Working in almost every industry, chemical engineers affect the production of nearly all merchandise manufactured on an industrial scale. They are capable of designing chemical plant equipment and devising processes for manufacturing chemicals and products, such as cement, detergents, gasoline, paper, plastics, pulp and synthetic rubber with the application of principles and technology related to chemistry, physics, and engineering. Aside from designing processes and equipment for large-scale manufacturing, chemical engineers also plan and test methods of manufacturing products and treating byproducts, and supervise production.
Aware of all aspects in the manufacturing of chemicals, drugs, or other products, chemical engineers must understand how the manufacturing process influences the environment and the safety of consumers and workers. They could also work in companies producing electricity, electronics, food, and clothing while other chemical engineers work in research in life sciences, biotechnology, and business services. Some chemical engineers specialize in a particular process, such as oxidation (a reaction of oxygen with chemicals to make other chemicals) or polymerization (making plastics and resins), while others may focus in a particular field, such as biological engineering, nanomaterials (making extremely small substances), or in developing specific products.
Why Become a Chemical Engineer
Employers generally require a bachelor’s degree from chemical engineer applicants. Usually four years to complete, ABET-accredited programs include courses in chemistry, physics, and biology as well as practical applications to the design, analysis, and control of biological, chemical, and physical processes. Some universities and colleges feature cooperative programs that combine classroom study with practical work, allowing students to gain valuable working experience while financing part of their education. Licensure for chemical engineers is not as common, similar to other engineering disciplines, but it is highly encouraged for professional promotion. Under the supervision of experienced engineers, entry-level chemical engineers working in large companies may receive additional formal training in forms of seminars to be able to participate with projects that are more difficult and to make independent decisions. With an engineering background, chemical engineers could discuss the technical aspects of a product and provide assistance in product use and planning.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a growth of four percent for the overall contracting of chemical engineers from 2012 to 2022, which is slower than the average for all occupations. Improved availability of domestically produced natural gas should increase manufacturing potential in the industries hiring these engineers. With the ability of chemical engineers to stay on the forefront of emerging technologies, their employment growth will rise steadily. Salary reports show that the mean annual wage for employed chemical engineers would be about $103,590 as of May 2014.
Chemical Engineer Work Environment
Mostly working full time, the workplace for chemical engineers usually include laboratories or office settings. While some engineers spend time at refineries and industrial plants to monitor and direct operations, others have to travel extensively on worksites both abroad and locally to solve onsite problems. Chemical engineers should be able to cooperate with professionals who design other systems and with the mechanics and technicians who put the designs into practice.