Chemical engineers (or process engineers) are responsible for developing new industrial processes and designing new process plants and equipment or modifying existing ones. The processes that they come up with are used to create products ranging from oil and gas to food and drink.
The role can include:
- testing new processes
- collecting data required to make improvements and modifications
- overseeing the construction of new plants
- using and developing process simulation software to work out the best production methods
- purchasing and installing equipment
- using scientific principles related to magnitude, momentum, heat transfer etc
- supervising plant operations
- investigating and troubleshooting plant/process problems
- scheduling and coordinating work to tight deadlines and within financial budgets
- ensuring that equipment works to its specification and to appropriate capacities
- assessing safety and environmental issues
- liaising with installation/project engineers and specialists
- ensuring safe working conditions and compliance with health and safety legislation.
You can find out more about chemical engineering by reading the chemicals industry sector overview on TARGETjobs, written by an experienced chemical engineer.
Personal Qualities and Skills
Key skills for chemical engineers
- An aptitude for and interest in chemistry
- IT and numeracy skills
- Analytical skills
- Commercial awareness
- The ability to work well under pressure
- Communication and teamworking skills
- Problem-solving skills
- Chemical production and process companies (for example, pharmaceutical, consumer goods, synthetics, plastics, paints and polymer manufacturers)
- The water treatment industry
- Food manufacturers
- Oil refining/petrochemical companies and associated service and contractor companies
- For help with applying for engineering jobs and internships, take a look at the TARGETjobs engineering CV and covering letter tips and advice on filling out online applications
- To find out how much money you could earn as an engineer, head to the engineering salary round-up on TARGETjobs.
read the TARGETjobs article on the skills engineering employers look for for more information and then find out how you can prove you possess these competencies at engineering assessment centres.
Pay And Opportunities
Typical employers of chemical engineers
Vacancies are advertised online, by careers services and recruitment agencies, in local and national newspapers and in a number of technical journals such as TARGETjobs Engineering, The Chemical Engineer, Chemistry & Industry and Materials World.You can also find help on finding and applying for jobs with smaller engineering companies here.
Qualifications and training required
There are routes into this career for both graduates and school leavers. Graduates will need a degree in a relevant subject such as chemical engineering, biochemical engineering or mechanical engineering. Some employers will ask for a 2.1 degree but others will accept candidates with a 2.2 degree. Take a look at the TARGETjobs list of engineering employers that accept 2.2 degrees.
A postgraduate qualification can be beneficial, and may be necessary for some posts. A list of accredited courses is available on the Engineering Council's website and you can read the TARGETjobs article on engineering postgraduate options to explore your options.
For school leavers, higher apprenticeships in process engineering or in various aspects of manufacturing engineering are available.
Opportunities to gain experience and an insight into the profession are provided by many employers via vacation work, sponsorship and industrial placements. Take a look at the list of engineering employers who offer industrial placements and summer internships on TARGETjobs.
Achieving chartered (CEng) status with the Engineering Council can help to demonstrate your professionalism and commitment to your field. To become chartered, you will need an accredited bachelors degree in engineering or technology, plus an appropriate masters degree (MEng) or doctorate (EngD) accredited by a professional engineering institution such as the Institution of Chemical Engineers (IChemE). You will also be eligible with an integrated MSc. To find out more, take a look at the TARGETjobs guide to chartership.