As with many areas of engineering, there are common misconceptions about what the job involves in our ever-changing digital world. Chemical engineering is no exception to this, with typical associations involving nuclear power plants, laboratories, test tubes and white lab coats.
However, chemical engineering is much more than that. If you haven’t considered working in chemical engineering it may be time to reconsider, as there are a whole host of benefits you can experience in a growing and intriguing industry.
The chemical industry spans a wide range of sectors, from oil to medicine and pharmaceuticals. All of these sectors have a lot going on in the background where there are plenty of jobs and skills opportunities.
As with the other sectors mentioned on this website, travelling is a huge advantage of working in the chemical industry. Once you’re trained, qualified and experienced, you can work almost anywhere in the world. Engineers are in demand globally and with the chemical industry constantly developing, you’ll be needed in many places, so you’ll have the freedom to choose where you live and work.
Smaller companies can be better than larger ones
The larger companies can be difficult to work for because there’s so much competition for them. The chemical industry relies a lot on the smaller companies to support the bigger ones. A lot of them are in the private sector and many of them run independently. You’ll be guaranteed variety in the chemical industry, whether you’re involved with research or the manufacturing side.
From start to finish
You’ll be involved with a lot of ‘start to finish’ projects in the chemical industry. Projects can take a long time to conceive and follow through to the end, so if you’re part of the next big chemical engineering project, you can experience the satisfaction that comes from seeing a project though to the very end and measure its success.
Room to evolve and progress
Chemical engineering, like other engineering sectors, gives you the chance to move around as much as you please. The sector itself has many branches, so if you prefer the textiles area to biotechnology, you can still be a chemical engineer. Training opportunities are commonly found and you can progress to a senior level with the right experience and qualifications.
The industry does pay well for qualified chemical engineers. Graduate chemical engineers can have a starting salary of £28,000 – not too bad for your first job! If you’re a senior chartered chemical engineer, you can earn around £60,000 a year or more.
As a chemical engineer, you can have a varied and busy role without the pressure of trying to balance your personal life. Working hours are usually standard, e.g. Monday to Friday, for around 40 hours a week. This is a great advantage, as it gives you the freedom to pursue other opportunities in training or continuing personal development to get those larger wage packets. If you’re working in manufacturing, shift work may be required, although this is easy to live around these days and has its own advantages.
What do I need to become a chemical engineer?
To become a chemical engineer, at the very minimum you’ll need a bachelor’s degree in engineering relating to the biochemical and similar fields. To obtain this degree you need to have as many sciences and maths subjects under your belt as possible at school and college. After the bachelor’s degree, you can pursue a master’s depending on the specific area you want to get in to. If you’re interested in researching and teaching chemical engineering, a master’s will be beneficial. If you want to learn on the job, a bachelor’s is usually all that’s required. Keep an eye out for graduate schemes with chemical engineering companies or look further on our website for the current jobs available.
You’ll need to be proactive and good at working in a team. Some projects can go on for weeks, months or years at a time. Health and safety practices are very important in chemical engineering and an understanding of the general methods used is an advantage. Similar to the oil and gas sector, if you have a background in environmental chemistry/biology this can be advantageous. There are a lot of concerns regarding sustainability of the earth’s resources and climate change issues, so if you have an understanding of these issues this can help you land the job you want.