Chemical engineering is an exciting field with so many diverse opportunities. If you’ve set your heart on being a chemical engineer, consider this your guide to your future career. As you get ready to enter the field, here are some things you should know about the required education, skills, and experience for chemical engineering careers.
In order to secure a career in chemical engineering, you’ll need to get a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering. Certain programs offer internships or co-ops as part of the curriculum, giving you the opportunity to gain concrete work experience for your CV. Additionally, while the standard BA program lasts four years, there are certain programs you can complete in five years and earn a master’s degree as well. If you decide to go in the direction of graduate education for chemical engineering, you’ll have the opportunity to work in research or teaching.
Unlike other engineering fields, you don’t have to be licensed to secure an entry-level job; all you need is the appropriate bachelor’s degree. However, you also have the option of getting licensed. Licensed engineers are called professional engineers (PEs) and the certification means you are able to oversee the work of other engineers, manage projects, and offer services to the public.
There are certain essential skills for anyone interested in chemical engineering careers. Foremost of these is problem-solving skills. After all, engineering is in large part a career that is all about problem solving. Chemical engineers design equipment and processes for manufacturing, and an integral part of that job includes finding problems and solving them in order to make the equipment or process that much more solid. A skill that comes in handy here is ingenuity. The ability to come up with creative solutions and to think outside of the box is a big part of what chemical engineers do. They help invent new materials and work with sophisticated manufacturing technologies that require creative thinking.
Analytical skills are also very important. Being able to determine what the issue is and think through all the possible avenues is an incredibly valuable skill in this field, and something that chemical engineering recruiters will be actively looking for.
Finally, interpersonal skills are also important. You’ll be working with a lot of different people throughout your chemical engineering career, and being able to establish good relationships with other workers is key. Chemical engineering often includes a complicated production process, and a cohesive workforce is essential for the job to go smoothly.
Get as much experience as you can in all different areas of chemical engineering. The more versatile you are in the field, the better your chance of landing a career. Chemical engineers mostly work in laboratories, but will often also work for periods of time in industrial plants and refineries in order to monitor operations taking place there.
Finding a college program that offers internships or co-ops is a great way to gain experience. However, if you graduate from college with limited experience, don’t panic. Most chemical engineers begin as junior-level engineers at a company, working under an experienced chemical engineer on a diverse set of tasks. This is how they build up their experience before moving on in their careers. Once you’ve acquired the experience you need to work in the field as a junior-level engineer, you’ll move up to a senior-level engineer role—a fairly common career trajectory in chemical engineering.
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