- Work out ways to create new products using chemicals
- With experience, progress to senior process or design engineer, or research and development manager
- You may need to wear protective clothing or use equipment like safety glasses, ear protectors or a hard hat
As a chemical engineer, you'll be involved in the design, manufacture and operation of processes that turn raw materials into domestic and industrial products. You could work in a range of industries like food and drink, pharmaceuticals, textiles, oil and gas, minerals, energy and water, and biotechnology.
If you work in research and development, you'll:
- 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 and then on to large-scale industrial processing
- Develop methods to deal with by-products and waste materials in a safe way
- You may also research and develop new or improved products.
In manufacturing, you'll:
- 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
You could work in a laboratory, in an office or at a manufacturing plant and your working environment may be outdoors some of the time.
Working hours are typically 9am to 5pm, possibly with some extra hours. Jobs in processing and manufacturing may involve shift work, including evenings and weekends.
You'll normally need a degree or postgraduate qualification in chemical engineering, process engineering, biochemical engineering.
You may be able to do a postgraduate conversion course if you have a degree in a related area like engineering, chemistry or polymer science.
Some universities offer a foundation year for people without qualifications in maths and science, which allows them to move onto the degree course afterwards.
A postgraduate master's qualification like an MEng can be studied at university. This course includes independent research and gives you a greater knowledge and understanding of chemical engineering science. It could also prepare you for further postgraduate study like a PhD. You'll usually need 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C), including maths and a science at least 2 or 3 A levels, including chemistry and a degree in a relevant subject for postgraduate study.
Alternatively you may be able to do a science industry process engineer degree apprenticeship.
You could also start as a chemical engineering technician and do training on the job to qualify as an engineer.
It would be helpful to join the Institution of Chemical Engineers for professional development opportunities.
Career development is usually dependent on achieving chartered engineer (CEng) status with the Institution of Chemical Engineers.
With experience, you could progress to senior process or design engineer, research and development manager. You could go on to be a plant manager, or overall operations manager.
You could also move into consultancy work.