Process EngineerJob Description, Salary, Career Path, and Trends

A process engineer designs, oversees, assesses, and implements processes that efficiently make products or provide services. The goal of a process engineer is to create systems that make the best use of workers, machines, materials, information, and energy. Process engineers design processes for use in a wide array of industries, including manufacturing, pharmaceutical, petroleum, and biotechnology. They review production schedules, design specifications, workflows, and other information to understand and adjust their company’s processes to make them more efficient.

Because workers are an essential part of many of the systems a process engineer designs, high-level interpersonal communication skills are vital in this role, in addition to skills and experience in engineering. Planning and analytical thinking are also a crucial part of being a process engineer. This position combines skill sets from several different jobs, including supply chain management, project management, and quality assurance.

Sample job description

Process engineers design, control, and operate the chemical or biochemical processes and equipment that are used to turn raw materials into useful, everyday products. They play a crucial role in many industries, but mainly in the manufacturing sector. [Your Company Name] is searching for a process engineer who has proven experience designing processes and equipment for manufacturing, testing, and monitoring equipment, and overseeing the deployment of the chemical or biochemical processes.

Typical duties and responsibilities

  • Evaluate processes and workflows to identify opportunities for improvement
  • Meet with Production Managers to assess existing processes
  • Create process ideas to reduce costs and improve production rates
  • Design and test process upgrades and new systems
  • Ensure operations comply with safety and quality standards
  • Perform process simulations and troubleshoot issues
  • Develop routines and best practices to ensure product quality
  • Develop standardized operating instructions for processes

Education and experience

This position requires a bachelor’s degree in manufacturing engineering, process engineering, industrial engineering, or a related field. Some employers prefer job candidates who have a master’s degree or Ph.D. for certain positions or career advancement.

Required skills and qualifications

  • Analytical, problem-solving and critical-thinking skills
  • Teamwork and interpersonal communication skills
  • Strong technical writing ability
  • Proficiency in working with process engineering and computer-assisted design software
  • Demonstrated expertise in solving highly technical problems
  • Advanced knowledge of production machinery and processes
  • High-level skill in computer technology and systems operations

Preferred qualifications

  • Understand customer demands and the impact of actions
  • Project management that results in the timely execution of actions that resolve issues
  • Compile and evaluate test data to determine appropriate limits and variables for process or material specifications
  • Bachelor’s degree in engineering

Average salary and compensation

The average salary for a process engineer is $89,200 in the United States. Position salary will vary based on experience, education, company size, industry, and market.

LocationSalary LowSalary High
Phoenix, Arizona$88,700$120,000
Los Angeles, California$100,000$83,400
Denver, Colorado$83,400$112,850
Washington, DC$101,599$137,450
Miami, Florida$83,000$112,350
Orlando, Florida$76,550$103,600
Tampa, Florida$77,350$104,650
Atlanta, Georgia$81,150$109,750
Chicago, Illinois$93,250$126,150
Boston, Massachusetts$100,850$136,450
Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota$80,350$108,750
New York City, New York$106,150$143,600
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania$86,450$116,950
Dallas, Texas$84,150$113,850
Houston, Texas$83,750$113,350
Seattle, Washington$97,050$131,300
National Average$75,800$102,550

Typical work environment

Process engineers spend much of their day in an office or laboratory environment. They might also be based onsite at industrial plants, refineries, and other large-scale manufacturing locations. They typically are involved in the planning, management, coordination, and control of the manufacturing process in the course of their day. Most process engineers work 40-hours weeks during regular business hours.  

Typical hours

The typical work hours for a process engineer are from 9 AM to 5 PM. However, some process engineers may work non-traditional hours, depending on the needs of their company.

Available certifications

Most companies will need a process engineer, so many institutions offer different certifications to help. Check out the following: 

  • Certified Manufacturing Engineer (CMfgE). Designed for experienced candidates with a minimum of 8 combined years of manufacturing-related education and work experience, this certification proves your knowledge, skills, and abilities in manufacturing processes, design and development, automated systems and control, digital enterprise, and more. You must receive 60% or higher on the exam to pass. You must recertify every three years to maintain certification.
  • Certified Quality Engineer (CQE). The CQE is offered by the American Society of Quality and demonstrates your skills in the development and operation of quality control systems, application and analysis of testing and inspection procedures, the ability to use metrology and statistical methods to diagnose and correct improper quality control practices, and more. Candidates must have 8 or more years of experience in quality engineering. The comprehensive exam consists of multiple-choice questions.

Career path

This position requires a bachelor’s degree in manufacturing engineering, process engineering, industrial engineering, or a related field. Some employers prefer job candidates who have a master’s degree or Ph.D. for certain positions or career advancement. Successful process engineers can advance into roles as team leaders or supervisors.

US, Bureau of Labor Statistics’ job outlook

SOC Code: 17-2031

2020 Employment20,400
Projected Employment in 203021,624
Projected 2020-2030 Percentage Shift 6% increase
Projected 2020-2030 Numeric Shift1,100 increase

According to the industry website Interesting Engineering, one trend that will affect all engineering sectors soon, including process engineering, is the increasing use of the Internet of Things (IoT). Smart devices are impacting the metrics by which factories’ productivity is measured. 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 should become even more popular beyond that. This development will lead to new battery technology as well as advances in power grid management.

Sample interview questions

  • What is a process engineer to you?
  • How do you plan and prioritize your work?
  • What skills do process engineers need to be successful?
  • What techniques do you use to troubleshoot existing production processes?
  • What are the steps of designing new production processes?
  • What major processing systems have you implemented?
  • How would you troubleshoot a piece of equipment in a plant?
  • What is a P&ID? Have you used one before?
  • How familiar are you with composing instructional documents, blueprints, and troubleshooting guides for processing systems?
  • How do you handle pressure at work?
  • Can you describe a situation when you went above and beyond with your service?
  • What do you want to accomplish in this position with our company?
  • What is your biggest professional failure? What did you learn from it?
  • What was your most successful engineering experience? 
  • What motivates you at work?
  • Can you describe a problem you were unable to solve? How did you resolve the issue?
  • Can you describe a time when you inspected materials, components, and products for defects? 
  • What interests you in this role?
  • How do you prioritize your work?
  • How would you work with a high volume of data that involves many different overlapping processes?

Process Engineer Jobs in Ashburn

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