How to Become a Chemical Engineer in 5 Steps

Explore the career requirements for chemical engineers. Get the facts about salary, job duties, degree requirements and job outlook to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Engineering & Technology Management degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Do Chemical Engineers Do?

Chemical engineers use their knowledge in chemistry, mathematics, and biology to design and develop products in the healthcare, pharmaceutical and energy industries, among others. There are many different roles a chemical engineer could have. Some may be in charge of running facility operations at large-scale production factories, while others may be more heavily involved in researching manufacturing processes and solving equipment problems. Others may focus on designing new facilities and making sure the layout of a factory makes sense. Learn the typical duties of a chemical engineer as well as the education requirements.

Degree Required Bachelor's degree
Education Field of Study Chemistry engineering
Key Responsibilities Develop and research manufacturing processes; supervise production of items such as food, fuel and chemicals; design layout of manufacturing equipment
Licensure While voluntary, licensure is encouraged to be eligible for the professional engineering credential
Job Growth (2014-2024)2%*
Median Salary (2015) $97,360*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Is a Chemical Engineer?

Chemical engineers are trained to use the principles of chemistry and engineering in order to develop and manufacture products, looking at factors such as byproduct reuse and test methods. Chemical engineers are also familiar with basic and advanced principles of physics, mathematics and mechanical engineering. Chemical engineers work in a variety of industries, such as electronics, biotechnology, clothing manufacturing and business services.

Step 1: Research Career Duties and Education

Chemical engineers use their knowledge of chemicals and biochemicals to create better products and come up with solutions for the environment. You may be responsible for the production of items that can decrease contamination in the environment and remove chemicals from the food we eat. You should have excellent problem solving skills because you'll need to find new ways to improve consumer products, such as clothing, cosmetics, beverages, food and drinking water. You may also responsible for pharmaceutical and healthcare products, such as over-the-counter medications, artificial organs and angioplasty catheters.

Step 2: Earn a Bachelor's Degree in Chemical Engineering

Bachelor's degree programs in chemical engineering will include math and science courses in physics, math, biology, chemistry and engineering. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), you should look for an engineering program that is accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (www.bls.gov). You'll be introduced to essential topics such as heat and mass transport, thermodynamics, chemical engineering design, pollution prevention and chemical process control. In addition to taking traditional classroom courses, you'll spend a considerable amount of time working in engineering labs.

Step 3: Complete an Internship or Cooperative Education Experience

According to the American Chemical Society, you should consider participating an internship or co-operative (co-op) education experience while in college (www.acs.org). These experiences will help you understand the real world functions of a chemical engineer and allow you to practice your skills in a hands-on environment. Many employers prefer to hire college graduates with internship or co-op experience.

Step 4: Join a Professional Organization

The American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AICE) reports that chemical engineers should keep their skills updated and learn about the newest technologies and products available in their profession (www.aiche.org). The AICE provides networking events, continuing education courses and seminars for professional chemical engineers looking to advance their careers, find employment or acquire additional education.

Step 5: Consider Earning a Master's Degree in Chemical Engineering

Chemical engineers with graduate degrees may earn higher salaries and find advanced employment opportunities as senior staff supervisors and managers, according to the BLS. A master's degree program in chemical engineering generally requires between 28 and 32 credit hours of study and may cover topics such as mass and momentum transfer, kinetics, viscous flow and thermodynamics. Master's degree programs may include a teaching practicum where you would gain experience teaching undergraduate level courses.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

There are a number of careers related to chemical engineering. For those who are interested in a different type of engineering, they could pursue careers in civil, industrial, nuclear, or mechanical engineering, to name a few subfields. For jobs more specially related to chemical engineering, individuals could look into becoming chemists, material scientists, or chemical technicians.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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