What Is the Employment Outlook for Chemical Engineers?

Explore the career requirements for chemical engineers. Get the facts about job duties, career outlook, salary potential and education requirements 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 Does a Chemical Engineer Do?

Chemical engineers work to create new products and processes using the principles of chemistry. They also incorporate physics, biology and mathematics to separate liquids and gases or to generate electrical currents. Often these professionals are troubleshooters from running multiple tests and anticipating problems in a manufacturing process. They keep safety at the forefront by evaluating the equipment they use and the processes they follow to make sure they are in compliance with state and federal regulations. These engineers also ensure the safety of others working with chemicals through extensive research, testing and establishing safety procedures.

Take a look at the following chart for an overview of how to enter this field.

Degree Required Bachelor's degree
Education Field of Study Chemical engineering
Training Required Cooperative engineering program experience is optional but valued by employers
Key Knowledge Areas Manufacturing processes; electrical & mechanical engineering
Licensure Required Engineers working for the public must be licensed
Job Growth (2018-2028) 6%*
Average Salary (2018) $114,470*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

What Are My Job Duties?

As a chemical engineer, you develop processes, equipment and production methods for the creation or use of chemicals and other products. Key areas of knowledge include manufacturing processes, physics, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, math and chemistry. Opportunities are available to specialize in specific products, processes or fields.

Where Do Chemical Engineers Work?

As a chemical engineer, you could work in a large number of industries, including manufacturing, consulting, academia, healthcare, food processing, polymers, environmental health, biotechnology and nanotechnology. Biotechnology jobs are available at pharmaceutical companies, working as researchers in the laboratory. Nanotechnology includes careers as researchers at electronics, manufacturing and research firms. Researchers may also work in the medical, materials or defense fields. Academic positions are available for those with doctoral degrees.

What Are My Job Prospects?

As of 2018, there were approximately 32,060 chemical engineers employed around the country. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates 6% job growth between 2018 and 2028 (www.bls.gov). Demand for the products of many manufacturing industries is a factor in as fast as average growth. However, growth is expected in other relevant industries, such as energy research, biotechnology and nanotechnology.

What Could I Earn?

Chemical engineers earn relatively high starting salaries for positions requiring only a bachelor's degree. As of May 2018, the BLS reports that the average salary for chemical engineers was $114,470. According to PayScale.com, entry-level chemical engineers earned an average of $65,759, as of November 2019.

How Could I Advance My Career?

Many engineers obtain licensure from the state; they receive the designation of Professional Engineer (PE). In order to teach, advertise your services or submit engineering plans to a public authority, you must be a PE. According to the America Institute of Chemical Engineers, the designation could have a positive impact on your employment possibilities (www.aiche.org).

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Careers related to chemical engineers include nuclear engineers and biomedical engineers. A bachelor's degree is needed for both of these positions. Nuclear engineers need a good grasp of energy and nuclear power, understanding the instruments of the machines that run power plants. Biomedical engineers study, design and test machines used in health fields.

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