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Chemical engineers apply the principles of chemistry, biology, physics, and mathematics to solve problems that involve the production or use of chemicals, fuel, drugs, food, and many other products. They design processes and equipment for large-scale manufacturing, plan and test production methods and byproducts treatment, and direct facility operations.Duties
Chemical engineers typically do the following:
Some chemical engineers specialize in a particular process, such as oxidation (a reaction of oxygen with chemicals to make other chemicals) or polymerization (making plastics and resins). Others specialize in a particular field, such as nanomaterials (extremely small substances) or biological engineering. Still others specialize in developing specific products.
In addition, chemical engineers work in the production of energy, electronics, food, clothing, and paper. They must understand how the manufacturing process affects the environment and the safety of workers and consumers.
Chemical engineers also conduct research in the life sciences, biotechnology, and business services.
Chemical engineers must have a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering. Employers also value practical experience, so internships and cooperative engineering programs, in which students earn college credit and experience, can be helpful.Education
Chemical engineers must have a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering. Programs usually take 4 years to complete and include classroom, laboratory, and field studies. High school students interested in studying chemical engineering will benefit from taking science courses, such as chemistry, physics, and biology. They also should take math courses, including algebra, trigonometry, and calculus.
At some universities, students can opt to enroll in 5-year programs that lead to both a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree. A graduate degree, which may include a degree up to the Ph.D. level, allows an engineer to work in research and development or as a postsecondary teacher.
Some colleges and universities offer internships and cooperative programs in partnership with industry. In these programs, students gain practical experience while completing their education.
ABET accredits engineering programs. ABET-accredited programs in chemical engineering include courses in chemistry, physics, and biology. These programs also include applying the sciences to the design, analysis, and control of chemical, physical, and biological processes.Important Qualities
Analytical skills. Chemical engineers must be able to troubleshoot designs that do not work as planned. They must be able to ask the right questions and then find answers that work.
Creativity. Chemical engineers must be able to explore new ways of applying engineering principles. They work to invent new materials, advanced manufacturing techniques, and new applications in chemical and biomedical engineering.
Ingenuity. Chemical engineers learn the broad concepts of chemical engineering, but their work requires them to apply those concepts to specific production problems.
Interpersonal skills. Because their role is to put scientific principles into practice in manufacturing industries, chemical engineers must develop good working relationships with other workers involved in production processes.
Math skills. Chemical engineers use the principles of calculus and other advanced topics in mathematics for analysis, design, and troubleshooting in their work.
Problem-solving skills. In designing equipment and processes for manufacturing, these engineers must be able to anticipate and identify problems, including such issues as workers’ safety and problems related to manufacturing and environmental protection.Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations
Licensure for chemical engineers is not as common as it is for other engineering occupations, nor is it required for entry-level positions. A Professional Engineering (PE) license, which allows for higher levels of leadership and independence, can be acquired later in one’s career. Licensed engineers are called professional engineers (PEs). A PE can oversee the work of other engineers, sign off on projects, and provide services directly to the public. State licensure generally requires
The initial FE exam can be taken after one earns a bachelor’s degree. Engineers who pass this exam commonly are called engineers in training (EITs) or engineer interns (EIs). After meeting work experience requirements, EITs and EIs can take the second exam, called the Principles and Practice of Engineering.
Several states require engineers to take continuing education to keep their license. Most states recognize licensure from other states if the licensing state’s requirements meet or exceed their own licensure requirements.Advancement
Entry-level engineers usually work under the supervision of experienced engineers. In large companies, new engineers also may receive formal training in classrooms or seminars. As junior engineers gain knowledge and experience, they move to more difficult projects with greater independence to develop designs, solve problems, and make decisions.
Eventually, chemical engineers may advance to supervise a team of engineers and technicians. Some may become architectural and engineering managers. However, preparing for management positions usually requires working under the guidance of a more experienced chemical engineer.
An engineering background enables chemical engineers to discuss a product’s technical aspects and assist in product planning and use. For more information, see the profile on sales engineers.
