Chemical engineers draw on their knowledge of scientific principles of chemistry, mathematical concepts, and engineering to develop new products, advanced technologies, and processes. Their primary role is to provide solutions to technical problems associated with production and use of chemical substances efficiently and economically.
Chemical engineers may be called upon to mastermind and construct more effective pharmaceutical or medical devices, streamline a manufacturing process in a petroleum refinery, improve food processing and packaging methods, fabricate safer fertilizers and pesticides, create harmless paints and dyes, design and oversee the construction of chemical manufacturing facilities, or find solutions to environmental challenges.
Chemical engineering is a multifaceted professional field. The scope of the responsibilities of chemical engineers, who are also referred to as Universal Engineers, varies by employer and area of specialization. Generally speaking, Research & Development Engineers devise and implement methods and procedures for testing and evaluating of experimental data with the goal to develop better products, instrumentation, and processes. Technical Services Engineers lend technical support to customers, usually on site, troubleshooting production problems or equipment malfunction. They may serve as a liaison between customers and Administration, Service, Sales, and Engineering Departments. Product Engineers monitor the production cycle of a certain product and provide feedback to the R&D and marketing departments. Sales Engineers advice clients on the selection of products and instrumentation that meet their needs. Project Engineers perform system analyses, design and operate pilot plants to determine project feasibility. Quality Control Engineers develop and apply diagnostic tools and methods for inspecting and gauging precision and accuracy of products and production equipment. QC engineers perform statistical analysis of data to assess the product cost and to confirm that quality and reliability standards are in compliance with the industry’s protocol. Process Control Engineers recommend procedural and process improvements to achieve the plants productivity and quality goals. They also establish and maintain Statistical Process Control to ensure that the product is in line with prescribed tolerances. Chemical Process Development Engineers are involved in the design, documentation, and procurement of automated chemical process equipment and methods and oversee their integration into volume-production. Environmental Engineers develop techniques to recover usable materials, reduce hazardous waste, and control pollution resulting from manufacturing a product.
Chemical engineers are a part of a dynamic work environment and quite often lead cross-functional and cross-site teams in the design and development of unique technologies and processes. In view of the fact that chemical engineers employ specialized computer technology throughout all the phases of product research and development, chemical process analysis, engineering and constructing of automated production control systems, and statistical quality control, they have to stay abreast with the latest computer applications. As with any engineering major, the Chemical Engineering curriculum is rigorous and demanding.
Job opportunities may be found in the industrial chemical, pharmaceutical, healthcare, construction, microelectronics, paper and pulp, food processing, and other manufacturing industries, research and testing services, government and consulting agencies. An advanced degree is usually required for some research, teaching, consulting, and managerial positions.
Students interested in pursuing a Bachelor’s degree should meet with an academic and/or transfer counselor to discuss transfer requirements.
Key Skills and Characteristics
- Natural curiosity, ability to synthesize data, and make decisions based of facts.
- Knowledge of chemistry, mathematics, and scientific rules and methods.
- Technical, analytical, critical thinking, and decision-making skills.
- Complex problem solving.
- Effective organizational and time-management skills.
- Ability to communicate clearly in writing and in oral presentations.
- People skills (as in leading and participating in teams).
- Knowledge of computer languages and applications.
- Capability to work under pressure and meet deadlines.
Related Career Titles
*Research & Development Engineer *Technical Services Engineer *Quality Control Engineer *Product Engineer *Manufacturing Production Engineer *Project Manager *Biomedical Specialist *Technical Manager *College Instructor *Secondary School Science Teacher
Please visit the GCC Career Center to research specific occupational information and learn more about your prospective career path.