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What is Chemical Engineering?
Chemical engineering is a multi-faceted arm of engineering that blends natural sciences (chemistry, biology, physics, geology), life sciences (botany, microbiology, biochemistry, ecology), business (finance, economics, manufacturing, design), mathematics (calculus, trigonometry, algebra, arithmetic), with experimental sciences (hypothesis testing) to add value to raw materials. The value-add process includes utilizing the multidisciplinary nature of chemical engineering to create, design, prototype, modify, manufacture, ship, manage, and operate processes involved in transforming materials into commercially viable products.
For example, chemical engineers helped to develop carbon nanotubes. With unique mechanical, electronic, and magnetic properties these fibers have been used to strengthen materials and thermal conduction. Carbon nanotubes are 100 times stronger than steel yet can be 10,000 smaller in width than a human hair. Chemical engineers performed the research, testing, and know-how to bring CNT’s to market forever changing production of semiconductors, electronics, optics, and materials science.
How to Become a Chemical Engineer
To become a chemical engineer, you will need to earn a degree in chemical engineering or associated degree in the field. Chemical engineering degrees can be an online bachelor’s degree, online master’s degree, online doctorate degree, or classroom-based programs at the same degree level. We have outlined each below to help you better understand the courses and degrees in your quest to become a chemical engineer.
Bachelor’s Degree in Chemical Engineering
A bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering is conferred as a Bachelor of Science (BS) or Bachelors of Engineering (BEng) and will take full time students 4-years to complete. Students will have the opportunity to take a number of general education courses such as communication, English, and philosophy along with core science classes. Core courses in chemical engineering will typically include classes like: computing for engineers, physics, calculus, biology, chemistry, differential equations, thermodynamics, kinetics, spectroscopy, and biochemistry.
Master’s Degree in Chemical Engineering
The master’s degree track in chemical engineering is conferred to graduates as a Master of Science (MS) or Master of Engineering (MEng) and will take 2-3 years of full-time matriculation to complete after meeting all lower level requirements. Master’s degree classes and research/thesis projects may vary by student with a variety of specializations to choose from including: reaction kinetics, complex fluids, catalysis, sustainable development, bioinformatics, microfluids, biomedicine, optimization, thermodynamics, cancer diagnostics, solar energy, biofuels, air quality, environmental science, process synthesis, and modeling.
Doctorate Degree in Chemical Engineering
At the doctorate degree level, students in the chemical engineering program will be conferred a PhD upon completion. The PhD program will take four to six years to complete with a board-approved dissertation taking a substantive portion of the program. Students earning a PhD in chemical engineering will be equipped to teach at the college level, perform research for public or private organizations, or work as consultants performing a variety of specialized projects.
Education and Schools
An education in chemical engineering may be received at the undergraduate and graduate levels, with a bachelor’s degree being the most common degree earned. Individuals studying chemical engineering will have to have a strong background in the sciences, such as chemistry, physics and biology, as well as mathematics and general engineering principles. Programs will teach students to combine these various principles in the development and maintenance of chemical based machinery and processes.
A curriculum may include:
- Principles of Engineering
Schools that offer chemical engineering programs should be able to provide modern and up to date facilities. Students should be able to find practical experience alongside their theoretical and traditional educations, and as result schools that have active research projects or means for experimentation are ideal for students looking to enter this field.
Schools Other Students Requested Information From:
Chemical engineering is expected to experience some growth over the next decade, but as a specialized field of study and employment, and due to the limited number of job available, will be slower than average. Individuals seeking employment in this field will generally look to larger companies that are responsible for manufacturing or development. New technologies, systems and methods will allow recent graduates to find employment, as will retiring professionals that open up opportunities. The annual median income of a chemical engineer in the United States is $98,340.
Careers in Chemical Engineering
A career in chemical engineering can take you to the far-reaches of the globe performing a variety of exciting work. Below we have listed areas that graduates may find themselves in as they ply their trade in chemical engineering. Top careers in chemical engineering include areas such as:
- Air Quality
- Process Synthesis
- Biomedical Microdevices
- Cancer Diagnostics
- Process Controls
- Waste Management
- Plant Design
- Food Processing
- Chemical Reaction Engineering
- Regenerative Medicine
- Reaction Engineering
- Nuclear Energy
- Environmental Science
- Rehabilitation Engineering
- Mining and Minerals
- Pulp and Paper Manufacturing
- Building Construction
- Materials Science
- Biomedical Imaging
- Complex Fluids
- Process Design Engineering
Top Employers of Chemical Engineers
- Chemical Manufacturers
- Architectural and Engineering Firms
- Research and Development Organizations
- Synthetic Fiber Manufacturers
- Petroleum and Coal Manufacturers
States with the Highest Employment of Chemical Engineers
- Texas 6,970
- California 2,390
- Louisiana 2,380
- Pennsylvania 1,530
- Ohio 1,430
Top Paying States for Chemical Engineers
- Texas $125,360
- Delaware $118,460
- Arizona $113,650
- District of Columbia $112,410
- Louisiana $111,670
The American Institute of Chemical Engineers is a professional organization that works for to promote chemical engineering interests as well as provide resources and development information for its members.