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Chemical Engineers
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Description: what do they do?
Design chemical plant equipment and devise processes for manufacturing chemicals and products, such as gasoline, synthetic rubber, plastics, detergents, cement, paper, and pulp, by applying principles and technology of chemistry, physics, and engineering.
Also known as:
Development Engineer, Engineer, Engineering Scientist, Project Engineer, Chemical Engineer, Scientist, Process Engineer, Research Chemical Engineer, Process Control Engineer, Refinery Process Engineer

    What does this information tell me?

    This description is a quick overview of what workers in this career might do.

    "Also known as" shows other common names for this career.

    What is the source of this information?

    This information comes from an O*NET database. Learn more on the Help page.

Career video
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    Transcript: The chemical engineer, wearing trademark white lab coat and goggles, pouring strange liquids from beaker to flask, is an image straight out of science fiction. However, the reality is that chemical engineers are an essential part of 21st century manufacturing-designing processes for the production and use of chemicals, fuels, food, drugs, and more. The ultimate tinkerers, these engineers continually conduct research to develop new ways to separate components of liquids and gases, or to generate electrical currents using chemistry. They must use not only their science and math skills, but also creative problem-solving and troubleshooting, especially when designs don't work the first time. Chemical engineers design equipment to produce everything from tires to asphalt. Their teammates are the technicians and mechanics who put designs into practice. They work in offices and labs at industrial plants, and at coal or oil refineries to oversee operations. Some engineers travel extensively to oversee their designs onsite; improving safety, productivity, and arranging manufacturing operations. These engineers must have a bachelor's degree in chemical engineering. Employers value graduates with practical experience, such as internships and cooperative engineering programs. A Professional Engineering license may increase advancement possibilities. A graduate degree is needed for teaching or to lead research and development.
View transcript
Outlook: will there be jobs?
Image. Employment outlook for this occupation
New job opportunities are likely in the future.


    What does this information tell me?

    Outlook information can tell you whether a career is expected to be in demand in the future—that is, whether there are likely to be job openings if you choose this career. Careers can have one of three outlooks:

    • A Bright outlook means new job opportunities are very likely in the future
    • An Average outlook means that a small number of new job opportunities are likely in the future (less than an 8 percent increase)
    • A Below Average outlook means new job opportunities are less likely in the future

    You can also view local job listings in this field by clicking "Find job openings" above. This can help you see if local businesses are hiring—another way of looking at demand.

    What is the source of this information?

    This information comes from the O*NET Resource Center. Learn more about O*NET’s Bright Outlook occupations. Note this information is only available at a national level, so even if you selected a state, you’ll only see this information for the whole country.

Projected employment
United States
32,700
2016 Employment
35,100
2026 Employment
8%
Percent change
2,400
Annual projected job openings

    What does this information tell me?

    Projected employment shows how much employment is expected to grow in this occupation over a 10-year period. This can help you decide if this career is a good choice for future job opportunities. You can look at projected employment in your state, or in other states where you might consider living.

    You can see the total number of people employed in this occupation in 2016, the number expected to be employed in 2026, and rate of growth over those years.

    The projections are based on assumptions of unemployment rates and labor productivity growth rates.  While the projected numbers may not be exact, they are helpful to compare one career to another, or one location to another.

    What is the source of this information?

    State-level data come from Projections Central and each state's Labor Market Information office.

    National-level data come from the Bureau of Labor Statistics Employment Projections, 2016-26.

Typical wages

Annual wages for Chemical Engineers in United States
This graph displays wage data.  Find details by selecting the table view.
This chart displays wage data.  Find details by selecting the table view.
LocationUnited States
10%$64,890
25%$81,900
Median$104,910
75%$133,320
90%$169,770


    What does this information tell me?

    This chart shows you a range of how much most workers in this occupation earn per hour, in the location that you selected.

    You can select from three views of this data:

    • The Graph shows you wages at the 10th, 25th, 50th, 75th and 90th percentiles. Note that the lowest (10th %ile) wage shown is not necessarily a "starting wage." Instead it means that 10 percent of all workers in this career earn less that this amount, and 90 percent earn more. However, you can assume that you might earn close to the 10th or 25th %ile wages when you start out in most careers.
    • Select "Chart" to see a visual comparison between national wages and wages in the location you selected.
    • Select "Table" to see more wage data the national and local level.

    Please note that wage data are not available at the city or ZIP code level. If you selected a city or ZIP code, you will see wage data for the regional area.

    Also note that in this update, 21 detailed occupations found within the 2010 Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) were replaced with 10 new aggregations of those occupations; read more about these OES changes.

    You can learn more about wages for this and other occupations by clicking “See more wages” above.

    What is the source of this information?

    The wage information comes from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics Program, 2018 data. For more detailed state wage data, please find the link to your state's wage data program in the Other Resources box.

Education and experience: to get started
People starting in this career usually have:
  • Bachelor's degree
  • No work experience
  • No on-the-job training

Programs that can prepare you:

    What does this information tell me?

