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What does a Chemical Engineer do?

Malcolm Tatum
By
Updated Mar 02, 2024
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Chemical engineers are people who use their knowledge of chemistry in an industrial setting, to create new substances and products and improve the quality and production process of existing ones. They are primarily interested in finding efficient, economical ways to turn raw materials into high-quality finished goods. In addition to doing this, they're also often employed to design manufacturing facilities. The position is typically collaborative, with people in this job working together with product designers, marketers, and legal staff. A wide range of industries regularly introduce new products or improve existing ones, so a chemical engineer can often find jobs in industries ranging from aerospace to electronics, textile manufacturing, and environmental management.

Research and Development

People in this position often help research and develop new products. This includes studying how compounds react with different types of materials and working with product designers to make things that are sturdy, functional, and attractive. For instance, a textile company with a new type of synthetic fiber would likely hire a chemical engineer to identify and develop uses for it. He or she could tell the company what uses it's best suited for — that it works well for car upholstery but not stretch fabrics, for example — as well as advise them as to other potential uses, such as turning it into a powder and mixing it into plastic products to strengthen them. They can help prevent and troubleshoot technical problems that come up during product development.

Designing Facilities

Many manufacturing companies also hire chemical engineers to help design efficient manufacturing facilities. This includes coming up with the layout of factory floors, the creation of components and equipment, and the design of control measures to make sure that the facility safely handles materials and maintains the desired level of quality in its products. Additionally, a chemical engineer may help develop processes that manufacturing plants can use to operate in environmentally friendly manners.

Collaboration

A chemical engineer often works together with other people in the manufacturing process, including marketers and managers. He or she can help the advertising department understand the benefits of having a particular substance in a product, and can help create a product that positively reflects the goals of a company, which helps the sales end of the business because it increases brand awareness. Chemical engineers also collaborate with managers as well as legal teams to ensure that the materials used in the processing and finishing of end products comply with governmental and industry standards.

Education and Training

To become a chemical engineer, a person generally needs to have at least a bachelor's degree in chemistry, chemical engineering, biomolecular engineering, or a similar field. Many people also get master's degrees in a specific area, such as plastics engineering or food science. In the US, licensure as a Professional Engineer (PE) is encouraged, but not required. This requires a combination of an approved degree, work experience, and passing several exams.

Work Environment

The exact duties that chemical engineers carry out also largely depend on how much experience they have. Entry-level workers tend to carry out basic tasks, whereas those with much experience tend to assume roles with more responsibility and independence. Some manage teams of engineers themselves, while others propose and carry out research projects. Experienced chemical engineers may also do consulting work, or have a lot of freedom when it comes to choosing what they want to work on.

Practical Adult Insights is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Malcolm Tatum
By Malcolm Tatum , Writer
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing to become a full-time freelance writer. He has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including Practical Adult Insights, and his work has also been featured in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and newspapers. When not writing, Malcolm enjoys collecting vinyl records, following minor league baseball, and cycling.

Discussion Comments

By anon348618 — On Sep 18, 2013

Where would a chemical engineer work?

By anon319318 — On Feb 12, 2013

What do they do most of the day?

By anon294390 — On Oct 01, 2012

What do chemical engineers usually work on most of the time?

By anon289320 — On Sep 03, 2012

What jobs in the navy are available to someone with an undergraduate degree in chemical engineering?

By anon85445 — On May 20, 2010

How good do you have to be in math?

By anon68666 — On Mar 03, 2010

is there any stress involved in this job, is this work done independently, How many hours do you work each day on average?

By anon63212 — On Jan 31, 2010

is it all about chemicals? or are other branches involved?

By anon35293 — On Jul 03, 2009

Being a Chem. Engineer, I can tell you:

1.- Any engineering degree, in order to be so and to be recognized as so, must be granted by a College or University with a 4 or 5 year program.

2.- The curriculum does require one learns and understand Chemistry, as well as Physics and Math (for one has to understand *very* well that which one is trying to control).

3.- You will learn about Transport Phenomena and Unit Operations (how things behave when they are being manipulated).

By the way, when I said "things" in the previous item, I meant solids, liquids, gases and vapors (and sometimes, if you wish, plasma).

4.- You will learn how to desing a reactor with the best performance for the need you could have.

By anon31583 — On May 07, 2009

How many years of college do you have to have to become a chemical engineer?

By anon31114 — On Apr 29, 2009

I've checked the requirements for ASU and the majority of the credit hours for this major are Chemistry.... i.e. Biochemical, Organic Chemistry, and the works. Not a lot of credit hours for Math, but they are advancesd classes such as Calc 3 for Engineer and Linear Algebra. It sounds easy but it's deceiving.

By mdt — On Jun 03, 2008

The curriculum for obtaining relevant degrees will vary. For a general idea, check with universities in your area regarding basic courses of study, as well as classes and subjects that are necessary to receive a degree from the institutions.

By anon13656 — On Jun 02, 2008

what are the required subjects for this career course?

By mdt — On May 14, 2008

The rate of pay varies from one situation to another, including location and the type of company employing the engineer. For some ideas on the different types of environments that employ a chemical engineer, check with online and offline employment services.

By anon12778 — On May 13, 2008

how much money do they make && where you can get this job.

Malcolm Tatum

Malcolm Tatum

Writer

Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing...
Learn more
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