Requirements to Become a Process Engineer: Qualifications & Education

Find out what you'll need to study and the skills you'll need in order to begin a career as a process engineer. Learn more about the day-to-day work, the licensure options, the projected job growth, and the median income for this industry. Schools offering Engineering & Technology Management degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Career Information at a Glance

Process engineers are responsible for designing processes and equipment for the production of chemicals, fuel, drugs, food, and other products. They are required to run tests on their designs, monitor outcomes, and troubleshoot issues. In the table below, you'll find the education requirements, licensure options, projected job growth, and median salary for process engineers.

Education Required Bachelor's degree
Fields of Study Process engineering and chemical engineering
Licensure Not required for entry-level positions; advanced positions may require Professional Engineering (PE) state licensure
Required Skills Math skills, analytical skills, problem-solving skills, interpersonal skills
Projected Job Growth (2016-2026) 8% (for all chemical engineers)*
Median Income (2017) $102,160 annually (for all chemical engineers)*

Source: *US Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Do Process Engineers Do?

Process engineers create the designs used in manufacturing operations for products that involve chemical or biological processes. They are required to identify the causes of operational failures or inefficiencies and decide what can be done to fix them. Process engineers then design new equipment or processes, test their designs, and determine if they have increased the effectiveness of the overall production process. They are also tasked with using their knowledge of how certain chemicals and materials interact with each other in order to create equipment and procedures for workers that comply with the necessary safety and environmental regulations.

What Should I Study to Become a Process Engineer?

Process engineers begin their career by earning a bachelor's degree in chemical or process engineering. These programs typically offer a curriculum that is structured around standard classroom practices and is accompanied by hands-on learning in laboratories or fieldwork. Coursework heavily focuses on engineering, chemistry, mathematics, physics, and technology. It is important to note that most companies prefer to hire candidates that have earned a degree from an engineering program accredited by the Accreditation Board of Engineering and Technology (ABET).

What Type of Licensure is Available For Process Engineers?

Becoming a licensed engineer is not as typical for process engineers as it is for engineers in other fields. Entry-level positions in process engineering do not require licensure; working under a supervised process or chemical engineer is often times considered sufficient experience. Process engineers may want to gain their licensure after several years in the work so that they can take on more advanced roles as well as leadership positions.

The Professional Engineering (PE) license can be earned after earning a bachelor degree, obtaining four years of work experience, and passing both the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) and the Professional Engineering (PE) exams. State licensure varies, but most states commonly recognize licensure across states as long as the license meets that particular state's own licensure standards.

What Skills Do Process Engineers Need?

Because process engineers must use their knowledge of calculus and physics to design functioning equipment, mathematical skills are at the core of their work. They also must use their analytical skills to identify and determine why certain equipment or processes aren't working, and also need to be able to analyze the ways in which certain chemicals and materials interact with one another. Upon doing so, problem-solving skills then become essential in the day-to-day work done by a process engineer. After determining what has created a malfunction or an inefficiency, they must then determine the most effective means of finding a solution.

Interpersonal skills are important for process engineers as they are required to communicate the complexities of their designs to those in the manufacturing industry. It is common for process engineers to meet with these workers to develop an understanding of how the production operates and offer advice on what they can do to adhere to all safety regulations while working with chemicals or other hazardous materials.

How Much Do Process Engineers Make?

The role of the process engineer is categorized by the US Bureau of Labor Statistic (BLS) under chemical engineers because the work, skills, and education requirements share many similarities. Chemical engineers earned a median annual income of $102,160 as of May 2017. Employment is expected to grow by 8% for chemical engineers between 2016 and 2026, about as fast as average as all other occupations. The need for chemical engineers is directly correlated with the demand for products and services provided by given manufacturing industries.

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