What Are Popular Career Options in Chemical Engineering?

The most popular career options in chemical engineering are in the chemicals and materials, food, consumer products, biotechnology, and pharmaceutical industries. Read on to learn about some of these career options. Schools offering Engineering & Technology Management degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Overview of Chemical Engineering Careers

Chemical engineers can work in a variety of fields. Many of these career options consist of different science backgrounds such as chemistry, biology, physics, and math. Chemical engineers can work anywhere from equipment manufacturing companies to research laboratories. This article will highlight some of the more popular careers for chemical engineering.

Important Facts About Career Options in Chemical Engineering

Median Salary (2014) $96,940 (for all chemical engineers)
Job Outlook (2014-2024) 2% growth (for all chemical engineers)
Key Skills Analytical and critical thinking, problem solving, strong mathematical foundation, creativity, innovation, clear communication, observation
Work Environment Typically full-time, but additional hours may be required depending upon project demands

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Chemical Industry and Materials

Chemical engineers who work in the chemical industry typically perform research and development of the chemical reactions necessary to develop new materials and products. This career may also involve analyzing the properties of various materials and understanding the changes in atomic properties as a material changes its structure. A chemical engineer in this career may also study polymers and their chemical and statistical thermodynamic properties. Crystalline structures are also studied, as researchers try to create materials with specific, desired properties.


Chemical engineers who work in the food industry can work in agriculture or in manufacturing. Those working in agriculture may study the genetic modification of fruits and vegetables and attempt to increase yields and make them more desirable and thus more profitable. The career may also include researching methods of making agriculture more environmentally-friendly, trying new methods of processing waste and conserving soil and water. Chemical engineers working in manufacturing try to improve products or develop new products and optimize the manufacturing process to increase profits.

Consumer Products

All consumer products involve chemicals; consumer product development depends upon research to develop and improve a product - work that would fall to a chemical engineer. Such a career may involve improving such consumer goods as hygiene products, chemical cleaning products, and electronics.


Chemical engineers working in biotechnology typically work in conjunction with researchers in molecular biology, biochemistry, genetics, embryology, and cell biology. A career in biotechnology may overlap with work in health care, crop production, agriculture, and the environment. A researcher may use chemical engineering to advance procedures in genetic testing and gene therapy. Chemical engineers in medicine may also work on engineering organisms and microorganisms to be used in applications, such as degrading wastes and converting chemicals into more useful ones.


Chemical engineers working in the medical field can work on pharmaceuticals or perform research into new medical devices and procedures. A career in pharmaceuticals involves finding new medicines and medical solutions to diseases and other medical conditions. Pharmaceutical research can involve creating synthetic analogues of natural products, such as insulin. Chemical engineers may also use bacteria, animal, and plant cells to increase understanding of diseases, disease pathways, and human responses to drugs.

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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