Land-based engineering covers three main areas:

  • parts;
  • sales;
  • servicing.

Engineers apply their knowledge of science and technology to machinery and work that is carried out in the environmental and agricultural industries.

Businesses in land-based engineering commonly use machinery for agricultural, ground care, horticulture, forestry, construction and sports turf purposes. Land-based engineers design, develop and install this machinery and work on any issues related to it.

As well as solving engineering problems, engineers also advise farmers and businesses on agricultural concerns such as sustainable land use and irrigation.

They also work to increase efficiency of vehicles and equipment.

A high level of technical skill is sought in the land-based engineering industry, however business and management skills are vitally important to the successful development of companies in the sector.

Responsibilities

A land-based engineer may be involved in any of the following tasks:

  • designing, testing and developing agricultural, construction and other off-road vehicles, such as tractors, harvesters, loaders, dump trucks and off-road recreational vehicles;
  • designing, testing and developing specialist equipment, such as ploughs, cultivators and sprayers;
  • installing and modifying equipment and systems;
  • planning and supervising the construction of farm buildings and associated structures, such as grain silos, greenhouses and controlled environments for livestock;
  • advising on soil conservation measures;
  • planning, supervising and managing the building of water conservation, irrigation and drainage systems;
  • carrying out environmental impact assessments - a process of predicting and evaluating the effects of an action (such as building a motorway) on the environment;
  • preparing and presenting reports;
  • conducting research;
  • teaching and lecturing in further and higher education;
  • providing technical support to dealers and customers;
  • offering consultancy services to individuals and companies;
  • providing emergency aid, e.g. helping to restore electricity and water supplies and reconstruct buildings in the aftermath of wars or natural disasters.

Salary

  • Land-based engineers typically start on a salary of £20,000 to £25,000. With experience this rises to around £35,000.
  • Once they gain chartered status, land-based engineers can earn salaries of £60,000+.

Salaries are highly dependent on geographical location and the nature of the work. Overseas work attracts additional allowances.

Income figures are intended as a guide only.

Working hours

Hours are generally 9am to 5pm, although it may be necessary to work beyond this to complete specific projects.

Land-based engineers usually work from an office, but many jobs involve some field work and site visits. For example, design engineers produce designs in an office or workshop but might carry out some of the test and development work outdoors. Consultancy work and installing equipment will require visits to clients' sites.

There are few opportunities for part-time work or career breaks.

What to expect

  • Self-employment, as a consultant, is possible though more likely once experience is gained.
  • Although women are represented at every level of the profession, the initiative WISE (Women into Science, Engineering and Construction) actively encourages female entrants.
  • The Institution of Agricultural Engineers (IAgrE) offers membership, which provides a recognised professional status and a range of relevant services.
  • There are extensive openings throughout the UK and lots of opportunities abroad and many UK-based engineers travel extensively, both within the UK and abroad.
  • Sometimes opportunities arise to work on relief projects on short-term contracts, or permanently.

Qualifications

Employers look for graduates with engineering degrees. A specific agricultural engineering degree is available, but other general engineering subjects will be accepted including:

  • automotive engineering;
  • electrical/electronic/mechanical engineering;
  • environmental engineering;
  • ergonomics;
  • mechanical engineering;
  • off-road vehicle design.

HNDs in a similar range of subjects to those listed above are acceptable for entry. However, it is likely you will work at the lower level of agricultural engineering technician. Employers may support further study to degree level to enable you to go on to become a land-based engineer.

Entry with a non-relevant degree or HND is unlikely given the specialist nature of the work and the level of technical knowledge and skills required.

Chartered status can be awarded to land-based engineers by the Institution of Agricultural Engineers (IAgrE). To become a chartered engineer (CEng) you need to have a degree that is accredited by the Engineering Council. You also need to have a relevant Masters qualification and appropriate training and experience. You will need to have membership at Associate grade with IAgrE to apply for professional qualification.

If you have an HND or foundation degree, you can work towards incorporated engineer (IEng) status but must also have completed further study to degree level.

For registration as either CEng or IEng, you will be assessed for relevant levels of practical and personal skills and abilities. Full details of the competencies required for registration are on the Engineering Council website.

