engineers understand how man-made structures interact with the earth’s natural resources. With this understanding, they solve a range of agricultural problems relating to automated machinery, soil and water conservation and the processing of agricultural products – to name a few. They also work to design agricultural equipment and machinery and develop ways to improve the production and processing of food and other agricultural products. 

An Agricultural Engineer uses engineering principles of science and technology, and agricultural practices, to solve problems relating to agricultural production, the environmental impact of agriculture and the handling of agricultural products.

Required School Subjects

You will need to have taken the following subjects at high school:

  • Pure Mathematics
  • Physical Science

Recommended subjects:

  • Geography

Institution and APS

The following institutions are highly recommended for students wanting to become an Agricultural Engineer:

  • University of Kwa-Zulu Natal – APS of 33+
  • University of Free State – APS of 32

Required Qualification/s

To practice as an Agricultural Engineer, you need to have a degree majoring in Agricultural Engineering. Alternatively, you can do a BSc Engineering degree which allows you to register as an Engineer in Training. After completing 3 years of the required practical experience as an Agricultural Engineer, you will be able to register as a Professional Engineer. 

You can obtain a formal qualification at one of the abovementioned institutions – here is a breakdown of the respective entry requirments:

University of Kwa-Zulu Natal

  • BSc Engineering: Agricultural
    • National Senior Certificate with an endorsement for degree studies
    • Mathematics 70%
    • Physical Sciences 70%
    • English 60%
    • Life Orientation 60%
    • Minimum APS score of 33

University of Free State

  • BSc (Agriculture) majoring in Agrometeorology with Agricultural Engineering
    • Minimum AP score of 32
    • Language of Instruction 50%
    • Mathematics 60%
    • Life Sciences 60%
    • Physical Sciences 60%
    • Agricultural Sciences 60%
    • NBT in AL, QL, and MT
  • BSc (Agriculture) majoring in Soil Science with Agricultural Engineering
    • Minimum AP score of 32
    • Language of Instruction 50%
    • Mathematics 60%
    • Life Sciences 60%
    • Physical Sciences 60%
    • Agricultural Sciences 60%
    • NBT in AL, QL, and MT

Required Skills

You will need to have the following skills to succeed as an Agricultural Engineer:

  • Aptitude for the software used to design equipment, systems, and structures.
  • Good communication skills.
  • A mechanical and scientific mindset.
  • The ability to identify, analyse and solve complex problems.
  • An interest in soil, plants, and animals.
  • The ability to think logically and practically.
  • An enthusiasm for work, with the ability to be patient and persevere when things don’t work out.

Where you can work

As an Agricultural Engineer, you can specialise in one of the following areas:

  • Water supply and irrigation
  • Soil conservation
  • Agricultural mechanisation
  • Food and fibre processing
  • Agricultural mechanisation

Working Hours

An Agricultural Engineer will usually work the standard 40 hours a week. There may be times where client deadlines need to be met or there is the need to travel to remote sites, in which case the weekly working hours could exceed 40 hours.

Expected Salary

According to PayScale, the average pay for an Agricultural Engineer in South Africa ranges between R25k – R894k per year, depending on experience.

What to expect

Here are a few things you can expect from a career as an Agricultural Engineer:

  • Regularly testing equipment to ensure that it is safe and reliable.
  • Overseeing and managing various construction and production operations.
  • Regular work with clients and engineers from different areas of specialisation.
  • Adjusting and modifying factors that affect various areas of agriculture, such as animal or crop production.
  • Developing ways of integrating technology into areas of agriculture.

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