Become a Chemical Engineering Consultant: Career Guide

Mar 05, 2020

Find out how to become a chemical engineering consultant. Research the education requirements, and learn about the experience you need to advance your career in engineering.

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Chemical Engineering Consultant

Chemical engineering consultants act as outside contractors to supply specialized knowledge to businesses and government institutions about the myriad applications of chemical engineering. They also might serve as expert witnesses in courts of law.

Employment settings can include offices and labs, with some off-site work at industrial locations, where protective gear might be required. Engineers who are consultants generally travel often to meet with clients and work at client sites as needed; tasks are typically deadline-oriented. Consultants might be self-employed and have to balance working on the needs of their current clients with reaching out to new clients to secure future work. Chemical engineering consultants need math, analytical, and teamwork skills. They also must be able to use field-specific software such as G&P Engineering Software's EngVert and computer-aided drafting (CAD) software, as well as C++.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics noted that chemical engineers, in general, made an average annual salary of $114,470 as of May 2018.

Let's trace the steps to become a chemical engineering consultant.

Degree Level Bachelor's degree required; more advanced positions may require a graduate degree
Degree Field Chemical engineering or chemical and biomolecular engineering
Experience Experience expected
Key Skills Math skills, analytical skills, teamwork; ability to use field-specific software, such as G&P Engineering Software's EngVert, as well as computer-aided drafting (CAD) software; knowledge of C++
Salary (2018) $114,470 per year (average salary for chemical engineers)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics; O*Net OnLine; Think Resources, Inc.

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree in Chemical Engineering

Prospective chemical engineering consultants can start gaining the necessary technical expertise through a Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering program that's accredited by ABET. These programs integrate many disciplines, with a special focus on chemistry, to solve engineering problems.

Success Tip:

  • Complete an internship. Since most chemical engineering bachelor's degree programs don't offer a track in consulting, undergraduates might opt to intern at a consulting firm to gain experience and make professional connections.

Step 2: Gain Work Experience and Training

Entry-level jobs in consulting usually come from large firms. Although new workers have little responsibility right off the bat, they'll learn and supplement current skills crucial to the job. A beginning worker with a bachelor's degree often starts out as a research associate. In addition to informal on-the-job training, consulting firms occasionally send their employees to formal training programs that include tips on project management and building relationships with clients.

Step 3: Become a Licensed Professional Engineer

Some states require that chemical engineering consultants to be licensed professional engineers (PEs), and prospective consultants in other states might find that being a PE adds to their credibility with employers and clients. States that license engineers regulate the exact requirements individually, but the process typically culminates in passing the PE exam, offered through the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES). Exam candidates need to have at least four years of professional engineering experience working under a licensed chemical engineer. To maintain licensure, an individual must complete continuing education requirements.

Step 4: Start Your Own Consulting Firm

Consultancy is a popular option for professional chemical engineers and academics, such as university researchers, who choose to start secondary careers later in life. Independent chemical engineering consultants must be familiar with both technical knowledge and marketing and business strategies.

Step 5: Get a Master's Degree or Ph.D.

In consulting, advanced jobs typically require a master's degree or doctorate. Consultants aspiring to advance from research assistant positions to even basic consulting jobs at large firms might earn a Master of Engineering in Chemical Engineering or Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering. The research and thesis requirements of graduate degree programs can refine a prospective consultant's area of expertise.

To recap, an aspiring chemical engineering consultant needs to earn a bachelor's degree in chemical engineering, gain work experience, and attain state licensure, if necessary. Many consulting jobs also require a master's degree or doctorate in chemical engineering.

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