Land-Based Engineer

The Job and What's Involved

Engineers in the land-based sector design and develop new equipment and technology to make industries, such as agriculture, forestry and horticulture, more efficient and productive.

The work also involves field testing and evaluation, technical support, and the education of customers and operators.

Most engineers in this sector specialise in one particular area:

Manufacturing - designing, developing, testing and demonstrating new products, such as tractors, combine harvesters, ploughs and sprayers, as well as forestry, horticultural and ground care equipment.

Field Engineering - developing solutions and new equipment to deal with problems relating to soil erosion, irrigation and drainage, and to protect and manage crops.

Service Engineering - training operators, installing machinery, and maintaining and repairing equipment and machinery.

Environmental Control - designing electronic systems to control the conditions inside buildings that are used to house livestock or to dry and store crops, such as grain silos, dairy units and glasshouses.

Environment - working on projects to do with land reclamation and the creation of habitats.

Engineers in the land-based sector often work with specialists, such as agronomists, geneticists and microbiologists, to develop solutions to specific problems.

Increasingly, engineers work on projects abroad, establishing service networks, giving advice to dealerships, technicians and farmers in developing countries, or providing engineering expertise in the aftermath of a natural disaster or war.

Engineers in this sector usually work 37.5 hours a week, although this can vary depending on seasonal demands, deadlines and whether they are on call.

Most engineers divide their time between working indoors, in an office or laboratory, and outdoors on field work, visiting farms and other facilities.

They may spend a lot of time standing and walking, as well as climbing ladders and working in confined spaces.

Engineers may need to wear protective clothing, high-visibility vests and hard hats. Working with agricultural, forestry and horticultural equipment can be hazardous.

Starting salaries may range from around £18,000 to £24,000 a year.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

It is possible to enter a career as a land-based engineer:

  • By studying for a degree in agricultural engineering or a related subject, such as environmental, mechanical or automotive engineering.
  • By studying for a BTEC/SQA Higher National Award in Agricultural Engineering.
  • At craft or technician level, by following an Apprenticeship or studying towards a relevant qualification, such as the National Diploma in Agricultural Engineering.
  • By joining one of the larger manufacturers that provide specialist apprentice training for those working in their dealer network. These schemes are usually run in partnership with a further education college, and are either NVQ or national diploma based.

A Diploma will help you make a more informed choice about the type of learning that best suits you and about what kind of work or further study you may want to do afterwards.

Apprenticeships and Advanced Apprenticeships provide structured training with an employer. As an apprentice you must be paid at least £95 per week; you may well be paid more. A recent survey found that the average wage for apprentices was £170 a week. Your pay will depend on the sector in which you work, your age, the area where you live and the stage at which you have arrived in the Apprenticeship.

Entry to Employment (e2e) can help to prepare those who are not yet ready for an Apprenticeship. In addition, Young Apprenticeships may be available for 14- to 16-year-olds. More information is available from a Connexions personal adviser or at www.apprenticeships.org.uk.

There are different arrangements for Apprenticeships in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

For further information visit My World of Work www.myworldofwork.co.uk/modernapprenticeships, Careers Wales www.careerswales.com; and for Northern Ireland contact www.careersserviceni.com.

Education and Training

All new land-based engineers complete a period of initial professional development when they start work.

Large employers may offer structured training schemes, allowing entrants to gain experience in different departments.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

Entry to a relevant degree course is usually with a minimum of two A levels/three H grades, including maths and a science subject, and five GCSE's/S grades (A-C/1-3), or the equivalent.

A minimum of one A level/two H grades and four GCSE's/S grades (A-C/1-3), or the equivalent are needed for a BTEC/SQA Higher National Award in Agricultural Engineering.

Through the Institution of Agricultural Engineers (IAgrE), professional land-based engineers with the required experience and qualifications can register with the Engineering Council UK at incorporated and chartered engineer level. Employers often pay for the appropriate training courses, which are available at colleges and universities throughout the UK.

For graduates working for smaller organisations, the IAgrE supervises a scheme that enables candidates to gain incorporated or chartered engineer status.

A new Chartered Environmentalist (CEnv) Award is now available from the Society for the Environment (SocEnv). It is available through a number of professional institutions, and is open to members of IAgrE involved in environmental work.

Continuing Professional Development (CPD) is also an important element of all engineering disciplines. The British Agricultural and Garden Machinery Association offers a wide range of CPD training opportunities.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

Land-based engineers need:

  • Good practical and ICT skills.
  • To be creative and inventive.
  • To have good problem-solving skills.
  • The ability to record and analyse data.
  • Good communication skills to explain technical issues.
  • Physical fitness for outdoor work.
  • To be aware of the needs of those who use the equipment.
  • The ability to work well in a team.
  • An understanding of health and safety legislation.

Your Long Term Prospects

There are generally good promotion prospects within both large multinational companies and smaller specialist firms, where experienced engineers may move into management positions.

Some engineers move into marketing and sales, research or teaching. It is also possible to become self-employed and work on a consultancy basis.

There are opportunities to work abroad in developing countries, and many large companies have manufacturing sites in Europe, the Far East and North America.

Get Further Information

The Agricultural Engineers' Association (AEA),
Samuelson House, Paxton Road, Orton Centre,
Peterborough PE2 5LT
Tel: 01733 362925
Website: www.aea.uk.com

British Agricultural and Garden Machinery Association (BAGMA),
Entrance B, Level 1, Salamander Quay West, Park Lane,
Harefield, Middlesex UB9 6NZ
Tel: 0870 205 2834
Website: www.bagma.com

Institution of Agricultural Engineers (IAgrE),
Barton Road, Silsoe, Bedford MK45 4FH
Tel: 01525 861096
Website: www.iagre.org

Lantra, Lantra House, Stoneleigh Park,
near Coventry, Warwickshire CV8 2LG
Tel: 024 7669 6996
Websites: www.lantra.co.uk & www.ajobin.com

SEMTA (Science, Engineering and Manufacturing Technologies Alliance),
14 Upton Road, Watford, Hertfordshire WD18 0JT
Tel: 0800 282167
Website: www.semta.org.uk

Society for the Environment (SocEnv),
The Old School House, Long Street, Atherstone, Warwickshire CV9 1AH
Tel: 0845 337 2951
Website: www.socenv.org.uk

Women into Science, Engineering and Construction (WISE),
2nd Floor, Weston House, 246 High Holborn, London WC1V 7EX
Tel: 020 3206 0408
Website: www.wisecampaign.org.uk

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