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Have you thought about working in chemical engineering?

Written by: Charlotte Rogers
Published on: 1 Jun 2022

Chemical Engineering Hero Image

Engineering is a vast career to choose and much like any other profession, there are common misconceptions about what certain jobs involve. When you think of chemical engineering, what do you imagine? Is it nuclear plants, labs, and white coats?

Although this can be part of it and often what we first associate with the sector, chemical engineering can offer so much more than just this. Chemical engineers can develop and design manufacturing processes. They use their skills to solve problems that involve the use of chemicals. This can be in the production of so many things, such as food, fuel, medicine and so much more.

They often use the sciences and maths to solve problems and the day to day can alter drastically. 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 vast number of sectors and areas of interest really do give everyone the chance to find a career in chemical engineering. It’s all about trial and error, learning on the go and with the ever-changing world of discovery, there’s always a chance for you to shine.

Why should you consider chemical engineering?

If I haven’t persuaded you with the above, there are so many different advantages to chemical engineering and these include salary, travel opportunities and advances in technology. You might get the chance to be creative, work for a company that you are passionate about and solve some of the most challenging environmental issues. This sector of engineering definitely has more to offer than you initially expect.

Opportunity for travel

Much like other engineering sectors, 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. Your skills are likely to be transferable for different areas of chemical engineering and you could work with any organisation you put your mind to.

Engineers are in demand globally and with the chemical industry constantly developing, you’ll be needed in many places, so it’s likely that you will have the freedom to choose where you live and work. Which can be important to so many people.

From start to finish

As I mentioned above, there is still a lot to learn about chemical engineering. Engineers all over the world are looking for alternatives to plastic, a new way to evolve food products and lifesaving medication.

So, it’s likely that you will 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.

There is room for new and big ideas, so if you are someone with a lot to give, this really could be a great step for your career because companies need you.

Room to evolve and progress

Much like other sectors, working in chemical engineering can give you the chance to move around and progress your career. There is no one thing or project within chemical engineering. You learn one thing and you can use that knowledge and skill to branch off onto another project that grabs your attention. So, if you have worked with materials for a long time and you are craving a change, you can transfer your skills into biotechnology.

It’s important that we move away from perceptions that this is just nuclear power and working in a lab. When you look past the cover and really delve into what you can achieve, the opportunities can be endless. Training opportunities are commonly found, and you can progress to a senior level with the right experience and qualifications. It really is what you make of it.

Salary opportunities

The industry does pay well for qualified chemical engineers. They pay for talent and according to Glassdoor (2022), the average starting salary for a graduate looking to go into chemical engineering is around £30,000 – not too bad for a first job!

The earning potential can be amazing. You learn on the job, put in the effort and work your way up, just like any other industry and you can be earning around £65,000 a year as a senior chartered chemical engineer.

For a lot of people, salary isn’t everything they aspire from a job, but it can be a really good incentive!

Work-life balance

As a chemical engineer, your life at times can feel very busy. Just like any other job, it can have its busy periods where work can seem frantic. But this isn’t new, and you can experience this anywhere. However, the hours are usually standard (depending on the company). Monday – Friday for around 40 hours a week seems to still be the typical working week, and this can change between projects and organisations. However, you can build a healthy work life balance around these hours.

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.

As well as being able to actually live your life outside of work. Usually, with generous holiday allowances as well. But like any other job, this differs between employers.

What do I need to become a chemical engineer?

To become a chemical engineer, you will need a bachelor’s degree in engineering, a successful apprenticeship or simply be confident in yourself and work your way up. Chemical engineering is like the other sectors, your skills are transferable and if you change your mind, can change the direction of your career if needed. Overall, you’ll need passion and drive to become a chemical engineer. It takes time, learning and dedication, just like other sectors in engineering.

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 understand these issues this can help you land the job you want.