Chemical Engineer Job Description
Chemical engineers apply their knowledge in chemical engineering to turn raw materials and chemicals into a wide range of new products. Their main task is to develop new, more economic ways of using materials, chemical substances, and energy.
Chemical engineers are responsible for the design and maintenance of production plants and equipment that perform this work. Chemical engineers’ jobs can also include manufacturing and operation of machinery and plants as well as related processes in the chemical industry. Often, they adapt existing chemical substances and develop new ones for use in a variety of products, including cosmetics, foods and beverages, and cleaning products. They can work across many different sectors, from pharmaceuticals, water treatment, oil and gas and energy to plastics, food and drink, and toiletries.
Chemical engineers can also work on the development of different new technologies, such as nanotechnology, hydrogen power, and fuel cells. They can be involved in the manufacturing of materials and chemicals used across many different sectors, from environmental and biomedical to automotive, electronic, aerospace and military. Chemical engineers’ work sometimes overlaps with that of biomedical engineers if they work in a biology-related field.
The chemical engineering profession can be divided into two subgroups: chemical process engineering and chemical product engineering. Chemical process engineers deal with the design, production and operation of machinery and plants, while chemical product engineers typically develop new substances and adapt existing ones for industrial use.
Chemical engineers must have an excellent understanding of the safety and environmental aspects of production, and of all the relevant regulations. Needless to say, an in-depth knowledge of chemistry, mathematics, and engineering is essential.
Chemical engineering jobs also require good analytical skills and problem-solving ability, as well as resource management skills and an aptitude for innovation.
Commercial awareness and business skills are always an asset, and project management skills are a crucial aspect of the job and must be developed through work experience and training.
Chemical engineers usually enter the field with a Bachelor of Engineering (BEng) or Master of Engineering (MEng) degree. Those with a MEng degree only need to gain some relevant experience in the industry to meet the requirements for chartered status, and those with a BEng degree need to do additional studies along with having the work experience. When choosing a degree course, candidates who want to work toward chartered status must make sure that the course is accredited by the Institution of Chemical Engineers (IChemE).
Graduates typically have a degree in chemical, biochemical, or process engineering, but can also sometimes enter the field with degrees in related disciplines: biomedical engineering, chemistry or applied chemistry, nuclear engineering, environmental engineering, or polymer science.
Employers generally prefer a BEng or MEng degree, but candidates with a foundation degree or an HND in the relevant sciences can also find jobs in the field.
A chemical engineer’s tasks can include research and analysis of new products from the trial and testing stage to commercialization. Chemical engineers typically manage the manufacturing processes and recommend modifications to existing plants or design new ones. They ensure that the process plant runs smoothly and efficiently, and they adapt the machinery to the product line when necessary. They analyze processes in plants, identify opportunities for optimization, and recommend and implement the changes.