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Chemical Engineer Vs. Mechanical Engineer

This article focuses on the similarities between chemical and mechanical engineers and explores the key distinctions in their roles. It also looks at training requirements, advancement opportunities and job data for these professions.

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Comparing Chemical Engineers to Mechanical Engineers

Chemical and mechanical engineers are both involved in creating products. The specific types of products differ since chemical engineers concentrate on the equipment used to process and produce a range of products. Chemical engineers often work with dangerous substances and earn a higher salary than mechanical engineers.

Job Title Educational Requirements Median Salary (2016)* Job Outlook (2016-2026)*
Chemical Engineers Bachelor's degree $98,340 8%
Mechanical Engineers Bachelor's degree $84,190 9%

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Responsibilities of Chemical Engineers vs. Mechanical Engineers

Chemical engineers concentrate on developing equipment or processing products using chemicals and other substances. The focus of a mechanical engineer's work is machines and mechanical devices. They may both be involved in creating a new product but chemical engineers focus on the manufacturing process itself. Mechanical engineers create prototypes of products that they test. While they may monitor the production of their creations they aren't involved in establishing production methods or safety standards the way that chemical engineers are.

Chemical Engineers

Chemical engineers prioritize the method of production in their work. They may be involved with goods as varied as energy, plastics and food. Common employers include companies that focus on chemical manufacturing or petroleum production. Although they do not need a Professional Engineer (PE) license to enter this career field, those who are interested in seeking advancement opportunities may need a PE license. Overtime is common in this field and while chemical engineers may spend most of their time working indoors in an office or lab they may also need to travel as part of their work.

Job responsibilities of a chemical engineer include:

  • Researching production methods
  • Creating safety protocols
  • Using computer design software to design production equipment
  • Evaluating the production process and equipment performance
  • Preparing project budgets

Mechanical Engineers

Anyone that has used a refrigerator, a generator or an escalator has interacted with products produced by mechanical engineers. They combine their technical and creative talents to make new machines and devices. Some overtime can be expected in this field. They may spend most of their time performing tasks in an office environment but may also travel to locations where a large machine is being installed. Mechanical engineers may work with engineering companies or may be employed in a range of manufacturing sectors. Graduate studies are usually required to advance to positions in research or management.

Job responsibilities of a mechanical engineer include:

  • Creating design plans for devices
  • Evaluating the performance of prototypes
  • Modifying design plans
  • Assessing technical issues with mechanical equipment
  • Monitoring production

Related Careers

Those who are considering a career as a chemical or mechanical engineer may be interested in exploring other engineering fields. The links provided below connect to information about what materials and electrical engineers do.

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