Chemical engineers apply the principles of chemistry, biology, physics, and math to solve problems that involve the production or use of chemicals, fuel, drugs, food, and many other products. They design processes and equipment for large-scale manufacturing, plan and test production methods and byproducts treatment, and direct facility operations.
Chemical engineers work mostly in offices or laboratories and. They may spend time at industrial plants, refineries, and other locations, where they monitor or direct operations or solve onsite problems. Nearly all chemical engineers work full time.
Chemical engineers must have a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering or a related field. Employers also value practical experience. Therefore, internships and cooperative engineering programs can be helpful.
Chemical engineers have been improving our well-being for more than a century. From the development of smaller, faster computer chips to innovations in recycling, treating disease, water treatment, and generating energy, the processes and products that chemical engineers have helped create touch every aspect of our lives. Browse the pages below to learn about the many significant advancements that chemical engineers have made to our world through different engineering disciplines.
Chemical Engineering Touches Everything
It would take too long to list all the products that are impacted by chemical engineers, but knowing what industries employ them may help you comprehend the scope of their work. Chemical engineers work in manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, healthcare, designs and construction, pulp and paper, petrochemicals, food processing, specialty chemicals, microelectronics, electronic and advanced materials, polymers, business services, biotechnology, and environmental health and safety industries, among others.
Math and Science Are Important
Within these industries, chemical engineers rely on their knowledge of mathematics and science—particularly chemistry— to overcome technical problems safely and economically. And, of course, they draw upon and apply their engineering knowledge to solve any technical challenges they encounter. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that chemical engineers only “make things,” though. Their expertise is also applied in the areas of law, education, publishing, finance, and medicine, as well as in many other fields that require technical training.
What Are Some Specific Job Functions of Chemical Engineers?
- Specifically, chemical engineers improve food processing techniques, and methods of producing fertilizers, to increase the quantity and quality of available food.
- They also construct the synthetic fibers that make our clothes more comfortable and water resistant; they develop methods to mass-produce drugs, making them more affordable; and they create safer, more efficient methods of refining petroleum products, making energy and chemical sources more productive and cost effective.
- Chemical engineers also develop solutions to environmental problems, such as pollution control and remediation.
- And yes, they process chemicals, which are used to make or improve just about everything you see around you.
Chemical engineers face many of the same challenges that other professionals face, and they meet these challenges by applying their technical knowledge, communication and teamwork skills; the most up-to-date practices available; and hard work. Benefits include financial reward, recognition within industry and society, and the gratification that comes from working with the processes of nature to meet the needs of society.
Duties of Chemical Engineers
Chemical engineers typically do the following:
- Conduct research to develop new and improved manufacturing processes
- Establish safety procedures for those working with dangerous chemicals
- Develop processes for separating components of liquids and gases, or for generating electrical currents, by using controlled chemical processes
- Design and plan the layout of equipment
- Conduct tests and monitor the performance of processes throughout production
- Troubleshoot problems with manufacturing processes
- Evaluate equipment and processes to ensure compliance with safety and environmental regulations
- Estimate production costs for management
Some chemical engineers, known as process 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).
Others specialize in a particular field, such as nanomaterials (extremely small substances) or biological engineering. Still others specialize in developing specific products.
In addition, chemical engineers work in the production of energy, electronics, food, clothing, and paper. They must understand how the manufacturing process affects the environment and the safety of workers and consumers.
Chemical engineers also conduct research in the life sciences, biotechnology, and business services.
Work Environment for Chemical Engineers[About this section]
Chemical engineers hold about many jobs. The largest employers of chemical engineers are as follows:
|Basic chemical manufacturing||15%|
|Research and development in the physical, engineering, and life sciences||9|
|Resin, synthetic rubber, and artificial synthetic fibers and filaments manufacturing||8|
|Petroleum and coal products manufacturing||6|
Some Chemical Engineering master’s courses
Petrochemical, Polymer or Plastics, Oil technology, Paint technology, Cosmetics, Leather Technology, Food Technology, Biochemical engineering/ Biotechnology, Tissue Engineering, Sugar technology, Bioreaction Engineering, Separation Science & Technology, Instrumentation & Process Control, Modeling & Simulation, Material Science & Engineering, Nanotechnology, Virology & Vaccine Technology, Regenerative Medicine, Pharmaceutical Technology, Plant Cell Technology & Secondary Metabolites, Dye Technology. Biosystems Engineering, Process Automation, Colloidal Technology, Biomedical Science & Engineering.