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Career profile Chemical Engineer

Also known as Chemical Engineer, Development Engineer, Engineer, Engineering Scientist, Process Control Engineer, Process Engineer, Project Engineer, Refinery Process Engineer, Research Chemical Engineer, Scientist

Chemical Engineer

Also known as Chemical Engineer, Development Engineer, Engineer

Interests Profile
  • Investigative
  • Realistic
  • Conventional
Pay Range
$68,430 - $168,960 (annual)
Required Skills
  • Science
  • Complex Problem Solving
  • Critical Thinking
Knowledge Areas
  • Engineering and Technology
  • Mathematics
  • Chemistry
Core tasks
  • Monitor and analyze data from processes and experiments.
  • Develop safety procedures to be employed by workers operating equipment or working in close proximity to ongoing chemical reactions.
  • Develop processes to separate components of liquids or gases or generate electrical currents, using controlled chemical processes.
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What does a Chemical Engineer do?

Chemical Engineers design chemical plant equipment and devise processes for manufacturing chemicals and products, such as gasoline, synthetic rubber, plastics, detergents, cement, paper, and pulp, by applying principles and technology of chemistry, physics, and engineering.

What kind of tasks does a Chemical Engineer perform regularly?

Chemical Engineers are often responsible for overseeing or executing some or all of the following tasks:

  • Monitor and analyze data from processes and experiments.
  • Develop safety procedures to be employed by workers operating equipment or working in close proximity to ongoing chemical reactions.
  • Develop processes to separate components of liquids or gases or generate electrical currents, using controlled chemical processes.
  • Troubleshoot problems with chemical manufacturing processes.
  • Evaluate chemical equipment and processes to identify ways to optimize performance or to ensure compliance with safety and environmental regulations.
  • Conduct research to develop new and improved chemical manufacturing processes.
  • Perform laboratory studies of steps in manufacture of new products and test proposed processes in small-scale operation, such as a pilot plant.
  • Prepare estimate of production costs and production progress reports for management.
  • Design measurement and control systems for chemical plants based on data collected in laboratory experiments and in pilot plant operations.
  • Determine most effective arrangement of operations such as mixing, crushing, heat transfer, distillation, and drying.
  • Direct activities of workers who operate or are engaged in constructing and improving absorption, evaporation, or electromagnetic equipment.
  • Perform tests and monitor performance of processes throughout stages of production to determine degree of control over variables such as temperature, density, specific gravity, and pressure.
  • Design and plan layout of equipment.

The above responsibilities are specific to Chemical Engineers. More generally, Chemical Engineers are involved in several broader types of activities:

Processing Information
Compiling, coding, categorizing, calculating, tabulating, auditing, or verifying information or data.
Analyzing Data or Information
Identifying the underlying principles, reasons, or facts of information by breaking down information or data into separate parts.
Getting Information
Observing, receiving, and otherwise obtaining information from all relevant sources.
Working with Computers
Using computers and computer systems (including hardware and software) to program, write software, set up functions, enter data, or process information.
Making Decisions and Solving Problems
Analyzing information and evaluating results to choose the best solution and solve problems.

What is a Chemical Engineer salary?

The median salary for a Chemical Engineer is $108,540, and the average salary is $114,820. Both the median and average roughly describe the middle of the Chemical Engineer salary range, but the average is more easily affected by extremely high or low salaries.

Many Chemical Engineers earn significantly more or less than the average, due to several factors. About 10% of Chemical Engineers earn less than $68,430 per year, 25% earn less than $84,890, 75% earn less than $136,360, and 90% earn less than $168,960.

Between the years of 2020 and 2030, the number of Chemical Engineers is expected to change by 9.1%, and there should be roughly 1,800 open positions for Chemical Engineers every year.

Median annual salary
$108,540
Typical salary range
$68,430 - $168,960
Projected growth (2020 - 2030)
9.1%

What personality traits are common among Chemical Engineers?

Interests

Career interests describe a person's preferences for different types of working environments and activities. When a person's interest match the demands of an occupation, people are usually more engaged and satisfied in that role.

Compared to most occupations, those who work as a Chemical Engineer are usually higher in their Investigative and Realistic interests.

Chemical Engineers typically have very strong Investigative interests. Investigative occupations frequently involve working with ideas, and require an extensive amount of thinking. These occupations can involve searching for facts and figuring out problems mentally.

Also, Chemical Engineers typically have very strong Realistic interests. Realistic occupations frequently involve work activities that include practical, hands-on problems and solutions. They often deal with plants, animals, and real-world materials like wood, tools, and machinery. Many of the occupations require working outside, and do not involve a lot of paperwork or working closely with others.

Values

People differ in their values, or what is most important to them for building job satisfaction and fulfillment.

Compared to most people, those working as a Chemical Engineer tend to value Recognition, Achievement, and Working Conditions.

