What Does A Chemical Engineer Do (including Their Typical Day at Work)

Stan T.Career, Overview

Salary, Job Description, How To Become One, and Quiz

Chemical Engineers

Chemical Engineers 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.

Salary
$114820
Becoming One
Hard
Education
Bachelor's degree
Job Satisfaction
Job Growth

Personality





Find a job you love and you will never work a day in your life.Confucius

What they do

Chemical Engineers 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.

  • Monitor and analyze data from processes and experiments.
  • Develop safety procedures to be employed by workers operating equipment or working in close proximity to ongoing chemical reactions.
  • Develop processes to separate components of liquids or gases or generate electrical currents, using controlled chemical processes.
  • Troubleshoot problems with chemical manufacturing processes.

Typical day

On a daily basis, Chemical Engineers monitor and analyze data from processes and experiments. They troubleshoot problems with chemical manufacturing processes.

  • Perform tests and monitor the performance of processes throughout stages of production to determine the degree of control over variables such as temperature, density, specific gravity, and pressure.
  • Conduct research to develop new and improved chemical manufacturing processes.
  • Develop safety procedures to be employed by workers operating equipment or working in close proximity to ongoing chemical reactions.
  • Direct activities of workers who operate or are engaged in constructing and improving absorption, evaporation, or electromagnetic equipment.
  • Design measurement and control systems for chemical plants based on data collected in laboratory experiments and in pilot plant operations.

Other responsibilities

Besides their typical day, Chemical Engineers also develop processes to separate components of liquids or gases or generate electrical currents, using controlled chemical processes. They may also determine the most effective arrangement of operations such as mixing, crushing, heat transfer, distillation, and drying.

On a weekly to monthly basis, Chemical Engineers evaluate chemical equipment and processes to identify ways to optimize performance or to ensure compliance with safety and environmental regulations. They might also prepare estimates of production costs and production progress reports for management.

In addition, they design and plan the layout of equipment.

Although specific duties may vary, many of them design measurement and control systems for chemical plants based on data collected in laboratory experiments and in pilot plant operations.

To some Chemical Engineers, it is also their responsibility to direct activities of workers who operate or are engaged in constructing and improving absorption, evaporation, or electromagnetic equipment.

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What is the job like

Job satisfaction

High

Is this job meaningful

High

73% said they were satisfied with their job and 61% said they found their job meaningful.


Steve Zhang
Grupo Farma, a pharmaceutical company

I’m a Chemical Engineer. I’m currently working as Head of the Engineering and Planning department at Grupo Farma, a pharmaceutical company. I actually created it because they didn’t have one. So, things are pretty bumpy for me. I’m always walking around, talking to my team, and asking how they manage the tasks I’ve assigned. The rest of the time, I’m at my office talking with suppliers and planning our next moves to guarantee the operation of the laboratory and building in general.

Some of my responsibilities as head of the engineering and planning department are:

  • Ensure that the building services work including, but not limited to electricity, gas, water, compressed air, argon (for the atomic absorption spectrophotometer), and nitrogen
    and CO2 lines. These are all essential for the everyday tasks carried out in the laboratory and the rest of the departments.
  • Coordinate and supervise the maintenance, calibration, qualification, and verification of laboratory equipment and areas. This is done on an annual basis as per request by international
    and local requirements that we must comply with. And to ensure that all the equipment is working as specified by the supplier; thereby, guaranteeing the production of pharmaceutical products of quality.
  • Plan and oversee any civil works needed to upgrade, repair, or expand the facility. For example, as we speak, many areas of the building are being remodeled to comply with international
    regulations. My team and I are responsible for such works.
  • Be an active part of the planning for the release of new pharmaceutical products to the market. Even though I know little about medicines, I know a lot about market research, cost estimation, and project formulation and evaluation. Thus, I’m always part of the decision-making for new projects.
  • Keep a database of all the laboratory equipment and their respective spare parts, as well as supervising the purchase of new lab equipment.
  • Guarantee that the lab has enough supplies These are the most important responsibilities as they have a direct impact on the research, development, and production of products.

