become a chemical engineer

What does a Chemical Engineer do?

A chemical engineer optimizes chemicals, drugs, foods, and other products using physics, math, chemistry, and biology. They also test and plan ways to manufacture products and may supervise its production. These engineers also design equipment for large-scale sustainable and safe manufacturing. Additional titles chemical engineers may hold include engineering scientists, process engineers, project engineers, and research chemical engineers.

Watch a video to learn what a chemical engineer does.


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How to Become a Chemical Engineer

According to O*NET OnLine, over 80% of the chemical engineers surveyed held a bachelor’s degree. Research colleges that offer chemical engineering degrees and ask if the program assists with internship placement or offers cooperative engineering programs. This will provide you the hands-on experience employers are looking for upon graduation. You may find a college that offers a 5-year program that provides a master’s degree upon graduation and others that may even assist you to gain a Ph.D. Gaining a Ph.D. is useful if you have aspirations to teach or work in a research capacity. A higher education may also give you a competitive edge when seeking employment as less than 10% of chemical engineers have earned a master’s degree and less than 10% have earned their Ph.D.

Job Description of a Chemical Engineer

A chemical engineer designs chemical plant equipment to manufacture chemicals and other products using technology, physics, engineering, and chemistry. They also safeguard employees with safety procedures when operating equipment, especially when working closely with chemicals that could reaction. Along with designing plant equipment, they also find ways to optimize performance and stay in compliance with environmental and safety regulations.

A chemical engineer understands and determines the effectiveness of operations, like, distillation, heat transfer and other arrangements. Throughout the stages of production, they monitor performance and perform tests in order to determine the degree of control over variables, such as, pressure or density and specific gravity. They are involved in preparing cost production estimates and progress reports for the company.

A chemical engineer must have knowledge in technology, engineering, chemistry, production and processing, physics and a host of other essential knowledge. They have skills in systems analysis using mathematics to solve a problem as well as science. They use their ability to use a variety of rules to group or combine things in different ways and give a fluency of ideas on a project. They can both write and orally communicate effectively. These engineers can interact with computers, prioritize and organize work, and think creatively. They would be found working in offices or labs, normally on a full-time basis.

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Chemical Engineer Career Video Transcript

The chemical engineer, wearing a trademark white lab coat and goggles, pouring strange liquids from beaker to flask, is an image straight out of science fiction. However, the reality is that chemical engineers are an essential part of 21st-century manufacturing, designing processes for the production and use of chemicals, fuels, food, drugs, and more. The ultimate tinkerers, these engineers continually conduct research to develop new ways to separate components of liquids and gases, or to generate electrical currents using chemistry. They must use not only their science and math skills, but also creative problem-solving and troubleshooting, especially when designs don’t work the first time.

Chemical engineers design equipment to produce everything from tires to asphalt. Their teammates are the technicians and mechanics who put designs into practice. They work in offices and labs at industrial plants, and at coal or oil refineries to oversee operations. Some engineers travel extensively to oversee their designs onsite; improving safety, productivity, and arranging manufacturing operations. These engineers must have a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering. Employers value graduates with practical experience, such as internships and cooperative engineering programs. A professional engineering license may increase advancement possibilities. A graduate degree is needed for teaching or to lead research and development.

Article Citations

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Chemical Engineers.

National Center for O*NET Development. 17-2041.00. O*NET OnLine.

The career video is Public Domain from the U. S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration.