The chemical engineer, wearing trademark white lab coat and goggles, pouring strange liquids from beaker to flask, is an image straight out of science fiction. However, the reality is that chemical engineers are an essential part of 21st century manufacturing-designing processes for the production and use of chemicals, fuels, food, drugs, and more. The ultimate tinkerers, these engineers continually conduct research to develop new ways to separate components of liquids and gases, or to generate electrical currents using chemistry. They must use not only their science and math skills, but also creative problem-solving and troubleshooting, especially when designs don't work the first time. Chemical engineers design equipment to produce everything from tires to asphalt. Their teammates are the technicians and mechanics who put designs into practice. They work in offices and labs at industrial plants, and at coal or oil refineries to oversee operations. Some engineers travel extensively to oversee their designs onsite; improving safety, productivity, and arranging manufacturing operations. These engineers must have a bachelor's degree in chemical engineering. Employers value graduates with practical experience, such as internships and cooperative engineering programs. A Professional Engineering license may increase advancement possibilities. A graduate degree is needed for teaching or to lead research and development.
What they do:
Design chemical plant equipment and devise processes for manufacturing chemicals and products, such as gasoline, synthetic rubber, plastics, detergents, cement, paper, and pulp, by applying principles and technology of chemistry, physics, and engineering.
On the job, you would:
Monitor and analyze data from processes and experiments.
Develop safety procedures to be employed by workers operating equipment or working in close proximity to ongoing chemical reactions.
Develop processes to separate components of liquids or gases or generate electrical currents, using controlled chemical processes.
Engineering and Technology
product and service development
Math and Science
arithmetic, algebra, geometry, calculus, or statistics
Manufactured or Agricultural Goods
manufacture and distribution of products
Arts and Humanities
using scientific rules and strategies to solve problems
thinking about the pros and cons of different ways to solve a problem
noticing a problem and figuring out the best way to solve it
People and Technology Systems
figuring out how a system should work and how changes in the future will affect it
thinking about the pros and cons of different options and picking the best one
Ideas and Logic
group things in different ways
notice when problems happen
choose the right type of math to solve a problem
add, subtract, multiply, or divide
read and understand what is written
listen and understand what people say
see hidden patterns
People interested in this work like activities that include ideas, thinking, and figuring things out.
They do well at jobs that need:
Attention to Detail
You might use software like this on the job:
Analytical or scientific software
The MathWorks MATLAB
Computer aided design CAD software
Dassault Systemes CATIA
bachelor's degree usually needed
Get started on your career:
New job opportunities are very likely in the future.