Chemical engineers are generally employed to take chemical discoveries made by laboratory chemists and determine the most cost effective means of bringing these discoveries to market. Chemical engineering is a highly interdisciplinary engineering discipline, and exists at the crossroads between physics, chemistry, and biology. Chemical engineers design and manage industrial level chemical processes in economic sectors as varied as energy, pharmaceuticals, green technology, and materials research.
Most chemical engineering jobs require or strongly prefer candidates with a degree in chemical engineering or a related field. Check out the program below which offer free information:
Chemical Engineer Job Responsibilities & Duties
The specific duties of a given chemical engineer will depend on the engineer’s level of experience and industry of employment. The traditional chemical engineering job responsibility involves the design, construction, and maintenance of equipment that replicates laboratory chemical process on commercial scales. A chemical engineer involved in the construction of a chemical plant will apply the principles of chemistry to construct systems that will efficiently produce large quantities of a certain kind of material. Oversight of the construction process and managing the safe operation of the facility once constructed are also essential components of the chemical engineer’s job description in the chemical industry.
The energy industry, especially the sectors that deal with the acquisition and transportation of hydrocarbons are another significant employer of chemical engineers. Engineers employed by an oil company for example are involved in seeking out new reservoirs of oil and natural gas, and designing processes to efficiently extract the resources from the ground and transport them to market. Chemical engineers working for renewable energy companies may be responsible for the development and application of new chemical compounds to increase the energy transfer efficiency of solar panels or wind turbines.
Pharmaceutical companies hire chemical engineers to take laboratory scale discoveries in medicine and design production systems capable of reliably and efficiently produce large quantities of medicinal compounds so that they remain within tolerance for purity. They may also be involved in determining the optimal delivery method for the medicinal compound, whether it be in pill, injection, or other form.
Research and development is yet another sector that benefit from the services of chemical engineers. Materials research, nanotechnology, and robotics are all areas of research that employ chemical engineers. The engineering perspective can aid in identifying at an early stage potentially viable research paths, and plan from the outset how a discovery can be upscaled and brought to market.
Chemical engineers may also work for themselves, offering consultant services to a range of clients in any industry that may benefit from their unique skill set. Chemical engineers also go on to become medical doctors, attorneys, or educators.
Chemical Engineer Training and Education Requirements
Virtually all chemical engineering positions require completion of a four year undergraduate degree program resulting in a bachelors degree accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET). The complex chemical processes analyzed and ultimately harnessed by chemical engineers in industry generally cannot be understood let alone mastered in fewer than four years of concentrated study. Chemical engineering curricula tend to begin specializing in the student’s second year, after introductory sequences in Calculus, Chemistry, and Physics have been completed.
Upper level chemical engineering requirements include physical chemistry, organic chemistry, and basic to advanced chemical engineering specific courses that culminate in chemical engineering labs and research projects in the final year of school. Many students in chemical engineering seek out and obtain internships in the discipline during their later university years in order to get as much hands on experience in the field as possible prior to graduation. Many public and private organizations offer paid summer internships in chemical engineering.
Some chemical engineers pursue their studies in graduate school, earning graduate degrees in the discipline. A professorship or senior academic research position usually requires such an advanced degree.
Chemical Engineer Salary and Wages
Chemical engineering is historically the best paying engineering discipline, with starting salaries averaging $69,000 per year in 2009, and going as high as $83,000 for chemical engineers who specialize in petroleum engineering. The mean chemical engineering salary in 2009 was over $91,000, with the top ten percent of chemical engineers earning nearly $133,000.*
*According to the BLS, http://www.bls.gov/oco/
Chemical Engineer Certifications
If a chemical engineer wishes to offer services directly to the public, every state level jurisdiction in the United States required the engineer obtain a state approved professional engineer (PE) license. The requirements are a four year engineering degree from an ABET approved curriculum, four years of professional work in engineering, and passing a state examination. Typically, graduates begin working towards obtaining this license by taking a Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam soon after graduating.
Chemical Engineer Professional Associations
The main association serving chemical engineers is the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE). With over 40,000 members, AIChE is joined by most chemical engineering students early in their educational career.
Some chemical engineers also elect to join the American Chemical Society (ACS), the Association of Energy Engineers (AEE), or local professional organizations.