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Process Engineer vs. Chemical Engineer: What Are the Differences?

Learn about the two careers and review some of the similarities and differences between them.

Chemical engineering and process engineering are two popular engineering disciplines with many similarities. Both fields require a strong understanding of chemistry and math, and both involve working with chemicals and other materials. However, there are some key differences between these two engineering disciplines. In this article, we compare and contrast chemical engineering and process engineering, and we provide information on what you can expect from each field.

What is a Process Engineer?

Process Engineers are responsible for designing, developing, implementing and optimizing industrial production processes. They work in a variety of industries, including food and beverage, pharmaceuticals, oil and gas, and manufacturing. Process Engineers develop new processes to improve product quality, reduce production costs and increase efficiency. They also troubleshoot existing processes to identify and solve problems. Process Engineers use a variety of tools and techniques, including process mapping, statistical analysis and process simulations. They often work closely with other engineering disciplines, such as mechanical, electrical and chemical engineering.

What is a Chemical Engineer?

Chemical Engineers are responsible for designing and overseeing the production of chemicals, drugs, fuel, food and many other products. They work in a variety of industries, such as pharmaceuticals, food and beverage, oil and gas, and manufacturing. Chemical Engineers use their knowledge of chemistry, biology, physics and math to solve problems and develop new processes. They develop safety procedures to protect workers and the environment from harmful chemicals. They also work on making production processes more efficient and less wasteful.

Process Engineer vs. Chemical Engineer

Here are the main differences between a process engineer and a chemical engineer.

Job Duties

Process engineers use computer software to design processes for manufacturing and then oversee the implementation of those processes. They also troubleshoot when there are problems with a process, either because it’s not operating as efficiently as it should or because there’s an equipment malfunction. In addition, process engineers supervise the employees who operate and maintain the equipment used in the process.

Chemical engineers typically work closely with scientists and other engineers to develop new products and determine how to improve existing ones. They do this by studying the chemical makeup of substances and determining which chemicals can be combined to create something useful. Chemical engineers also monitor production levels and make adjustments as necessary. They may also conduct quality control tests on finished products to ensure they’re safe for consumers.

Job Requirements

Process engineers and chemical engineers typically need a bachelor’s degree in engineering, although some employers may prefer candidates with a master’s degree. These professionals also need to be licensed by the state in which they plan to work. To become licensed, engineers must pass two exams: the Fundamentals of Engineering exam, which is taken after earning a bachelor’s degree, and the Principles and Practice of Engineering exam, which is taken after completing four years of professional experience.

Work Environment

Chemical engineers typically work in laboratories, where they can test and refine new products. They may also work at manufacturing plants to oversee the production of chemicals or other materials. Process engineers often work in similar settings, but they may spend more time outdoors than chemical engineers do. This is because process engineers are responsible for overseeing the entire production cycle of a product, which includes monitoring its transportation from one location to another.


Both chemical engineers and process engineers use problem-solving skills to find solutions that improve the efficiency or safety of chemical processes. They also both need to have an understanding of basic concepts in mathematics and physics.

However, chemical engineers typically focus on developing new products or improving existing products, while process engineers focus on optimizing production processes. This means that chemical engineers often benefit from having creativity and innovation skills, while process engineers tend to need more analytical skills.

Both chemical engineers and process engineers need to be able to communicate effectively, as they often work with other professionals, such as technicians, to implement their designs. However, chemical engineers may need to communicate more with marketing and sales teams to ensure that their products meet customer needs, while process engineers may need to communicate more with production teams to ensure that processes are running smoothly.


Process engineers earn an average salary of $85,585 per year, while chemical engineers earn an average salary of $94,244 per year. Both of these salaries may vary depending on the size of the company at which you work, location of your job and the level of experience you have prior to pursuing either position.


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