Preparing for a Career

As with any engineering discipline, you'll need to take as many math and science courses as you can while you're in high school, but you should be sure to include life sciences among you selections. You should also take writing and speech courses; every engineer must be able to communicate effectively, and that includes speaking, listening, and the art of persuasion.

You'll find that university ABE programs have many names, such as biological systems engineering, bioresource engineering, environmental engineering, forest engineering, or food and process engineering.

Whatever the title, the typical curriculum begins with courses in writing, social sciences, and economics, along with mathematics (calculus and statistics), chemistry, physics, and biology. You'll gain a fundamental knowledge of the life sciences and how biological systems interact with their environment. You'll also take engineering courses, such as thermodynamics, mechanics, instrumentation and controls, electronics and electrical circuits, and engineering design. Then you'll add courses related to your particular interests, perhaps including mechanization, soil and water resource management, food and process engineering, industrial microbiology, biological engineering or pest management. As seniors, engineering students team up to design, build, and test new processes or products.

One thing you'll enjoy as a student in a university ag-bio engineering program is the environment. Nearly every ABE student you'll talk to will describe their department in a similar way: "It's like a family." Cliché as that might sound, ABE departments pride themselves on taking care of their students, on helping them become confident, competent leaders. In an ABE department, you'll enjoy a close personal academic experience in which faculty look after their students, and students look after each other. Perhaps that's because the faculty:student ratio is much lower than in most other engineering programs, or perhaps it's because all share an awareness of the higher sense of purpose in their work. Or maybe it's a reflection of the rural-community traditions in which the discipline can trace its history. Regardless of the reason, the supportive environment of ABE departments is a difference you'll appreciate in facing the academic and social challenges of your college years.

Where to Study?

For a list of universities that offer biological and agricultural engineering degrees, click here.