Average Length of Employment
Top Careers Before Chemical Engineer
Top Careers After Chemical Engineer
Hispanic or Latino9.1%
Black or African American1.2%
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University of Utah6.1%
University of Cincinnati5.8%
University of California - Berkeley5.6%
University of Florida5.6%
University of Dayton5.0%
Georgia Institute of Technology -5.0%
University of Tennessee - Knoxville4.7%
Pennsylvania State University4.7%
New Jersey Institute of Technology4.7%
Illinois Institute of Technology4.4%
University of Houston4.4%
Iowa State University4.4%
University of Pittsburgh -4.4%
Case Western Reserve University4.1%
Wayne State University4.1%
University of Toledo4.1%
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|Job Title||Company||Location||Start Date||Salary|
|Chemical Engineer||Waldemar S. Nelson & Co, Inc.||Houston, TX||Apr 09, 2016||$165,000|
|Chair of Department of Chemical and Paper Engineering||Western Michigan University||Kalamazoo, MI||Jan 08, 2016||$161,285|
|Supervisory Chemical Engineer (R & D)||Fluitec International||Jersey City, NJ||Jun 11, 2015||$147,680|
|Principal Chemical Engineer||Iepfc Inc.||Colleyville, TX||Jun 12, 2016||$144,000 -
|Chief Chemical Engineer||Steag Energy Services LLC||Kings Mountain, NC||Dec 24, 2015||$142,000|
|Staff Chemical Engineer||Siluria Technologies, Inc.||San Francisco, CA||Jul 27, 2016||$141,100|
|Principal Chemical Engineer||UOP LLC||Houston, TX||Jan 01, 2015||$139,485 -
|Chemical Engineer||Golden Aluminum, Inc.||Fort Lupton, CO||Sep 15, 2015||$135,300|
|Chemical & Engineering Materials Division Scientist||Ut-Battelle, LLC (Oak Ridge National Laboratory)||Oak Ridge, TN||Jan 04, 2016||$130,008|
|Chemical & Engineering Materials Division Scientist||Ut-Battelle, LLC (Oak Ridge National Laboratory)||Oak Ridge, TN||Nov 23, 2015||$130,008|
|Research Chemical Engineer||Shell International Exploration and Production Inc.||Houston, TX||May 20, 2015||$129,500|
|Chemical Engineer||PRTI, Inc.||Franklinton, NC||Sep 30, 2016||$124,683|
|Chemical Engineer||PRTI, Inc.||Franklinton, NC||Aug 27, 2016||$124,683|
|Chemical Engineer||Sigma Investment Holdings LLC||Pasadena, CA||Aug 09, 2015||$91,411|
|Advanced Research Chemical Engineer||Eastman Chemical Company||Kingsport, TN||Aug 12, 2015||$91,300 -
|Chemical Engineer||Norton Engineering Consultants, Inc.||Montville, NJ||Aug 01, 2015||$90,251 -
|Chemical Engineer||Sep-Pro Systems, Inc.||Houston, TX||Feb 24, 2016||$90,000|
|Chemical Engineer||Midstream Chemical Technologies, LLC||Chickasha, OK||Jul 18, 2016||$90,000|
|Chemical Engineer||Sep-Pro Systems, Inc.||Houston, TX||Apr 08, 2016||$90,000|
|Chemical Engineer||Full Spectrum Laser LLC||Las Vegas, NV||Jul 20, 2016||$90,000|
|Chemical Engineer||Plant Automation Services, Inc.||Houston, TX||Sep 25, 2015||$76,110|
|Chemical Engineer||Orochem Technologies, Inc.||Naperville, IL||Sep 13, 2016||$75,535|
|Chemical Engineer||MAPC Solutions Inc.||Houston, TX||Jan 09, 2016||$75,132|
|Chemical Engineer||Lockheed Martin Advanced Energy Storage, LLC||Cambridge, MA||Jan 09, 2016||$75,109 -
|Chemical Engineer||AKZO Nobel Services, Inc.||Chicago, IL||Sep 10, 2015||$75,000 -
|Chemical Engineer||TK Holdings Inc.||Romeo, MI||Jan 10, 2016||$75,000|
|Assistant Professor, Chemical Engineering||Benedictine College||Atchison, KS||Jan 07, 2016||$75,000|
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