Job description

Chemical engineers use the principles of chemistry and engineering – and other sciences – to research, develop and manufacture raw materials and turn them into a wide range of usable products, such as chemicals, drugs, energy and food. Their work also involves designing and operating plants and equipment.


    • Design laboratory experiments to determine if a material can be used for the intended outcome
    • Establish safety procedures for working with dangerous chemicals and operating machinery
    • Perform tests inside a lab and assess the findings of each one
    • Monitor the results of every stage of production and record specifics of every part
    • Research new methods for improving the chemical manufacturing process
    • Calculate financial estimates of production costs and approximate length of time
    • Determine the most effective way to mix, crush, dry, distill and transfer heat
    • Delegate responsibilities for colleagues who are operating or enhancing the equipment
    • Produce control systems for chemical plants using data from operations, tests and research
    • Apply new technologies

Skills and qualities

Commercial awareness
Time management

Job outlook

Projected growth
The projected growth rate of employment in the US from 2016 to 2026, based on data collected through the BLS Employment Projections (EP) programme. The national average growth rate for all professions is 7%.


New jobs
The number of jobs projected to become available in the US between 2016 and 2026, based on data collected through the BLS Employment Projections (EP) programme.


Automation risk
The probability of computerisation, based on data published in ‘The Future of Employment’, a 2013 working paper by Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael Osborne.


Career progression

Most chemical engineers will begin their careers under the supervision of seasoned engineers, which is quite common prior to earning a licence. Even when starting out, chemical engineers will gain their experience in research laboratories, pilot plant facilities and manufacturing plants. Entry-level engineers will also travel, either from one place to another or one city to another.

A lot of chemical engineers who have been in the industry for 10 to 20 years will work in business and management positions. This still consists of visiting production and research facilities, but this role involves interacting with other people who are integral to the team and to the success of projects.

Working conditions

Average hours

40h/ week

Typical schedule

Full Time

Nights, weekends, holidays occasionally

Chemical engineers will keep a standard full-time 40-hour schedule in a plant setting or refinery environment. It should be noted that some professionals will clock in an additional 5 to 10 hours each week, mostly because of travel times to and from worksites at home and abroad.

There are three primary places that chemical engineers will work: laboratories, plants and universities.


Bottom 10%




Top 10%


Annual salary estimates are based on percentile wage data collected through the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) survey of US workers.

Qualifications and training

Education level


BS or BA in chemical engineering

Study time

4 years

To serve as a chemical engineer, you will need to complete your Bachelor of Science degree in chemical engineering at an accredited university or college. This education concentrates on the core fundamentals, and graduates can then specialise their studies in an area of chemical engineering.

Should you decide to enhance your credentials to a master’s degree or PhD, then you will home in on numerical methods, chemical reactor engineering, transport phenomena and chemical engineering thermodynamics.

Also, engineers are required to pass two exams from the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES) to be licensed.

Last Updated: Wednesday, November 2, 2022

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