Most importantly, Chemical Engineers strongly value Recognition. Occupations that satisfy this work value offer advancement, potential for leadership, and are often considered prestigious.

Second, Chemical Engineers strongly value Achievement. Occupations that satisfy this work value are results oriented and allow employees to use their strongest abilities, giving them a feeling of accomplishment.

Lastly, Chemical Engineers strongly value Working Conditions. Occupations that satisfy this work value offer job security and good working conditions.

Psychological Demands

Each occupation brings its own set of psychological demands, which describe the characteristics necessary to perform the job well.

In order to perform their job successfully, people who work as Chemical Engineers must consistently demonstrate qualities such as analytical thinking, integrity, and attention to detail.

Below, you'll find a list of qualities typically required of Chemical Engineers, ranked by importance:

Analytical Thinking
Job requires analyzing information and using logic to address work-related issues and problems.
Integrity
Job requires being honest and ethical.
Attention to Detail
Job requires being careful about detail and thorough in completing work tasks.
Dependability
Job requires being reliable, responsible, and dependable, and fulfilling obligations.
Achievement/Effort
Job requires establishing and maintaining personally challenging achievement goals and exerting effort toward mastering tasks.

What education and training do Chemical Engineers need?

Many Chemical Engineers will have a four-year bachelor's degree, but some do not.

Chemical Engineers usually need several years of work-related experience, on-the-job training, and/or vocational training.

Educational degrees among Chemical Engineers

  • 0.9% did not complete high school or secondary school
  • 3.0% completed high school or secondary school
  • 5.0% completed some college coursework
  • 3.8% earned a Associate's degree
  • 58.4% earned a Bachelor's degree
  • 21.7% earned a Master's degree
  • 7.1% earned a doctorate or professional degree

Knowledge and expertise required by Chemical Engineers

Chemical Engineers may benefit from understanding of specialized subject areas, such as engineering and technology, mathematics, or chemistry knowledge.

The list below shows several areas in which most Chemical Engineers might want to build proficiency, ranked by importance.

Engineering and Technology
Knowledge of the practical application of engineering science and technology. This includes applying principles, techniques, procedures, and equipment to the design and production of various goods and services.
Mathematics
Knowledge of arithmetic, algebra, geometry, calculus, statistics, and their applications.
Chemistry
Knowledge of the chemical composition, structure, and properties of substances and of the chemical processes and transformations that they undergo. This includes uses of chemicals and their interactions, danger signs, production techniques, and disposal methods.
Physics
Knowledge and prediction of physical principles, laws, their interrelationships, and applications to understanding fluid, material, and atmospheric dynamics, and mechanical, electrical, atomic and sub-atomic structures and processes.
Production and Processing
Knowledge of raw materials, production processes, quality control, costs, and other techniques for maximizing the effective manufacture and distribution of goods.

Important Abilities needed by Chemical Engineers

Chemical Engineers must develop a particular set of abilities to perform their job well. Abilities are individual capacities that influence a person's information processing, sensory perception, motor coordination, and physical strength or endurance. Individuals may naturally have certain abilities without explicit training, but most abilities can be sharpened somewhat through practice.

For example, Chemical Engineers need abilities such as written comprehension, oral comprehension, and problem sensitivity in order to perform their job at a high level. The list below shows several important abilities for Chemical Engineers, ranked by their relative importance.

Written Comprehension
The ability to read and understand information and ideas presented in writing.
Oral Comprehension
The ability to listen to and understand information and ideas presented through spoken words and sentences.
Problem Sensitivity
The ability to tell when something is wrong or is likely to go wrong. It does not involve solving the problem, only recognizing that there is a problem.
Deductive Reasoning
The ability to apply general rules to specific problems to produce answers that make sense.
Information Ordering
The ability to arrange things or actions in a certain order or pattern according to a specific rule or set of rules (e.g., patterns of numbers, letters, words, pictures, mathematical operations).

Critical Skills needed by Chemical Engineers

Skills are developed capacities that enable people to function effectively in real-world settings. Unlike abilities, skills are typically easier to build through practice and experience. Skills influence effectiveness in areas such as learning, working with others, design, troubleshooting, and more.

Chemical Engineers frequently use skills like science, complex problem solving, and critical thinking to perform their job effectively. The list below shows several critical skills for Chemical Engineers, ranked by their relative importance.

Science
Using scientific rules and methods to solve problems.
Complex Problem Solving
Identifying complex problems and reviewing related information to develop and evaluate options and implement solutions.
Critical Thinking
Using logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions, or approaches to problems.
Reading Comprehension
Understanding written sentences and paragraphs in work-related documents.
Mathematics
Using mathematics to solve problems.

What is the source of this information?

The information provided on this page is adapted from data and descriptions published by the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration under the CC BY 4.0 license. TraitLab has modified some information for ease of use and reading, and the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment, and Training Administration has not approved, endorsed, or tested these modifications.

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