I don’t do everything by myself, of course. I delegate some tasks. But I always keep an eye on them. In the end, I’m the sole responsible for the work done by my team. So, yes, as you might imagine, my typical day is quite bumpy.

Supervising the instalation of an air treatment unit for a stability chamber

My typical day

The first thing I do is to check my whiteboard. Yes, it is a little ancient, I know. But it helps with planning. There I have my whole week’s plan (with predictable things, of course). Then I approach each member of my team to ask for an update on their assignments.

I go to my office afterward and start reviewing all documents my team submit for approval. However, I can hardly sit for one or two hours straight because something always happens. For example, three contractors came yesterday to give their estimates about some work that needs to be done. Thus, I had to explain what I wanted and show them where the work needs to be done.

Sometimes critical lab equipment breaks down. So I need to coordinate the repair efforts with the technicians. In short, I always have people coming over to repair, remodel, or deliver things.

I love being involved in planning and management, and that’s what I love the most about my job. Every day is different, and I get to work with a lot of people both inside and outside my company. I’m always learning new things about the pharmaceutical industry and how to improve our production processes.

Pros

  • It is dynamic
  • I’m always learning and adapting to comply with regulations
  • I get to work with different people and get to know different perspectives
  • Planning and evaluating new projects is very exciting, at least for me.  But everything comes at a price, of course. Having so many responsibilities is quite demanding. Yes, I don’t do them all by myself. Like I said before. In the end, I’m the face of my department. Therefore, I need to guarantee that everything gets done in a timely matter and as requested.

Cons

  • Physically demanding
  • Most of the time, there are multiple projects happening at the same time. Thus, you are always working under pressure.
  • Stressful
  • A simple mistake has huge consequences

For me, the pros of my job outweigh, by far, the cons. That’s why I keep up with the everyday strain and hope to do it for a long time.

Steve Zhang
Steve is Head of the Engineering and Planning department at Grupo Farma, a pharmaceutical company. He writes about fishing on his blog LureMeFish.com which serves as a therapy to cope with his job.


Pros

Suitable for people who like to solve problems mentally.

Suitable for people who want recognition and wants career advancement and a prestigious career.

This career is perfect for people who love to work indoors.

One of the highest-paid careers in the world.

Cons

Not suitable for people who like to help and teach others.

It is hard to get into this career. A considerable amount of work-related skill, knowledge, or experience is required for this career.

Long working hours (More than 40 hours per week).

How much do they make

Average salary

$114820 per year

Average hourly wage

$55 per hour

Entry-level Chemical Engineers with little to no experience can expect to make anywhere between $68,430 to $84,890 per year or $33 to $41 per hour.

Salary by experience Annual Hourly
Highest (Top 10%) $168,960 $81
Senior (Top 25%) $136,360 $66
Median $108,540 $52
Junior (Bottom 25%) $84,890 $41
No experience (Bottom 10%) $68,430 $33

This table shows the top 10 highest paying industries for Chemical Engineers based on their average annual salary.

Salary by industry Annual Hourly
Oil and Gas Extraction $150780 $72.49
Management of Companies and Enterprises $134830 $64.82
Petroleum and Coal Products Manufacturing $129010 $62.03
Computer and Peripheral Equipment Manufacturing $124390 $59.80
Local Government $121110 $58.23
Architectural, Engineering, and Related Services $120600 $57.98
Pipeline Transportation of Crude Oil $119300 $57.36
Chemical Manufacturing $118440 $56.94
Support Activities for Mining $118370 $56.91
Professional and Commercial Equipment and Supplies Merchant Wholesalers $117930 $56.70

View more salary by industries here.

Where can they work

Where can Chemical Engineers work? Here is a table showing the top 10 largest employers of Chemical Engineers including the average salary in that industry.

