Chemical Engineer: Education Requirements and Career Information
Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a chemical engineer. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about training, job duties, licensure and certification to find out if this is the career for you.
Chemical engineers use chemical formulas and discoveries made in laboratories and apply them to much larger scale for commercial use. They are often tasked to accomplish this with safety, cost-efficiency and profit in mind. While entry-level positions require only a bachelor's degree in chemical engineering, advanced training options including certificate programs are available and can increase hiring and income potential.
|Required Education||Bachelor's degree; master's or doctoral degree for advanced positions|
|Other Requirements||Licensure preferred by some employers|
|Projected Job Growth (2012-2022)||4%*|
|Average Salary (2013)||$104,340 annually*|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Chemical Engineer Job Requirements
Entry-level chemical engineering positions require a bachelor's degree. Some schools have additional specializations and certificate programs that last 2-4 years. A strong mathematical background in calculus, trigonometry, algebra, and geometry--along with a thorough understanding of science topics such as physics, chemistry and biology--is necessary to enter a chemical engineering program.
A master's degree is ideal for advanced or managerial vocations in chemical engineering. Chemical engineers interested in performing independent or scholarly research usually have doctorate degrees. At all education levels, chemical engineers have to strike a balance between independent research, laboratory assignments and classroom lectures. Some schools combine classroom instruction with practical work assignments, allowing chemical engineers to gain beneficial work experience before heading into the field.
Chemical engineers rarely need to be licensed, but it can lead to enhanced job prospects. To obtain licensure, candidates must complete four years of work experience, pass a state examination and hold a degree from an accredited engineering program.
Individuals can take the first examination, the Fundamentals of Engineering, after graduation from an approved postsecondary degree program. Once work experience has been acquired as an engineer intern or engineer in training, a person can sit for the Principles and Practice of Engineering examination to obtain state licensure. Continuing education is necessary in many states to maintain and renew this license.
Chemical Engineer Career Information
An employer assigns chemical engineers to specific work projects. The nature of the project determines the work duties performed by the chemical engineer. After learning and understanding the purpose of a project, a chemical engineer begins to perform preliminary theoretical tests. Once a solid plan is created for manufacturing, a chemical engineer begins the production of test samples. These test samples are carefully assigned to subjects. The results of these tests are monitored and adjustments are made to formulas as needed. When the product has been fully tested, it is sent away for approval and the chemical engineer moves on to another project.
Chemical engineers are employed in many industries other than chemical manufacturing. Some are employed in biotechnology, business services, healthcare, food manufacturing, electronics and energy manufacturing. Due to the waste materials and other dangers that come along with chemical manufacturing, chemical engineers exercise extreme caution to ensure the safety of customers and other employees.
After working through the training and internship level, a chemical engineer works independently or in small groups with other chemical engineers. As more experience is acquired, a chemical engineer is likely to be promoted to a position of supervision within the company. More assignments are given to experienced engineers, giving them more responsibility and better pay. Chemical engineers that dislike managerial roles might find themselves moving to a sales or teaching role in chemical engineering.
Job Outlook and Salary Information
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), chemical engineering jobs are expected to grow slower than the national average at 4% between 2012 and 2022 (www.bls.gov). Additionally, the BLS reported that the average annual salary for chemical engineers was $104,340 as of May 2013.