What Does a Chemical Engineer Do?

An engineer with a hard hat and helmet discussing a project at a construction site with a team leader. architecture construction concept. Industrial safety

You often hear that engineering is one of the most popular career fields, but this is actually an incredibly broad field with many different types of engineering that people can specialize in. Chemical engineering is one of the most common disciplines and one that can be a fantastic career field. Essentially, chemical engineering is about using chemistry to turn raw materials into useful products, such as food, medicine, petrol, plastics, cosmetics and other daily products.

The Life of Chemical Engineers

Due to the fact that chemical engineers help to produce such a wide range of products, this also means that there is flexibility and you can work in a wide range of industries and settings. Chemical engineers work in labs, offices and processing plants and often there will be travel involved with work. Daily activities can be diverse and this makes the job interesting, but usually, it will involve working with process chemists and control engineers to make sure that the production facility is safe and efficient.

Key Responsibilities

Other responsibilities can include designing plant and equipment configurations, changing equipment design, designing, installing and commissioning new production plants and researching new products. Chemical engineers will also make sure that safety is considered at all stages and, due to the nature of the work, will be handling potentially dangerous substances. This is why safety equipment such as face shields, goggles and protective clothing are so important for chemical engineers and need to always be available.

Skills & Qualities Needed

In terms of the skills and qualities that are required in this role, you will find that there are many specific and soft skills that are required. Obviously, fundamental engineering, chemistry and maths principles are essential along with problem-solving skills and the ability to work as part of a team. It is also helpful if chemical engineers have strong business and commercial awareness along with great communication, organizational and IT skills.

Education & Salary

As you would expect, formal education is essential in this role. You will need a degree in chemical, process or biochemical engineering to find work as a chemical engineer. Your degree should also be accredited by the Institution of Chemical Engineers in order to gain chartered engineer status. In terms of salary, graduates earn a median salary of around £28,600 rising to £54,000 for more experienced engineers. Pay is much higher for chartered chemical engineers with a median salary for chartered engineers with an undergraduate degree at £78,500.

Chemical engineering can be a superb role for those with a passion for engineering, chemistry, science and technology. This is a discipline of engineering that allows you to make a difference to the world, plus the work can be incredibly varied and interesting. Not only this, but chemical engineers benefit from stable and lucrative careers and you can find work in industrial areas all over the UK and abroad.

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