Chemical Engineer Vs. Industrial Engineer

Chemical and industrial engineers both work in production. Chemical engineers focus on chemical manufacturing processes, while industrial engineers aim to make all production more efficient. See how these engineers compare.

Comparing Chemical Engineers to Industrial Engineers

Chemical engineers and industrial engineers are professionals who both focus on production processes. Chemical engineers concentrate on how to process or produce goods using chemicals, while industrial engineers design manufacturing and business systems and spend more of their time streamlining and improving the production process.

Job Title Educational Requirements Median Salary (2016)* Job Outlook (2016-2026)*
Chemical Engineers Bachelor's degree $98,340 8%
Industrial Engineers Bachelor's degree $84,310 10%

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Responsibilities of Chemical Engineers vs. Industrial Engineers

Chemical engineers may design new products or equipment, but much of their time is spent on tasks such as determining how to process specific types of products involving chemicals, such as drugs or plastics. Although industrial engineers may also design equipment, their primary focus is on improving the efficiency of the production process. They work to streamline processes wherever possible to make businesses as cost-effective and efficient as possible, while also ensuring that the quality of the products or services produced isn't compromised.

Chemical Engineers

Chemical engineers apply their knowledge of chemicals and chemical interactions for producing or processing things like food or gas. They concentrate on production methods and develop production standards and guidelines. They are required to study chemical engineering and earn a bachelor's degree to qualify for entry-level work in this field. Chemical engineers most commonly work in manufacturing or research and spend most of their time working indoors in a laboratory or office. They may be required to travel occasionally for work, and some overtime hours may be required to meet deadlines.

Job responsibilities of a chemical engineer include:

  • Using analytical software to review the production process
  • Determining how to improve the composition or production of existing products
  • Evaluating prototypes and systems
  • Establishing operating procedures
  • Solving problems with the manufacturing process
  • Ensuring safe use and disposal of hazardous chemicals

Industrial Engineers

Industrial engineers focus on efficiency and optimization in production, which allows them to work in a wide range of industries, such as healthcare and manufacturing. Their work environments can vary depending on the field they work in; some may spend a fair bit of time working in an office, while others may be in factories observing the production process. While it's most common for those preparing to enter this field to study industrial engineering, some industrial engineers opt to pursue studies in mechanical engineering or other engineering fields. A bachelor's degree is required, and a Professional Engineer (PE) license may be necessary to advance to managerial roles in this field.

Job responsibilities of an industrial engineer include:

  • Conferring with clients to understand their production systems, needs and goals
  • Developing system design plans for businesses
  • Determining how to reduce operating costs
  • Establishing quality control guidelines
  • Analyzing all aspects related to production to identify areas for improvement
  • Making scheduling recommendations

Related Careers

Aspiring chemical engineers may also be interested in the work that nuclear engineers do and can learn more about that career through the information linked below. Another career option for aspiring industrial engineers is to be a cost estimator, and that career is explored in greater detail via the link below.


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