Employers Total Employed Annual Salary Hourly Wages
Chemical Manufacturing 8420 $118440 $56.94
Architectural, Engineering, and Related Services 2920 $120600 $57.98
Scientific Research and Development Services 2570 $114580 $55.09
Petroleum and Coal Products Manufacturing 1240 $129010 $62.03
Federal Executive Branch 1070 $113450 $54.54
Management of Companies and Enterprises 900 $134830 $64.82
Merchant Wholesalers, Nondurable Goods 760 $109070 $52.44
Pharmaceutical and Medicine Manufacturing 750 $104600 $50.29
Colleges, Universities, and Professional Schools 670 $74270 $35.71
Chemical Manufacturing 510 $100080 $48.11

What is the work day like

Working hours

Less than 40 hours
0%

40 hours
27%

More than 40 hours
73%

Working schedule

77%

23%

0%

Email

How often do you use email in this job?

Once a week
0%

Every day
100%

Telephone

How often do you have telephone conversations in this job?

Once a week
23%

Every day
68%

Group discussions

How often do you have group discussions in this job?

Once a week
9%

Every day
86%

Public speaking

How often does this job require you to do public speaking?

Never
0%

Once a year
55%

Once a month
36%

Once a week
5%

Every day
5%

Level of competition

How much competitive pressure is in this job?

Not competitive at all
0%

Slightly competitive
14%

Moderately competitive
45%

Highly competitive
18%

Extremely competitive
23%

What is the work environment like

Office-style environment

Indoors in an environmentally controlled condition

Never
5%

Once a year or more
0%

Once a month or more
5%

Once a week or more
27%

Every day
64%

Warehouse-style environment

Indoors in a non-controlled environmental condition such as a warehouse

Never
14%

Once a year or more
18%

Once a month or more
27%

Once a week or more
36%

Every day
5%

Outdoors

Outdoors exposed to all weather conditions

Never
36%

Once a year or more
23%

Once a month or more
27%

Once a week or more
9%

Every day
5%

Outdoors – Under Cover

Outdoors but under cover (e.g. structure with roof but no walls)

Never
19%

Once a year or more
29%

Once a month or more
33%

Once a week or more
14%

Every day
5%

How to become one

Difficulty to become one

Hard
You will need a considerable amount of work-related skill, knowledge, or experience. Careers in this difficulty category usually require a Bachelor’s degree and several years of work-related experience, on-the-job training, and/or vocational training. Similar careers include Database Administrators, Chemists, Art Directors, and Accountants.

Required level of education

What level of education do you need to perform the job?

Less than a High School Diploma
0%

High School Diploma or equivalent
0%

Post-Secondary Certificate
0%

Some College Courses
0%

Associate’s Degree or similar
0%

Bachelor’s Degree
82%

Post-Baccalaureate Certificate
0%

Master’s Degree
9%

Post-Master’s Certificate
0%

First Professional Degree
0%

Doctoral Degree
9%

Post-Doctoral Training
0%

Relevant majors

Biochemical Engineering

A program that prepares individuals to apply mathematical and scientific principles to the study of biochemical processes in living organisms, properties of biological materials, and processes using biochemical agents such as cells, enzymes, and antibodies. Includes instruction in biology, chemistry, physics, biochemistry, thermodynamics, fluid dynamics, bioprocesses, and chemical engineering.

Engineering Chemistry

A program that focuses on the general application of chemical principles to the analysis and evaluation of engineering problems, such as development of electronic materials, solid-state science and technology, polymers, ceramics, and biomaterials. Includes instruction in physical chemistry, organic chemistry, materials science, chemical processes and systems, chemical reaction engineering, biochemical engineering, engineering mathematics, classical and modern physics, and computer science.

Polymer/Plastics Engineering

A program that prepares individuals to apply mathematical and scientific principles to the design, development and operational evaluation of synthesized macromolecular compounds and their application to specific engineering uses, including the development of industrial materials with tailored properties, the design of lightweight structural components, the use of liquid or solid polymers, and the analysis and control of polymerization processes.


Paper Science and Engineering

A program that prepares individuals to apply mathematical and scientific principles to the design, development, and manufacturing of pulp and paper products. Includes instruction in pulp and paper science, pulping and bleaching processes, paper structure and processes, pulp and paper manufacturing, coating technology, surface and colloid science, and fibers.

