Requirements for a PhD in Chemical Engineering

Aug 19, 2019

When attending a PhD in Chemical Engineering program, you will need to meet certain requirements in order to earn your advanced degree. Learn more about some common coursework requirements as well as other requirements for the PhD in Chemical Engineering.

Chemical engineering is field of study that uses chemistry, physics, biology, and math to design and improve the process of creating and manufacturing products. The highest degree you can earn in this field is the PhD in Chemical Engineering. In this article, we will take a close look at the common coursework requirements for this program types as well as some other common requirements you must fulfill to earn your PhD.

Common Coursework Requirements for the PhD in Chemical Engineering

Although each PhD in Chemical Engineering program will have its own set of core coursework, there are some common classes across most programs.

Process Systems Engineering

Process systems engineering is a course that will teach you the tools and methods you need in order to understand and analyze different problems in process engineering, which is a branch of science that studies the principles and laws that affect how raw materials and energy are turned into products. This course could cover optimization topics, such as multivariable optimization, objective functions, and constrained optimization. You might also study different mixed-integer programming techniques and heuristics and how to use them to come up with solutions in regards to different process system engineering problems.

Heat and Mass Transfer

A course that aims to teach you the fundamentals of mass and heat transfer will also make up your PhD coursework. This type of course will help you understand the process of mass transfer, including the equations that govern energy, momentum, and mass. You might also study different models of mass transfer as well the algorithms needed to design and implement these models. This will also be a math-heavy class, and you will need a good understanding of linear algebra.

Transport Phenomena

Transport phenomena coursework focuses on the various transport rates of energy, mass, and momentum in relation to chemical processes. For a class of this type, you will be expected to use mathematical equations and techniques to solve problems related to heat conduction, mass transport, and viscous flow. Exact topics you may cover include creeping flow, flow of laminar boundary layers, and the lubrication approximation.

Fluid Mechanics

Fluid mechanics is a course that usually covers different topics related to the ways that fluids move through conduits, pipes, and process equipment and how they move around objects, including turbulence factors. Usually, this course will also include the study of non-Newtonian fluids and the Navier-Stokes equations. This course aims to give you a good understanding of the processes and equipment involved in fluid transfer, and how to solve different problems of fluid motion, energy, and mass.


Thermodynamics is the study of how heat interacts with other forms of energy. A course of this type will usually cover the classical elements of thermodynamics, including the first, second and third laws, the conservation of energy, free energies, power cycles and refrigeration. Various concepts related to chemical equilibrium are key elements of this course.

Reactor Design and Kinetics

Last, reactor design and kinetics is a core chemical engineering course that involves the study of prototypical chemical reactors. For this course, you might closely examine tubular reactors, stirred tank reactors, and design of batch reactors. The second part of a course like this focuses on kinetics, which is the study of how various forces generate or change motion. Specific topics related to kinetics that you may examine include catalysis for different reactions and reaction kinetics.

Other Requirements for the PhD in Chemical Engineering

Along with core coursework, you will be required to fulfill other requirements for your PhD in Chemical Engineering. First, usually after you complete core coursework, you will need to take a qualifying exam, which may be written and/or oral. You might also need to create a research proposal that will then lead to a PhD thesis or dissertation. Most PhD programs will require you serve as a teaching assistant as well.

To earn your PhD in Chemical Engineering, you will need to take core coursework in a breadth of different topics. You will also need to meet other requirements that will ultimately lead to a PhD thesis.

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