    This shows you the typical level of education, work experience, and on-the-job training that most people have when they start in this career. Note that these are not requirements for entering this field, but the information can help you understand how qualified you might be.

    Interested in starting in this career? You can search for education programs in your local area by clicking “Find local training” above.

    What is the source of this information?

    This information comes from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Office of Occupational Statistics and Employment Projections Education and Training Data.

Typical education
How much education do most people in this career have?
Chart. Percent of workers in this field by education level attained

    What does this information tell me?

    This chart shows you the range of education levels that people who currently work in this field have. You can use this to see if you fit in this range. Note that this includes ALL people who work in this field and not just those getting started.

    Interested in getting qualified for this career? You can search for programs that lead to the education needed, in your local area, by clicking “Find local training” above.

    What is the source of this information?

    This information comes from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Office of Occupational Statistics and Employment Projections Education and Training Data.

Certifications: show your skills
Let employers know you have the skills to do well at this job.
Earning a certification can help you:
  • Get a job
  • Get a promotion

    What does this information tell me?

    When you click "Find certifications" you'll see a list of national certifications that are related to this career. From there, you can learn how to achieve one of these certifications to help you enter or get ahead in this field.

    What is the source of this information?

    This collection of occupational certifications is collected and regularly updated by CareerOneStop. Learn more at Certification Finder Help.

Licenses: do you need one?
Some states require an occupational license to work in this career.

    What does this information tell me?

    When you click "Find license details in your state" you'll see the license name and contact information for the agency in your state that oversees licensing for this field. If you have not selected a location, you'll see a list of all state licenses for this occupation.

    What is the source of this information?

    Information on licensed occupations is gathered in each state by Labor Market Information units under a grant from the U.S. Department of Labor. Learn more at License Finder Help.

Apprenticeships: learn on the job
Apprenticeships combine paid on-the-job-training with classroom lessons.

    What does this information tell me?

    When you click "Find apprenticeship sponsors" you'll find information that can help you locate apprenticeship opportunities in your state:

    • If there are businesses that have sponsored apprenticeships in this field in the past, you'll find their name and contact information.
    • If there are related occupations that might have apprenticeship opportunities, you'll find links to that information.
    • You'll also see contact information for state and federal agencies that oversee apprenticeship programs.

    What is the source of this information?

    Apprenticeship information comes from the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Apprenticeships, and from CareerOneStop. Learn more at Apprenticeship Finder Help.

Activities: what you might do in a day
  • Research engineering aspects of biological or chemical processes.
  • Develop technical methods or processes.
  • Determine causes of operational problems or failures.
  • Evaluate characteristics of equipment or systems.
  • Research industrial processes or operations.
  • Conduct validation tests of equipment or processes.
  • Design control systems for mechanical or other equipment.
  • Prepare operational reports.
  • Estimate operational costs.
  • Determine operational methods.
  • Direct industrial production activities.
  • Monitor the productivity or efficiency of industrial operations.
  • Design industrial processing systems.

    What does this information tell me?

    This is a list of typical work activities that people in this career might do on the job. You can use this list to get an idea of whether this career might be a good fit for you.

    Click on “More activities” to see more detailed examples of activities for this career.

    You can also use this list to help you prepare for a job interview. Or, if you’ve already held a job like this, you can copy these activities to use on your resume.

    What is the source of this information?

    This information comes from O*NET OnLine's Occupation Information. They are O*NET’s Detailed Work Activities.

Knowledge
People in this career often know a lot about:
  • Engineering and Technology - Knowledge of the practical application of engineering science and technology. This includes applying principles, techniques, procedures, and equipment to the design and production of various goods and services.
  • Chemistry - Knowledge of the chemical composition, structure, and properties of substances and of the chemical processes and transformations that they undergo. This includes uses of chemicals and their interactions, danger signs, production techniques, and disposal methods.
  • Mathematics - Knowledge of arithmetic, algebra, geometry, calculus, statistics, and their applications.
  • Physics - Knowledge and prediction of physical principles, laws, their interrelationships, and applications to understanding fluid, material, and atmospheric dynamics, and mechanical, electrical, atomic and sub- atomic structures and processes.
  • Production and Processing - Knowledge of raw materials, production processes, quality control, costs, and other techniques for maximizing the effective manufacture and distribution of goods.
  • Design - Knowledge of design techniques, tools, and principles involved in production of precision technical plans, blueprints, drawings, and models.
  • English Language - Knowledge of the structure and content of the English language including the meaning and spelling of words, rules of composition, and grammar.
  • Computers and Electronics - Knowledge of circuit boards, processors, chips, electronic equipment, and computer hardware and software, including applications and programming.

    What does this information tell me?

    This is a list of general knowledge areas that are most commonly required for jobs in the career. Knowledge is typically gained through education and related experience.

    This list can help you learn if you are prepared for a job in this career. It can also help you decide on education or training programs that could help you prepare for the career.

    What is the source of this information?

