What Do Process Engineers Do?

Companies rely on process engineers to develop the industrial processes that result in the products we depend on, such as clean water, food and drinks, plastics, and toiletries. Read on to find out more about the essential role that chemical process engineers play in manufacturing. Schools offering Engineering & Technology Management degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Career Overview

Process engineers use chemistry principles to design and maintain chemical processes for manufacturers. Many large chemical and manufacturing plants convert raw materials into products. These plants employ chemical process engineers to create, modify, and monitor the chemical and biochemical processes used to make these goods. According to the Society for the Advancement of Material and Process Engineering (www.sampe.org), process engineers choose or develop the materials and manufacturing methods that will convert materials into the desired good. Those final products can include chemicals, fuel, plastics, food and drinks, clean water, and bath and hygiene products.

Important Facts About Process Engineers

Required Education A bachelor's degree; practical laboratory experience recommended
Work Environment Office or laboratory environment
Key Skills Creativity, ingenuity, problem-solving, math and analytical skills
Similar OccupationsBiomedical engineers, chemical technicians, chemists and materials scientists

Duties and Responsibilities

To determine the best procedure for converting materials, some chemical process engineers test processes with small-scale lab experiments. Once they develop a viable method, process engineers work with others to install the technology in a plant. Others are more involved in daily plant operations with responsibilities that may include:

  • Assessing, designing, installing, modifying, and upgrading engineering equipment
  • Observing operations and interpreting data
  • Overseeing project costs and timelines
  • Hiring and managing sub-contractors
  • Creating diagrams, charts, and reports
  • Evaluating plant safety and environmental impact
  • Ensuring plants meet regulations
  • Assessing the risk operations have on employees and community

Employment Opportunities

PayScale.com reported a median salary of $72,364 for process engineers as of 2019. As companies create new chemicals and look to increase chemical yields, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that employment for chemical engineers is expected to grow by about 8 percent from 2016-2026. Employers of process engineers include:

  • Oil and petrochemical companies
  • Chemical manufacturers
  • Plants that treat water
  • Pharmaceutical manufacturers
  • Nuclear plants
  • Companies specializing in recycling and environmental protection
  • Engineering consulting firms
  • Insurance firms that perform refinery inspections

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