Career Development

What Does a Chemical Engineer Do?

Find out what a chemical engineer does, how to get this job, and what it takes to succeed as a chemical engineer.

Chemical engineers are responsible for the development of new products and processes. They work with a wide range of chemicals, from simple compounds to complex mixtures. Their job is to take these raw materials and turn them into valuable products or services.

Chemical engineers may focus on one area in particular—they might be tasked with developing new pharmaceuticals, creating more efficient fuels or refining raw materials for use in manufacturing. Whatever their specialty, they’re always working to find ways to apply science and technology to real-world problems.

Chemical Engineer Job Duties

Chemical engineers have a wide range of responsibilities, which can include:

  • Working with other engineers to design new processes or products that use chemical engineering principles
  • Conducting research to identify new applications for existing chemicals or develop new chemicals that can be used in industry
  • Conducting experiments to test the effects of different conditions on materials used in manufacturing processes such as metals, plastics, fibers, ceramics, and glass
  • Conducting experiments to test the effects of different conditions on materials used in manufacturing processes such as metals, plastics, fibers, ceramics, and glass
  • Developing new chemical processes for manufacturing products such as pharmaceuticals, food preservatives, and textiles
  • Diagnosing problems with production equipment and processes and developing solutions to improve efficiency
  • Developing new processes for manufacturing chemical products such as plastics or textiles
  • Conducting experiments to test the effects of different conditions on materials used in manufacturing processes such as metals, plastics, fibers, ceramics, and glass
  • Designing new chemical processes or products

Chemical Engineer Salary & Outlook

Chemical engineer salaries vary depending on their level of education, years of experience, and the type of company they work for. They may also earn additional compensation in the form of bonuses.

  • Median Annual Salary: $85,000 ($40.87/hour)
  • Top 10% Annual Salary: $145,000 ($69.71/hour)

The employment of chemical engineers is expected to grow at an average rate over the next decade.

Demand for chemical engineers will stem from the need to ensure the quality and reliability of products produced by many industries. Chemical engineers will be needed to ensure that new products meet environmental regulations and standards. In addition, demand for chemical engineers will come from the need to improve the efficiency of processes in many industries.

Chemical Engineer Job Requirements

A chemical engineer typically needs to have the following qualifications:

Education: A bachelor’s degree is a minimum requirement for most chemical engineering jobs. Many employers prefer candidates who have a master’s degree in chemical engineering or a related field.

Most chemical engineering programs are four years and include coursework in chemistry, physics, biology, calculus and engineering.

Training & Experience: Most of a chemical engineer’s training will take place through their education. They will learn the fundamentals of engineering while earning their bachelor’s degree. They will also receive on-the-job training as they work with experienced engineers.

Certifications & Licenses: Entry-level chemical engineers do not usually need certifications or additional credentials, but advanced chemical engineers generally hold licensure and certifications. These professionals can earn licensure by passing the EIT exam offered by the American Board of Chemical Engineering. They can also earn certifications to further their education and knowledge as well as to demonstrate their professional commitment and competence.

Chemical Engineer Skills

Chemical engineers need the following skills in order to be successful:

Analytical skills: Analytical skills are the ability to solve problems and make decisions based on the information you have. Chemical engineers use analytical skills to solve complex problems and determine the best course of action.

Communication skills: As a chemical engineer, you may be required to communicate with other professionals in the field, such as architects, sales representatives and other engineers. Effective communication skills can help you to convey your ideas and understand the ideas of others.

Mathematics: Mathematics is a necessary skill for chemical engineers. They use their math skills to solve complex equations and conduct extensive research. They also use math to determine the necessary amounts of chemicals and materials needed for their projects.

Problem-solving skills: Chemical engineers use their problem-solving skills to find solutions to technical challenges. They may need to troubleshoot equipment, develop new processes or find ways to improve existing processes. They may also use their problem-solving skills to identify and address potential safety issues.

Teamwork skills: Working in a team can help you to complete projects and overcome challenges. As a chemical engineer, you may work with other engineers, scientists and other professionals to develop new products or processes.

Chemical Engineer Work Environment

Chemical engineers work in a variety of settings, including offices, laboratories, and factories. They may spend time outdoors at construction sites and plants, where they monitor or direct operations. Many chemical engineers work full time and some work more than 40 hours per week. They may have to work evenings or weekends to meet deadlines or to supervise production. Some chemical engineers travel to attend conferences, to visit clients or production facilities, or to conduct field research.

Chemical Engineer Trends

Here are three trends influencing how chemical engineers work. Chemical engineers will need to stay up-to-date on these developments to keep their skills relevant and maintain a competitive advantage in the workplace.

The Need for More Diversity in the Workplace

The need for more diversity in the workplace is a trend that is quickly gaining traction, as businesses are beginning to realize the benefits of having a more diverse workforce.

Chemical engineers can play an important role in this trend by becoming more involved in recruiting efforts and by helping to create a more welcoming environment for minorities in the workplace. In addition, they can also help to promote diversity within their own departments by encouraging collaboration between employees from different backgrounds.

More Collaboration Between Engineering and Business

As businesses become more complex, there is a growing need for chemical engineers to collaborate with other professionals, such as business managers and marketing professionals.

This trend is likely to continue as businesses look for new ways to improve efficiency and productivity. By collaborating with other professionals, chemical engineers can find new ways to solve problems and create products that meet the needs of customers.

Greater Focus on Sustainability

Sustainability has become a major focus for many businesses in recent years, as they have come to understand the importance of being environmentally responsible. This trend is likely to continue into the future, as businesses seek to reduce their impact on the environment while still maintaining high levels of production.

Chemical engineers can capitalize on this trend by developing new technologies and processes that are more sustainable than those currently in use. They can also work to educate others about the importance of sustainability and how it can be achieved.

How to Become a Chemical Engineer

Chemical engineers have a wide range of career options. They can work in industry, academia, or government; they can specialize in different areas such as biochemistry, process engineering, or materials science; and they can work in many different countries around the world.

To be successful in any of these roles, it is important for chemical engineers to have a strong foundation in mathematics, physics, and chemistry. They also need to be able to think creatively and come up with solutions to complex problems. And finally, they must be able to work effectively in teams and communicate effectively with other professionals.

Related: How to Write a Chemical Engineer Resume

Advancement Prospects

There are many opportunities for advancement for chemical engineers. With experience, they can move into management positions, such as plant manager, operations manager, or engineering manager. They may also become consultants, working for themselves or for engineering firms. Some chemical engineers move into sales or marketing, using their engineering knowledge to sell products or services. Others move into technical writing or teaching.

Those who are interested in research and development may become research and development managers. They may also become research scientists, working in laboratories to develop new products or processes. Some chemical engineers move into executive positions, such as vice president of engineering or chief executive officer.

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