Chemical engineers develop pharmaceuticals, solar panels, artificial organs and much more. A bachelor's degree program in chemical engineering prepares students for entry-level positions in engineering, research and development. These programs usually include laboratory experience and tremendous amounts of coursework in math and science.
Those seeking career advancement can pursue a master's degree in chemical engineering, which usually features a variety of specializations. Prerequisites for this program include a bachelor's degree in chemical engineering or a related field as well as Graduate Record Exam (GRE) scores. Doctoral programs in chemical engineering are available for those who want to work in academia. They include more advanced chemical engineering coursework, a comprehensive examination and a dissertation.
Bachelor's Degree in Chemical Engineering
Bachelor's degree programs in chemical engineering offer students a broad, introductory education in the field. Students learn to understand and describe molecular to macroscopic transformations and other complex phenomena. While some programs are designed to directly prepare students for graduate study, many include laboratory experience and practical training for students interested in finding a career upon graduation.
Courses in bachelor's degree programs in chemical engineering draw upon multiple disciplines including physics, chemistry, biology and mathematics. Classes typically required include:
- Introduction to chemical engineering
- Organic chemistry
- General biochemistry
- Thermodynamics and kinetics
- Fluid mechanics
- Chemical engineering laboratory
Master's Degree in Chemical Engineering
A master's degree in chemical engineering typically includes extensive research components, and many students focus their studies in a particular area of specialization within this broad field of study. Specializations include thermodynamics, nanotechnology, biotechnology and biomedical engineering.
Chemical engineering degree programs at the master's level include many advanced versions of the same courses offered at the bachelor's degree level. Coursework topics may include:
- Advanced chemical engineering
- Advanced thermodynamics
- Advanced process systems engineering
- Advanced separation processes
- Advanced heat and mass transfer
- Semiconductor processing technology
Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering
A Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering prepares students for advanced research and education opportunities in the field. Most students enroll with the intention of pursuing a career in higher education. Chemical engineering Ph.D. programs typically require students to complete a dissertation and comprehensive examination.
Depending on the program, students with significant prior education in chemical engineering may only be required to take a few courses for the Ph.D., such as:
- Polymer chemistry and engineering
- Advanced reaction kinetics
- Advanced transport phenomena
- Applied mathematics in chemical engineering
- Advanced bioengineering
Popular Career Options
Upon completion of a chemical engineering undergraduate degree program, graduates are prepared for careers in the following fields:
- Biochemical engineering
- Petrochemical engineering
- Biomedical engineering
- Research and development
A master's degree in chemical engineering prepares graduates for advanced positions in many of the same fields as a bachelor's degree, as well as fields like:
- Textile manufacturing
- Paper and pulp industry
- Environmental regulation
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that as of May 2015, the average salary for chemical engineers was $103,960 annually. That same year approximately 32,230 chemical engineers were working in the U.S., with the highest number of positions in engineering services. Between 2014 and 2024, jobs for chemical engineers are expected to grow 2%.
In summary, bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degree programs are available to students interested in a career in chemical engineering. Those with undergraduate degrees have several career options including biochemical engineering, medicine, petrochemical engineering, biomedical engineering, research and development.