Skills

You will need to show:

  • problem-solving ability;
  • ingenuity, to invent new designs or solutions;
  • an awareness and understanding of the needs of those who use the equipment, particularly farmers and horticulturalists;
  • a flexible approach, with the ability to work unsupervised and to adapt to a variety of different work situations;
  • the capability to record and analyse data;
  • the ability to work in a team and supervise the work of others;
  • an understanding of health and safety regulations;
  • good spoken and written communication and IT skills.

Work experience

Pre-entry experience is a valuable background for employment. Some engineering degrees include a placement year, which helps build up your practical skills.

Some large manufacturers offer industrial placements, sponsorships and bursaries, which may lead to full-time employment. Overseas placements are offered by Engineers Without Borders (EWB).

Employers

There are approximately 3,350 land-based engineering businesses and 22,850 employees in the UK consisting of large and medium-sized manufacturing, sales and service companies, dealerships and smaller specialist firms and consultancies according to Lantra: The Sector Skills Council for the Environmental and Land-based Sector.

There is an increasing demand for land-based engineers so job prospects are good.

Manufacturing companies producing equipment for the land-based industries vary in size from large, international corporations to small, specialist manufacturers (of which there are only a few).

Much of the production work is now carried out overseas, but companies still employ UK-based engineers for design, test and development work.

Dealerships active in selling and servicing agricultural and horticultural machinery generally offer opportunities at craft or technician level, although some employ a limited number of engineering graduates at managerial level.

There are opportunities in universities and university colleges to teach or lecture and carry out research in agricultural engineering. Qualified and experienced engineers may be able to spend a period of time teaching or conducting research and then return to a commercial company.

Agricultural and environmental consultancies, such as ADAS, provide some opportunities and run a graduate recruitment programme. Some land-based engineers set up their own consultancy businesses.

Information about apprenticeships in this area of work is available from Landbased Engineering.

Overseas employment is often possible in the European or North American divisions of large manufacturing companies. Openings of a supervisory capacity may be created by the expanding markets in rapidly developing countries, such as China, India and Brazil, for land-based engineers helping with the introduction of modern agricultural equipment.

There are also opportunities for emergency aid work in war torn and developing countries and land-based engineers are sometimes employed on short-term contracts (typically two or three years) by major charities.

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Professional development

Once in employment, all new entrants undergo a period of initial professional training to develop the competence they need to carry out the roles and responsibilities of a professional engineer.

Many land-based engineers work towards chartered (CEng) or incorporated (IEng) engineer status through the Institution of Agricultural Engineers (IAgrE).

Gaining chartered status indicates a certain level of expertise and increases career prospects. The requirements for becoming chartered are set out in the UK Standard for Professional Engineering Competence (UK-SPEC).

Advice and information on careers, education and training is available from Landbased Engineering.

Institutions offering specialist postgraduate study include:

The title chartered environmentalist (CEnv) is granted to suitably experienced and qualified environment professionals by the Society for the Environment (SocEnv). This qualification may be useful for land-based engineers whose work is concerned with environmental issues. Existing members of the IAgrE will be able to register with the society.

All land-based engineers need to be committed to continuing professional development (CPD) throughout their careers in order to keep up with developing technologies. CPD is also a requirement set out by the Engineering Council for chartered engineers.

Training and events which can aid CPD are offered by the British Agricultural and Garden Machinery Association (BAGMA) and the IArgE.

Career prospects

After working for five to ten years for a large manufacturing company it is likely you will be given the responsibility of managing specific projects or departments.

You may specialise in design or testing and development, or move into broader commercial areas, such as product development, sales or marketing.

With smaller employers, opportunities for progression are likely to be limited and career advancement will almost certainly mean moving to another company.

There are often opportunities to work overseas and, even during the early part of your career, you may be able to work at design and manufacturing sites, which are commonly based in Europe and North America.

It is also possible to be involved in activities in the developing world, advising on crop failure and production methods. There may be work in countries dealing with the impact of war and of natural disasters such as earthquakes and floods.

Once you have gained enough experience it may be possible to set up your own specialist consultancy business. Or you may wish to become involved in training or research and teaching.