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What Are the Classes One Will Take As a Chemical Engineering Major?

Find out about the courses that are required for a degree in chemical engineering. Take an in-depth look at some of these courses and see what degree levels are available for students interested in the chemical engineering field.

Chemical Engineering Major Overview

Chemical engineering is a diverse field, but a few core courses are necessary for the major. These courses include analysis of chemical process systems, thermodynamics, fluid mechanics, and probability and statistics for chemical engineering.

Important Facts About the Chemical Engineering Major

Prerequisites High school diploma or GED equivalent for bachelor's programs
Degree Levels Bachelor's, master's, doctorate
Online Availability Yes, but some on-campus lab work may be required
Possible Careers Chemical engineer, analytical chemist, product development specialist

Chemical Process Systems

This course introduces students to systems involving chemical reactions and other processes. It covers the basics of material balances and stoichiometry, along with the analysis of process system flow sheets. Students should also be introduced to relevant computer programs and mathematical techniques useful to chemical engineering analysis.


The first and second laws of thermodynamics are essential to the study of chemical engineering. A typical thermodynamics course covers these laws, entropy and equilibrium, and material and energy balances. Students learn appropriate variables to describe thermodynamic states and equations of state for gases and liquids. A course in thermodynamics also covers the thermodynamic properties of solutions, phase changes and chemical reactions.

Fluid Mechanics

A course in fluid mechanics covers the Navier-Stokes equations of viscous fluid flow, stressing its derivation and applications. Such a course should also cover macroscopic mass and momentum and energy balances. Students also learn how to perform dimensional analysis to estimate viscosities and other fluid parameters. A fluid dynamics course introduces turbulence and the properties of turbulent flow.

Probability and Statistics for Chemical Engineering

A significant amount of advanced math is necessary for a major in chemical engineering. This includes calculus and differential equations, which are typically taken as part of the core mathematics requirements for any engineering degree. It is also necessary for chemical engineers to be able to analyze the behavior of processes and experiments that are subject to random noise.

Advanced probability theory and statistical methods can be used to understand those processes and are necessary in analyzing and explaining the data results from experiments. The course also covers statistical tests to detect significant changes in process parameters.

Possible Careers

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that, as of May 2018, chemists had a median annual salary of $76,890. Chemists who worked in chemical manufacturing made $76,620, and chemical engineers earned a median of $104,910 the same year.