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Engineering careers

Chemical Engineering

Chemical engineering summarized

Chemical engineering is all about using chemistry in the real world to solve problems. Sometimes you may be spending your time in a lab, wearing a white coat and doing experiments. However, you will probably spend most of your career working on-site, within factories or production facilities, designing and constructing machines that use chemical reactions to improve efficiency or save costs.

What kinds of projects do chemical engineers work on?

As the name suggests, chemical engineers are a mixture of scientists and engineers. The challenges you will face in this area will range from thinking of new ways to make products from raw materials, to working out ways of converting one material into another useful form. One such example is taking animal faeces and extracting the methane for commercial use.

Chemical engineers allow developed countries to keep up and compete against markets that are rich in raw materials or have cheap workforces. Chemical engineers ensure that the British industry remains strong and employs the most advanced solutions throughout industry. You will potentially be making innovations and changes that will affect thousands, perhaps millions, of people for years come.

If you like the idea of making an impact and thinking of solutions that nobody else has ever considered before, then chemical engineering will be of interest to you. If you prefer to spend less time in the lab and more time on construction sites or in industrial complexes then this is a really exciting career path to pursue.

What skills and qualifications should chemical engineers possess?

Chemical engineers must balance science with the limitations of the materials around them. Often you will be charged with designing, operating or constructing machines that use various chemical reactions to solve problems associated with a particular industry.

Lateral thinking is a big factor for all chemical engineers. You have to be able to look at a system that works and re-work so it is cheaper, more cost effective or more efficient.

Mistakes will be costly and potentially lethal, so you will need to pay great attention to detail, and have confidence in your ability and accuracy.

A relevant chemical engineering degree is usually the minimum requirement. An honours degree, most commonly an MEng which is fully accredited by the Institution of Chemical Engineers (IChemE), is usually necessary to meet the academic requirements of gaining chartered chemical engineer status.

Are you thrilled by the tinkle of test tubes? Are you mesmerised by machines? If so then check out our occupational profile of a Chemical Development Engineer or our jobs board to begin your venture into chemical engineering.