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Process Engineer Vs. Project Engineer

Process engineers and project engineers, though both industrial, focus on different outcomes. Compare their education requirements, yearly earnings, and job outlook projections.

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Comparing Process Engineers to Project Engineers

Process and project engineers often work in dangerous environments, such as chemical plants or building sites. These professions require the same level of education, but the specific fields of engineering, salaries, career outlooks, and daily tasks are very different.

Job Title Educational Requirements Median Salary (2017)* Job Growth (2016-2026)**
Process Engineers Bachelor's Degree $71,433 8% (Chemical Engineers)
Project Engineers Bachelor's Degree $66,610 11% (Civil Engineers)

Sources: *Payscale, **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Responsibilities of Process Engineers vs. Project Engineers

These engineers both travel to factories or construction sites to ensure production is going smoothly. Additionally, they work on teams with project managers, product designers, and other engineers. Project engineers are charged with implementing project plans in industrial applications, such as building bridges and other infrastructure. Process engineers, however, work primarily in laboratories to develop fuel, medications, or even detergents.

Process Engineers

With degrees in chemical engineering or a related field, process engineers test new chemical mixtures and techniques to produce new goods. One of their specialties is designing new types of plastics using a process called polymerization. They also develop ways to mass-produce products using industry standards and the newest industrial machines. Part of this is determining the environmental impact of mining the necessary raw materials, and then choosing ones that can be sourced most responsibly. Process engineers are also tasked with designing ways to safely treat the dangerous chemical waste that is a byproduct of this type of manufacturing.

Job responsibilities of a process engineer include:

  • Analyzing findings and data from extensive laboratory tests
  • Designing equipment used in large-scale chemical plants
  • Keeping chemical plant workers safe by developing strict regulations
  • Planning the design of production lines with maximum productivity in mind

Project Engineers

Holding degrees in civil or mechanical engineering, project engineers work on multiple projects related to building and manufacturing processes. To begin, they look over the project proposal and compile a list of potential outcomes and deliverables, or finished products. If they work in construction, they will consider contractor bids and hire whoever they feel is most skilled and economical. For those in manufacturing, the biggest part of the job is monitoring work orders and updating the status of different assignments each day. Additionally, all project engineers provide a description of the larger project, as well as individual assignments within it, to employees on the team.

Job responsibilities of a project engineer include:

  • Breaking a larger project into manageable stages
  • Delegating tasks to team members based on skill
  • Referencing the product design frequently to ensure standards are being met
  • Dividing financial and workforce resources based on assignments

Related Careers

Processes engineers deal with controlled chemical reactions, much as nuclear engineers do, so you may want to consider both options if you're interested in such a position. If you are more interested in a career as a project engineer, you could also research a role as a materials engineer, since both consider the scope of a project, including the necessary materials.

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