How Do I Become a Chemical Engineer?

If you have an analytical nature, are a natural problem-solver and are comfortable working with numbers, you might be wondering how to become a chemical engineer. Chemicals play important roles in society. They make up the fuel we use for heating and transportation, the medicine doctors use to treat the sick, the synthetic materials manufacturers use in clothing and products and preservatives and other necessary food additives. Chemical engineers are the scientific professionals who apply engineering concepts and research techniques to the mathematical, physical and life sciences concerns of chemistry.

A chemical engineer’s exact job duties depend on his or her industry, but certain responsibilities are common across the profession. Chemical engineers devise new equipment, techniques and manufacturing processes to accomplish a goal. They design chemical products such as health and beauty supplies or medications and participate in testing these products. When problems arise in a chemical process, it is the chemical engineer’s job to recognize and resolve the problem. Research plays a major role in the professional life of a chemical engineer.

While the field is vast and job opportunities are varied, chemical engineers often find employment in architectural engineering, research and development, chemical manufacturing, synthetic materials manufacturing or pharmaceutical manufacturing. Chemical engineers work in research laboratories, company offices, and manufacturing plants. Because some chemicals present safety hazards, chemical engineers must observe safety procedures and even formulate safety protocol for others who come into contact with these hazardous chemicals or processes.

To begin preparing for a career in chemical engineering, candidates should earn a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering or the related field of chemical and biomolecular engineering from an accredited college or university. During their undergraduate education, students will study physics, advanced mathematics, chemical and biological processes and the application of engineering concepts to engineering designs. Students should gain as much hands-on experience in the field of chemical engineering as possible through in-school laboratory projects, extracurricular engineering programs and internships. Students may decide to earn a master’s degree in order to further their job prospects, especially if they intend to find a research and development position. Once they have acquired the necessary work experience in entry-level positions, aspiring chemical engineers must take the examination to earn their professional engineer (PE) license to become full-fledged engineers.

Chemical engineers earn a median salary of $90,300 per year, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The actual salary a chemical engineer will make depends on a number of factors, including education level, experience, location, employer and industry. Chemical engineers working in architecture earn a median annual salary of $91,010, while those working in chemical manufacturing make $92,590, the BLS reported. Chemical engineers employed in scientific research and development are the highest paid, earning a median of $94,640 per year. If you have excellent mathematics and reasoning skills and can identify and solve problems, knowing how to become a chemical engineer could be the start of a fulfilling, lucrative new career.

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