What is a Chemical Engineer?
Chemical engineers are not only the lab coat wearing scientists who stand over beakers, mixing formulas in laboratories. They also work in the field, putting into practice the knowledge gained in laboratories, as well as their own brand of chemistry that applies the physical sciences and the life sciences.
They use mathematics and economics to create processes for converting raw materials or chemicals into forms that are more useful. Today’s chemical engineers are involved with biomedical engineering, nanotechnology, and fuel cells, to name a very few of their specialties!
Chemical process engineers focus on the design, manufacture, and operation of industrial plants, their equipment, and the related chemical processes. Chemical product engineers development new or modified substances for consumables ranging from pharmaceuticals and face wipes, to furniture polish, foods, and far beyond.
Chemical engineers may do research at industrial or university levels, designing better pollution control, resource conservation, and safety measures. They can be involved in the design and construction of plants as project engineers, using their knowledge to select equipment, optimize production, minimize costs and increase profitability.
What are the Prerequisites for a B.S.? What Kinds of Classes Do I Take?
Required classes can vary with universities, but the following list outlines typical coursework for a basic 4-year degree in chemical engineering:
- Principles of Chemistry
- Introduction to Chemical Engineering/Practice
- Differential and Integral Calculus
- Introduction to Computing
- English Composition
- Social and Behavioral Science Elective
- Sequences, Series, and Multivariable Calculus
- Engineering Physics/Laboratory
- First-Year Signature Course
- Introductory Biology
- Organic Chemistry
- Organic Chemistry Laboratory
- Intro to Chemical Engineering Analysis
- Advanced Calculus for Applications
- Engineering Physics II/Laboratory
- Physical Chemistry
- Transport Phenomena
- Masterworks of Literature
- Physical Chemistry Laboratory
- Engineering Communication
- Transport Processes
- Applied Statistics
- Chemistry Elective
- Measurement, Control & Data Analysis Lab
- Separation Processes and Mass Transfer
- Numerical Methods in CHE and Problem Solving
- Visual and Performing Arts Elective
- American History
- Technical Area Course
- Chemical Engineering Process & Projects Lab
- Chemical Engineering Materials
- Chemical Reactor Analysis and Design
- Chemical Engineering Area Course
- Math, Physics, Chemistry or Biology Elective
- Process Control
- Process Design and Operations
- American History
- Technical Area Course
Can it Take Longer to Compete the Program?
Aside from the standard 4-year-degree courses, there are degrees with emphasis on environmental, biochemical, or materials engineering. Environmental studies prepare engineers to work on waste minimization, pollution control, and waste management. Biochemical studies prepare students to enter the biochemical industry, and support a strong pre-med program.
Materials engineering incorporates chemistry and applied physics, with interest in the atomic and molecular levels of materials. Emphasizing these areas requires a slightly heavier course load. On graduating, students are traditional chemical engineers as well as specialists.
Can I Get a Masters of Chemical Engineering or a Doctorate?
Beyond receiving a B.S. in chemical engineering, students can pursue other graduate degrees. The master’s degree (M.Sc.) for chemical engineering is the next level, and generally requires 5 quarters of study. Typically, a university will allow no more than 3 years for the completion of this degree, and a grade point average of 3.00 is required.
Doctor of philosophy (PhD) studies prepare graduates to take active parts in the ever-changing field of chemical engineering. A PhD can access all levels of industrial and research organizations such as national laboratories or university teaching.
Can I Get a Chemical Engineering Degree Online?
There are too many lab and field study requirements to make online study suitable for a conventional B.S. in chemical engineering, but it is possible to earn a master of science degree in chemical engineering (MSCHE) online, through some sources. These opportunities are designed for outstanding students who already have engineering degrees. Qualifications and prerequisites are stringent.
What Kinds of Jobs Can I Get with a Chemical Engineering Degree?
Through chemical processes, chemical engineers find new and creative ways of making those things that improve our lives. Their work ranges from developing better skin-care products to finding materials that are more fire-resistant. Chemical engineers can be part of an innovative team at a manufacturing facility or working in cutting-edge research.
As a chemical engineer, you might be a quality control specialist for a corporation that manufactures cleaning products or jet airplanes. You might be discovering less destructive and more sustainable ways to extract and use natural resources. You might be designing or discovering the latest sensation in the eye care industry, better aerosol propellants, more durable paints, and ways to preserve foods and medicines longer. The sky is not the limit; it is just another avenue for what you might discover.
What is the Average Salary of a Chemical Engineer?
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics show the median annual wage of chemical engineers was $90,300 in May of 2010.
Glassdoor.com statistics showed salaries ranging from $62k to $99k
Are There Professional Associations for Chemical Engineers?
You can gain access to membership in a generous list of professional organizations, associations, and societies through a degree in chemical engineering. These associations offer resources, research opportunities, networking avenues not readily available on the job, and much more.