Future Student FAQs

What is agricultural engineering?

Engineers are problem solvers.  Agricultural Engineers solve problems in four areas:

  1. Biological Engineering
  2. Environmental & Natural Resources Engineering
  3. Food Process Engineering
  4. Machine Systems Engineering

 What is the typical salary for agricultural engineering?

Our Engineering students starting salary after a 4 year Bachelor of Science (BS) degree is in the $55,000 range

What is the most important type of math used in this job?

We use Analytic Geometry, Multivariate Calculus, and Linear Algebra.  Our Chemistry and Physics is calculus based.  So, probably calculus is the most important type of math.

How long do you have to go to school and what type of school did you go to?

Most of our students go to school for 4 years.  It is becoming more common for students to continue on and get a Master of Science (MS degree.  Agricultural Engineering offers a 5 year dual degree program so students can accomplish this (both a BS and MS) in as few as 5 years.  A typical MS degree would take about 1 1/2 to 2 years.  In order to be a Professor, a PhD is required.  This takes another 2 1/2 to 3 years.

What does an agricultural engineer do on a daily basis?

This is an answer from a group of student engineers; "Engineers are people who use math and science to create things that people want and/or need, and then they're responsible for what they've created".

This might involve some time in the field analyzing the problem, some time in a group discussing the problem, and sometime behind a computer solving the problem, then sometime back in the field implementing the solution.

What kind of problems does an agricultural engineer deal with on a day-to-day basis?

  1. Biological Engineers might work in bio-processing trying to replace a non-renewable resource like petroleum with a renewable resource like corn to create fuel from biomass - taking cornstalks and making ethanol.  Or, they might work with bio-sensors developing a system to detect oxygen in cells.  If there is oxygen in the cell, the cell is living.  As cancer treatments are developed, we could use this bio-sensor to be sure the treatment is not killing the "good" cells, and that it is killing the cancerous cells.  Each year our seniors have the opportunity to apply their skills in a senior project.  Take a look at a senior project in this area - Pharmaceutical Fluidized Bed Processing
     
  2. Environmental & Natural Resources Engineers work in areas involving air, water and soil.  With air, it might be monitoring the quality of air in a building, designing the ventilation system, and designing an air filtration system if needed. With water, it might be analyzing ground water movement within a watershed and sources of pollutants, working with "point" (where you can determine the exact source) and "non-point" pollutants.  With soil, it might be creating a constructed wetland to clean up runoff water.  Wetlands act like kidneys to clean up water.  Engineers might work with soil types, plants and water movement to clean up water before it contaminates a stream.  Each year our seniors have the opportunity to apply their skills in a senior project.  Take a look at a senior project in this area - Water Treatment System
     
  3. Food Process Engineers work to improve the food we eat - flavor and safety.  They might work to develop an instant cappuccino that provides your tongue with the texture of frothed milk, like real cappuccino.  They might develop living sensors that can help illuminate (make it easier to detect) bacteria that might cause food poisoning.  Or, they may be the engineer that designs the machinery to produce food, so that you get a consistently excellent product.  Each year our seniors have the opportunity to apply their skills in a senior project.  Take a look at a senior project in this area - Par Baked Bread
     
  4. Machine Systems Engineers work on designing safe equipment, primarily for the off road industry.  These engineers work a great deal with the "hydraulics" (fluid power) area, which opens doors to many industries.  For example, they might develop hydraulic systems that are more energy efficient, like an accumulator that accumulates energy from a bus as it stops at a bus stop, and uses that energy to help get the bus moving again.  Or, maybe it's designing "smart" hydraulics that could smooth out a bumpy ride in a skid-steer (or other construction equipment), by applying opposite forces to the payload as it moves a load in its bucket from one location to another.  They use computers to design and test components.  Instead of building a physical prototype and running it until something fails, they can do all these tests using computer programs.  Each year our seniors have the opportunity to apply their skills in a senior project.  Take a look at a senior project in this area - Basic Utility Vehicle

 

If you have additional questions, you can always contact us:
Yvonne Hardebeck - 765-494-1172
Dan Taylor - 765-494-1181
Purdue University
Agricultural & Biological Engineering Department
225 South University Street
West Lafayette, IN  47907-2093