A traditional career path for chemical engineers may start in oil and gas, specialty chemicals, or pharmaceutical industries. Entry level jobs include positions in research and development or production engineers. Chemical engineers in R&D groups help develop and research procedures that can then be implemented industrially and commercially. Chemical engineers have a hand in helping develop new materials as well as processes that are used to make materials on a larger scale. As a production engineer, a chemical engineer is responsible with implementing new processes, designing equipment, planning production runs, and scaling up processes.
For many chemical engineers, a shift in roles is common. Many chemical engineers become project managers. As project managers they oversee the implementation and budgets of projects. Some chemical engineers shift into a leadership role, as a leader they oversee people and budgets at a more strategic level.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, careers in chemical engineering are predicted to grow from 2019-2029 by 4%. The median annual wage for chemical engineers as of May 2020 is $108,540, the lowest 10% of chemical engineers earned $68,430.
Chemical engineers can work across many industries such as:
Advanced materials- such as aerospace, automotive, electronics, and nanomaterials where they help develop materials with improved properties. Additional, they help develop methods for implementation on larger scale production.
Biotechnology- develop and design processes to produce antibiotics, insulin, etc.
Chemical process industries- oil and gas, specialty chemicals, catalysts, cosmetics, plastics where they help develop the processes to make and isolate chemicals.
Design and Construction- work closely with construction industry to design efficient plants, design new equipment, and manage projects.
Energy and fuels- develop alternative energy sources and develop processes for production of fuel.
Environmental, Safety, and Health- chemical engineers help minimize production byproducts, find uses for byproducts, design more efficient processes, develop a waste treatment plan, and ensure process safety.
Food- chemical engineers develop new packaging materials, ingredients for enhanced flavor, or develop new ways to preserve food and drinks.
In addition to the industries listed above, chemical engineers can pursue a career in government (working at agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency or the Department of Energy), education, and law as intellectual property lawyers, and business.