Chemical Engineer Careers

How to become Chemical Engineer

What does a Chemical Engineer do?

Chemical, process or biochemical engineers use scientific principles to develop processes that turn raw materials into useful products in a cost effective and safe way. Chemical Engineers may work on the manufacture of plastics, pharmaceuticals, food and drink, fuels, artificial fibres or any other man-made synthetic products.

Chemical engineering involves research, where engineers develop and test new materials and processes or adapt and improve existing ones; and conduct process development experiments in a laboratory, and convert these small-scale processes to commercially-viable large-scale operations.

They design and develop the machinery to be used in the production process, often using computer models and simulations, and install and commission the production systems in the plant.

Once a plant is in operation, a chemical engineer’s role changes from construction to production. They will then be responsible for the day-to- day operation of the plant, involved in maintenance procedures, monitoring and trouble-shooting, quality control, efficiency, and health and safety of the plant and the wider environment.

Fully qualified professional engineers usually hold incorporated or chartered status.

Chartered engineers are normally involved at a strategic planning level, researching and developing new designs, innovations and more efficient processes for the application of new and existing technologies. They are often project leaders and are responsible for teams of incorporated engineers and technicians.

Incorporated engineers specialise in managing the process of applying current engineering solutions in the most cost-effective manner. They have a detailed knowledge of the practical application of engineering science and technology, and have the skills and know-how to put plans into practice. They often hold key operational management roles.

What's the working environment like working as a Chemical Engineer?

Chemical engineers working in a research or development team are normally laboratory or office- based and work a 37-hour week. Those working on plant processing operations projects can work up to 50 hours or more a week, including evenings or weekends.

Laboratory work takes place under sterile conditions. In some areas there may be the need to wear protective clothing, shoes and eye shields.

What does it take to become a Chemical Engineer?

To be a chemical engineer you should:

  • have an aptitude and interest in chemistry
  • have mathematical ability and be able to understand engineering principles
  • have good verbal and written communication skills
  • have analytical and problem solving skills
  • have a high standard of computer literacy
  • understand computer-aided design
  • be able to work as part of a team.

Chemical Engineer Career Opportunities

Further information

If you would like to know anything about Chemical Engineer that does not appear on Hotcourses, further information can be found below.

SEMTA (Science Engineering and Manufacturing Technologies Alliance)
14 Upton Road
WD18 0JT
Tel: 0808 100 3682

Cogent (Sector Skills Council for Chemicals, Nuclear, Oil and Gas, Petroleum and Polymers)
Minerva House
Bruntland Road
AB12 4QL
Tel: 01224 787800

Institution of Chemical Engineers
165-189 Railway Terrace
CV21 3HQ
Tel: 01788 578214

The Institution of Engineering and Technology
Savoy Place
Tel: 020 7240 1871

Engineering Council
10 Maltravers Street
Tel: 020 7240 7891

The Engineering Careers Information Service (ECIS)

Women into Science and Engineering
22 Old Queen Street
Tel: 020 7227 8421

Engineering Training Council (Northern Ireland)
20-24 York Street
BT15 1AQ
Tel: 028 9032 9878

Facts and Stats:

  • Isambard Kingdom Brunel was only 5ft tall and wore a top hat to make himself look taller
  • Engineering generates more than 40 per cent of the UK¿s national wealth
  • The Box Hill tunnel, part of Brunel¿s Great Western Railway, took five years to dig and at two miles long was the longest tunnel in the world at the time

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