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Career Spotlights ~ Chemical Engineer
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Basic Info
  • Hours: 30-40 per week
  • Starting Salary: £26,000 + per year

If you are interested in Chemistry and want a professional job in Engineering, this could suit you well. As a Chemical Engineer (also known as a Process Engineer) you would use your expertise to research and develop new products, including foods, textiles and fuel. In this type of work you would need to be good at Maths and Science. You would need to be good at solving problems and analysing things. You would also need Management skills to manage projects, budgets and people. To become a Chemcial Engineer, you would normally need an accredited BEng degree or a BTECT HNC/HND in Chemcial or Process Engineering.

The Work

As a Chemical Engineer you would also design manufacturing processes that turn raw materials into domestic and industrial products, for example medicines and plastics.

If you work in research and development, you would:

  • Test new ways to develop products in the lab
  • Use Computer Models to work out the safest and most cost-effective production methods
  • Plan how to move lab tests into a pilot production phase, then on to large-scale industrial processing
  • Develop methods to deal with by-prodcuts and waste materials in a safe and environmentally-friendly way

In manufacturing, you would:

  • Work with plant designers to create equipment and control instruments for the production process
  • Help to oversee the day-to-day operation of the processing plant
  • Monitor production and deal with problems
  • Work closely with quality control and health and safety managers

Depending on the size of your employer, you may only be responsible for the research or the manufacturing side. However, in both cases, you are likely to manage a team of Chemical Engineering Technicians


In research and development you would usually work 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday, with possible overtime to meet project deadlines. In processing and manufacturing, you might work on a shift system, including weekends, evenings and nights. You could be based in a lab, an office or a processing plant. You may need to use protective clothing and equipment in the lab and some production plant areas.


Graduate salaries are around £26,000 a year. Experienced engineers can earn between £30,000 and £55,000. Senior chartered Chemical Engineers can earn over £60,000 a year.

Entry Requirements

To become a Chemical Engineer, you would normally need an accredited BEng degree or BTEC HNC/HND in Chemical or Process Engineering. You can find details of the accredited courses from the careers website of the Institution of Chemical Engineers as WhyNotChemEng, and the Institution of Engineering and Technology(IET).

To get onto a Chemical Engineering degree, you will usually need at least five GCSEs (A*-C), and two A Levels including Maths and a Science subject. Some Universities offer a foundation year for people without qualifications in Maths and Science. Please check with colleges or Universities for their exact entry requirements

Training and Development

Once you are working, you would be trained on the job by your employer, possibly through a structured graduate training scheme. You may help your career prospects by working towards incorporated or chartered status. To do this, you should register with your industry body and apply to the Engineering Council. See the Engineering Council website for more details

As an incorporated engineer, you would specialise in the day-to-day management of engineering operations. At chartered level, you would have a more strategic role, planning, researching and developing new ideas, and streamlining management methods

Skills and Knowledge

To be a Chemical Engineer you should have:

  • A flair for Maths and Science, particularly Chemistry
  • Good problem-solving and analytical skills
  • Planning and organisational ability
  • Excellent IT skills
  • The ability to manage projects, budgets and people
  • Good spoken and written communication skills
  • The ability to work as part of a team
  • A clear understanding of wider commmerical pressures

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