Generally speaking, the field of chemical engineering involves utilizing the principles of chemistry for the purpose of converting raw materials into marketable products. However, chemical engineers also invest their knowledge and skill into the development of new technologies, as well as toward finding practical solutions to improve and maintain them. These factors are what make a career in chemical engineering quite different than that of a chemist. In fact, the primary goal of the chemical engineer goes beyond synthesizing products to looking for ways to make such the production of such products practical and economical in terms of the manufacturing process. In short, the chemical engineer reframes the question of “how to make it” to “how to make it on a big scale.”
Aside from basic chemistry, chemical engineering embraces several other disciplines, including mathematics, physics, biology, and mechanical engineering. As such, there are a variety of different jobs in chemical engineering represented by a number of industries. Some of the best jobs in the field are found within the pharmaceutical, agricultural, electronic, and textile industries. However, a growing number of opportunities can be found in the fields of biotechnology. In fact, many chemical engineers are now actively working in various “green” industries related to environmental preservation, such as alternative and renewable energy solutions, biohazard remediation, etc.
With so many different types of jobs in chemical engineering to choose from, it would be wise to give considerable thought to certain factors that contribute to the shape and direction of a career in this field. Certainly, the candidate should make note of areas that hold particular appeal based on whether there is a desire to improve the lives of people, animals, or the environment that sustains all living things. For example, those interested in improving the well-being of people may choose to work in the biomedical field to develop new and safer pharmaceuticals, or to enter the agricultural industry to increase food production by developing disease and pest-resistant crops. On the other hand, biochemical engineering provides an opportunity to protect wildlife and natural resources by implementing strategies to reduce and improve the handling of environmental waste.
Another factor that will influence one’s career path in chemical engineering is the level of education attained. While a bachelor’s degree is necessary to work in basic chemical production or processing, the best jobs in chemical engineering are available to those with advanced degrees. In addition, those with training and skill in communications and business are often able to transfer these qualities to a teaching or upper management position. It’s also worth noting that chemical engineering often involves working with global teams, making fluency in a second language highly desirable.