Chemical Engineers

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Chemical engineers (or process engineers) are responsible for developing new industrial processes and designing new process plants and equipment or modifying existing ones. The processes that they come up with are used to create products ranging from oil and gas to food and drink. The role can include:

  • testing new processes

  • collecting data required to make improvements and modifications

  • overseeing the construction of new plants

  • using and developing process simulation software to work out the best production methods

  • purchasing and installing equipment

  • using scientific principles related to magnitude, momentum, heat transfer etc

  • supervising plant operations

  • investigating and troubleshooting plant/process problems

  • scheduling and coordinating work to tight deadlines and within financial budgets

  • ensuring that equipment works to its specification and to appropriate capacities

  • assessing safety and environmental issues

  • liaising with installation/project engineers and specialists

  • ensuring safe working conditions and compliance with health and safety legislation.


Qualifications and training required for chemical engineers


There are routes into this career for both graduates and school leavers. Graduates will need a degree in a relevant subject such as chemical engineering, biochemical engineering or mechanical engineering. Some employers will ask for a 2.1 degree but others will accept candidates with a 2.2 degree.

A postgraduate qualification can be beneficial, and may be necessary for some posts

Achieving chartered (CEng) status with the Engineering Council can help to demonstrate your professionalism and commitment to your field. To become chartered, you will need an accredited bachelors degree in engineering or technology, plus an appropriate masters degree (MEng) or doctorate (EngD) accredited by a professional engineering institution such as Institution of Chemical Engineers (IChemE). You will also be eligible with an integrated MSc.


Key skills for chemical engineers


  • An aptitude for and interest in chemistry

  • IT and numeracy skills

  • Analytical skills

  • Commercial awareness

  • The ability to work well under pressure

  • Communication and teamworking skills

  • Problem-solving skills


Typical employers of chemical engineers


  • Chemical production and process companies (for example, pharmaceutical, consumer goods, synthetics, plastics, paints and polymer manufacturers)

  • The water treatment industry

  • Food manufacturers

  • Oil refining/petrochemical companies and associated service and contractor companies

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Who employs process engineers?

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