Chemical Engineer Vs. Petroleum Engineer

This article explores the work of chemical and petroleum engineers. How these careers are similar and how they differ are discussed, as well the current salary and job prospects for professionals in both fields.

Comparing Chemical Engineers to Petroleum Engineers

Although chemical and petroleum engineers are both involved with product design and determining how things are produced, their work environments and the materials they work with are often different. In addition, petroleum engineers currently earn a significantly higher salary and have stronger job prospects than chemical engineers, as indicated in the table below.

Job Title Educational Requirements Median Salary (2016)* Job Outlook (2016-2026)*
Chemical Engineers Bachelor's degree $98,340 8%
Petroleum Engineers Bachelor's degree $128,230 15%

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Responsibilities of Chemical Engineers vs. Petroleum Engineers

On a basic level, chemical and petroleum engineers perform many comparable duties, which include producing design plans for equipment and determining production methods. Because their duties may include working with dangerous materials, they may also both be involved with creating regulations to ensure that work is performed safely. Chemical engineers are responsible for testing products, determining if there are processes they can be improved and making budgets. Petroleum engineers can be involved with all stages of oil and gas retrieval and production. They may oversee the construction of oil wells, produce a safe drilling strategy to access oil or gas, observe production to see if the production levels meet expectations and develop ways to increase production when necessary.

Chemical Engineers

Chemical engineers are involved with the production of a wide range of products, including rubber, plastics and fuels. While it's common for chemical engineers to apply their skills to developing new products, chemical engineers may also make the equipment used in the production process. They typically study chemical engineering and must have a bachelor's degree. To pursue advancement in this field a Professional Engineer (PE) license is usually required. Chemical engineers are commonly employed in research and manufacturing. Those that work in manufacturing may spend time at plants and be involved in overseeing the manufacturing process while those who concentrate in research will spend more time working in laboratories and offices.

Job responsibilities of a chemical engineer include:

  • Analyzing test data
  • Planning equipment layout
  • Testing treatment of byproducts
  • Creating project expense estimates

Petroleum Engineers

Petroleum engineers spend their careers ensuring oil and gas deposits can be accessed and used. Although petroleum engineers often work in the oil and gas industry, some petroleum engineers also work in mining and manufacturing. Travel is a common requirement for petroleum engineers, and overtime is also fairly usual in this career field. Employers may prefer applicants with a bachelor's degree in petroleum engineering, although they may consider hiring those with degrees in other engineering fields. Petroleum engineers need to have good analytical skills to assess the effectiveness of their design plans and other relevant data, and they also must come up with creative solutions to complete their objectives.

Job responsibilities of a petroleum engineer include:

  • Creating machines that access oil and gas and remove it from under the earth
  • Producing and installing equipment that can access underwater oil and gas reserves
  • Monitoring equipment maintenance
  • Assessing and improving production levels

Related Careers

Since chemical engineers may be involved with drug production, and biomedical engineers help produce medical products, aspiring chemical engineers may also be interested in visiting the article linked to that alternate career. Petroleum engineers often work closely with data provided by geoscientists, so those considering a career as a petroleum engineer may be interested in visiting the link provided here to learn more about the duties of geoscientists.

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