    This information comes from the O*NET Resource Center. Learn more about O*NET's Knowledge descriptors.

Skills
People in this career often have these skills:
  • Science - Using scientific rules and strategies to solve problems.
  • Complex Problem Solving - Noticing a problem and figuring out the best way to solve it.
  • Critical Thinking - Thinking about the pros and cons of different ways to solve a problem.
  • Systems Analysis - Figuring out how a system should work and how changes in the future will affect it.
  • Judgment and Decision Making - Thinking about the pros and cons of different options and picking the best one.
  • Mathematics - Using math to solve problems.
  • Reading Comprehension - Reading work-related information.
  • Active Learning - Figuring out how to use new ideas or things.
  • Systems Evaluation - Measuring how well a system is working and how to improve it.
  • Operations Analysis - Figuring out what a product or service needs to be able to do.
  • Speaking - Talking to others.
  • Active Listening - Listening to others, not interrupting, and asking good questions.

    What does this information tell me?

    This is a list of a list the work-related skills most commonly required for jobs in the career.

    This list can help you understand how well your current skills fit this career. It can also help you plan your education or professional development.

    What is the source of this information?

    This information comes from the O*NET Resource Center. Learn more about O*NET's Skills descriptors.

Abilities
People in this career often have talent in:
  • Written Comprehension - Reading and understanding what is written.
  • Problem Sensitivity - Noticing when problems happen.
  • Deductive Reasoning - Using rules to solve problems.
  • Information Ordering - Ordering or arranging things.
  • Oral Comprehension - Listening and understanding what people say.
  • Mathematical Reasoning - Choosing the right type of math to solve a problem.
  • Category Flexibility - Grouping things in different ways.
  • Inductive Reasoning - Making general rules or coming up with answers from lots of detailed information.
  • Oral Expression - Communicating by speaking.
  • Number Facility - Adding, subtracting, multiplying, or dividing.
  • Originality - Creating new and original ideas.
  • Fluency of Ideas - Coming up with lots of ideas.
  • Near Vision - Seeing details up close.
  • Flexibility of Closure - Seeing hidden patterns.
  • Perceptual Speed - Quickly comparing groups of letters, numbers, pictures, or other things.

    What does this information tell me?

    This is a list of a list of personal qualities that might influence work and are most commonly required for success in this career.

    This list can help you understand if your natural strengths and abilities are a good fit for this career.

    What is the source of this information?

    This information comes from the O*NET Resource Center. Learn more about O*NET's Abilities descriptors.

Interests
  • Investigative - Occupations with Investigative interests frequently involve working with ideas, and require an extensive amount of thinking. They often involve research and figuring out problems mentally.
  • Realistic - Occupations with Realistic interests frequently involve practical, hands-on problems and solutions. They often deal with plants, animals, and real-world materials like wood, tools, and machinery. Many require working outside, and do not involve a lot of paperwork or working closely with others.

    What does this information tell me?

    This is a list of work environment-preferences that are most commonly associated with the career. It can help you understand if your natural interests are a good fit for this career.

    Click "Take an interest assessment" for a quick 30-question assessment that can help you understand your interests and see careers that might be good matches for them.

    What is the source of this information?

    This information comes from the O*NET Resource Center. Learn more about O*NET's Interest descriptors.

Typical tasks
  • Monitor and analyze data from processes and experiments.
  • Develop processes to separate components of liquids or gases or generate electrical currents, using controlled chemical processes.
  • Troubleshoot problems with chemical manufacturing processes.
  • Evaluate chemical equipment and processes to identify ways to optimize performance or to ensure compliance with safety and environmental regulations.
  • Conduct research to develop new and improved chemical manufacturing processes.
  • Perform laboratory studies of steps in manufacture of new products and test proposed processes in small-scale operation, such as a pilot plant.
  • Design measurement and control systems for chemical plants based on data collected in laboratory experiments and in pilot plant operations.
  • Prepare estimate of production costs and production progress reports for management.
  • Determine most effective arrangement of operations such as mixing, crushing, heat transfer, distillation, and drying.
  • Direct activities of workers who operate or are engaged in constructing and improving absorption, evaporation, or electromagnetic equipment.
  • Perform tests and monitor performance of processes throughout stages of production to determine degree of control over variables such as temperature, density, specific gravity, and pressure.
  • Design and plan layout of equipment.

    What does this information tell me?

    This is a list of typical tasks that people in this career might do on the job.  You can use this list to get an idea of whether this career might be a good fit for you.

    Click on “More tasks” to see more detailed examples for this career.

    You can also use this list to help you prepare for a job interview. Or, if you’ve already held a job like this, you can copy these tasks to use on your resume.

    What is the source of this information?

    This information comes from O*NET OnLine's Occupation Information. They are O*NET‘s Tasks.

Other resources

    What does this information tell me?

    These are additional online resources related to this career. You may find different or more detailed information at these sources.

    What is the source of this information?

    This information is collected and maintained by CareerOneStop.