Chemical EngineerJob Description, Salary, Career Path, and Trends

A chemical engineer designs and troubleshoots processes for making fuels, foods, pharmaceuticals, chemicals, and biologicals. They take a process developed in a laboratory setting and turn it into a practical application. Chemical engineers are employed by companies in various industries, from biomedical to aerospace, automotive, energy, and the military.

Chemical engineers are involved in the development and production of almost every industrially manufactured product. They design experiments, monitor results, and conduct tests throughout production. In some cases, chemical engineers create safety procedures for working with dangerous chemicals. Usually, a chemical engineer specializes in a particular chemical process such as oxidation, or a specific field or type of product, like food additives.

Sample job description

Chemical engineers research, develop and manufacture chemicals, drugs, fuels, and a wide variety of other products using scientific and engineering principles. They work with dangerous chemicals, performing tests and analyzing results to ensure product safety to consumers. A chemical engineer has a solid background in chemistry, physics, biology, and mathematics. [Your Company Name] has an opening for an experienced chemical engineer to take our business to new heights. If you are highly creative and have experience researching, implementing, analyzing, and improving chemical processes, equipment, and plants, our open position as a chemical engineer might be a perfect role for you.

Typical duties and responsibilities

  • Use computer models and other processes to build on the discoveries of chemists by testing products and determining their safety for consumers and the environment
  • Research new methods of manufacturing chemicals
  • Estimate production costs
  • Design and implement safety procedures for employees working with potentially hazardous chemicals
  • Ensure compliance with health, safety, and environmental regulations
  • Design and plan equipment layout
  • Monitor and optimize production processes

Education and experience

This position requires a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering and coursework in chemistry, physics, math, and computers. Some employers prefer that candidates have a master’s degree or PhD for certain positions.

Required skills and qualifications

  • Analytical, problem-solving, and critical-thinking skills
  • Proficient in advanced mathematics
  • Teamwork and interpersonal communication skills
  • Strong technical writing ability
  • Experience with database and spreadsheet software
  • Demonstrated expertise in solving complex technical problems

Preferred qualifications

  • Master’s degree in engineering
  • Strong attention to detail
  • Excellent mathematical skills

Average salary and compensation

The average salary for a chemical engineer is $82,750 in the United States. Position salary will vary based on experience, education, company size, industry, and market.

LocationSalary LowSalary High
Phoenix, Arizona$82,250$111,350
Los Angeles, California$92,850$125,600
Denver, Colorado$77,350$104,650
Washington, DC$94,250$127,500
Miami, Florida$77,050$104,200
Orlando, Florida$71,050$96,100
Tampa, Florida$71,750$97,050
Atlanta, Georgia$75,250$101,800
Chicago, Illinois$86,550$117,050
Boston, Massachusetts$93,550$126,550
Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota$74,550$100,850
New York City, New York$98,450$133,250
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania$80,150$108,450
Dallas, Texas$78,050$105,650
Houston, Texas$77,750$105,150
Seattle, Washington$90,050$121,800
National Average$70,350$95,150

Typical work environment

Chemical engineers typically work in offices, laboratories, or on-site at industrial plants, refineries, and other locations. They generally work with or are exposed to hazardous chemicals and wear protective gear, such as gloves and goggles. Most chemical engineers work full time during business hours.

Typical hours

The typical work hours for a chemical engineer are usually from 9 AM to 5 PM, Monday through Friday in an office setting. However, many chemical engineers work longer hours to hit project deadlines or troubleshoot production issues.

Available certifications

Chemical engineers work in a variety of industries, including manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, electronics, and biotechnology. Many institutions offer certifications to help chemical engineers expand their skills and knowledge. Here are some of the top certifications for chemical engineers: 

  • Certified Chemical Engineer. The National Certification Commission in Chemistry and Chemical Engineering offers this certification that recognizes chemists and chemical engineers who have achieved a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and chemical engineering and have 1 to 3 years of related experience. The certification is valid for 3 years, during which you must participate in continuing education in order to retain certification. 
  • Professional Engineer (PE) License. The PE license is offered by The National Society of Professional Engineers and proves your knowledge and skills as a professional engineer. The PE is awarded to those professionals who demonstrate the highest standard of competence and quality. Eligibility requirements include completion of a four-year college degree from an accredited engineering program, four years of work experience under a professional engineer, and a passing grade on the Principles and Practice of Engineering exam.

Career path

This position requires a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering and coursework in chemistry, physics, math, and computers. Employers often prefer that candidates have a master’s degree or Ph.D., as well as a Professional Engineer (PE) license. Obtaining this license requires a passing score on the Fundamentals of Engineering exam, on-the-job experience, and a passing score on the Principles and Practice of Engineering Examination. Successful chemical engineers can advance to supervising a team of engineers and receive greater independence to design and evaluate projects and processes.

US, Bureau of Labor Statistics’ job outlook

SOC Code: 17-2041

2020 Employment26,300
Projected Employment in 203028,700
Projected 2020-2030 Percentage Shift 9% increase
Projected 2020-2030 Numeric Shift2,400 increase

According to the industry website Interesting Engineering, one trend that will affect all engineering sectors soon, including Chemical Engineering, is the increasing use of the Internet of Things (IoT). Smart devices are impacting the metrics to measure factories’ productivity. Another growing trend in engineering is the use of renewable energy. An estimated 19 percent of power in the U.S. will come from renewable sources like wind, solar, and hydropower in 2020, and renewable energy technology is expected to become even more popular. This trend should lead to new battery technology as well as advances in power grid management.

Sample interview questions

  • What does a chemical engineer do?
  • What are the latest trends in your field of chemical engineering?
  • What key qualities does a chemical engineer need?
  • How do you deal with conflicts in your lab?
  • What is flow control, and can you explain how it is used in a chemical engineering process?
  • What is entropy?
  • What is the best part of being a chemical engineer?
  • What was your most successful project?
  • What is the third law of thermodynamics?
  • What is material requirement planning? How do you use it as a chemical engineer?
  • What is the solvent?
  • Which common chemical engineering equipment are you familiar with?
  • What is an angle of repose, and why is it important in chemical engineering?
  • What is carbon sequestration?
  • Can you describe a time when your testing identified areas for improvement? Were the changes implemented and were they successful?
  • At what temperature does water have maximum density?
  • What is the process to extract hydrogen from water?
  • What are food additives and how are they used?
  • What are the greenhouse gasses in Earth’s atmosphere?
  • What are the differences between unit operations and unit processes?

Chemical Engineer Jobs in Ashburn

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