Chemical Engineering

A program that prepares individuals to apply mathematical and scientific principles to the design, development and operational evaluation of systems employing chemical processes, such as chemical reactors, kinetic systems, electrochemical systems, energy conservation processes, heat and mass transfer systems, and separation processes; and the applied analysis of chemical problems such as corrosion, particle abrasion, energy loss, pollution, and fluid mechanics.

Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering

A program that prepares individuals to apply mathematical and scientific principles to the design, development and operational evaluation of systems at the interface of chemical engineering and biology, with an emphasis at the molecular level, such as biopharmaceutical processes, protein engineering, metabolic engineering, gene therapy, biomaterials, cell and tissue engineering, and drug delivery. Includes instruction in chemical engineering, thermodynamics, organic chemistry, biochemistry, momentum and heat transfer, cellular and molecular biotechnology, process design, and chemical reactor design.


Ceramic Sciences and Engineering

A program that prepares individuals to apply mathematical and scientific principles to the design, development and operational evaluation of inorganic non-metallic materials, such as porcelains, cements, industrial ceramics, ceramic superconductors, abrasive, and related materials and systems.

Relevant work experience

How much related work experience do you need to get hired for the job?

None
36%

1 month
0%

1 to 3 months
5%

3 to 6 months
9%

6 months to 1 year
9%

1 to 2 years
14%

2 to 4 years
9%

4 to 6 years
14%

6 to 8 years
0%

8 to 10 years
0%

Over 10 years
5%

On The Job Training

How much on the job training do you need to perform the job?

None or short demonstration
9%

1 month
27%

1 to 3 months
14%

3 to 6 months
18%

6 months to 1 year
18%

1 to 2 years
9%

2 to 4 years
5%

4 to 10 years
0%

Over 10 years
0%

Should you become one

Best personality type for this career

The Thinker

People with this personality likes to work with ideas that require an extensive amount of thinking. They prefer work that requires them to solve problems mentally.

The Builder
90%

People with The Builder personality type likes practical and hands-on work. They prefer working with plants, animals, and real-world materials like wood, tools, and machinery.


The Thinker
95%

People with The Thinker personality likes to work with ideas that require an extensive amount of thinking. They prefer work that requires them to solve problems mentally.


The Artist
29%

People with The Artist personality likes to work with designs and patterns. They prefer activities that require self-expression and prefer work that can be done without following a clear set of rules.


The Helper
14%

People with The Helper personality type likes to work with people and in teams. They prefer work that allows them to build relationships with others.


The Leader
43%

People with The Leader personality likes to start and work on projects. They also like leading people and making many decisions.


The Organizer
52%

People with The Organizer personality type likes to follow set procedures and routines. They prefer working with data and details more than with ideas.


You can read more about these career personality types here.

People who are suitable for this job tend to like working with ideas and require an extensive amount of thinking. They like searching for facts and figuring out problems mentally.

They also like work activities that include practical, hands-on problems and solutions. They like working with plants, animals, and real-world materials like wood, tools, and machinery.

Take this quiz to see if this is the right career for you.

Work Values

Which values are the most important to a person’s satisfaction for this job?

Achievement
76%

You are someone who is results oriented. You prefer work that allows you to utilize your skills and abilities while at the same time giving you a sense of accomplishment.

Working Conditions
76%

You are someone who values job security, steady employment, and good working conditions. You also prefer work that keeps you busy all the time with something different to do every day.

Recognition
81%

You are someone who values job advancement and leadership roles. You prefer work that receives recognition for the work you do and jobs that are looked up to by others in the company and your community.

Relationships
57%

You are someone who likes to provide a service to others. You prefer a work environment where you can work with your co-workers in a friendly non-competitive environment.

Support
57%

You are someone who values a company that stands behind their employees. You prefer a work environment where everyone is treated fairly and is being supported by the company.

Independence
76%

You are someone who likes to work on your own and make your own decisions. You prefer work that requires little supervision and are allowed to try out your own ideas.

FAQ


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