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How to Become a Chemical Engineer

Bachelor's degree

A bachelor's degree in chemical engineering is required for one to become a chemical engineer. Ideally, education is supplemented with practical experience. Numerous facilities offer cooperative engineering programs where students can earn college credit for structured job experience.

Education & Training

Chemical engineering programs run 4 years for a bachelor's degree. This includes field studies, laboratory studies and classroom. High school students interested in this field will benefit from taking the following classes: physics, chemistry, calculus, biology, trigonometry, and algebra.

Certain universities offer a 5 year program that points to a bachelor's degree and a master's degree. Graduate degrees which include a degree up to the level of Ph.D. enable engineers to work as postsecondary teachers or within a research and development environment.

Students can gain practical experience in universities and colleges that offer cooperative programs. This enables students to gain practical experience while finishing school. Many coop programs combine practical work with classroom study to offer valuable experience to students while allowing them the chance to finance a portion of their education.

Ideally, engineering programs should be accredited by ABET. These programs in chemical engineering include classes such as biology, physics and chemistry. Additional topics included focus on applying the sciences to the analysis, design and control of biological, physical and chemical processes.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Licensing for chemical engineers is not as common as it is for other engineers however, it is important for advancing professionally. Chemical engineers who become licensed are known as PEs or Professional Engineers. The following requirements are required for general licensure:

A) Relevant work experience

B) An engineering degree from an ABET accredited program

C) Passing the FE or Fundamentals of Engineering exam

D) Passing score on the PE or Professional Engineering exam

Immediately following graduation, the FE or Fundamentals of Engineering exam can be taken. Once this exam is passed, EITs or engineers in training are the common designation. These individuals may be called engineer interns or EIs. Once work experience is gained, EITs are eligible for taking the second exam known as the Principles and Practice of Engineering exam.

Continuing education is important in order for engineers to maintain their license.

Skills and Qualities that will Help

Analytical Skills: Chemical engineers are responsible for finding out why an area of a certain design does not function as planned. They have to be able to ask appropriate questions and find reasonable answers.

Creativity: Chemical engineers have to conduct new ways of applying principals of engineering. They work diligently to invent advanced manufacturing techniques, new materials and new applications in biomedical and chemical engineering.

Ingenuity: Required to learn the wide concepts of chemical engineering, chemical engineers need the ability to apply these concepts to a wide variety of problems as they arise.

Interpersonal Skills: Positive working relationships need to be developed between production crews and chemical engineers since they are required to put scientific principles into practice within manufacturing industries.

Math Skills: Chemical engineers rely on advanced math techniques such as calculus to analyze, troubleshoot and design their work.

Problem-Solving Skills: Within the realm of designing processes and equipment for manufacturing, engineers strive to figure out a variety of problems at once. Such items including manufacturing issues, worker's safety and environmental protection are popular topics. Preventing losses for their employers and identifying and anticipating problems is key to protecting worker's health and safety and lessening environmental impact.

How To Advance

It is normal for entry-level engineers to work under the supervision of experienced engineers. In some larger companies, new engineers may attend seminars and receive formal training in classrooms. Once engineers gain experience and knowledge, they can focus on harder jobs and gradually gain more independence. These circumstances provide ample opportunities to make decisions, solve issues and create designs.

Chemical engineers may someday choose to supervise a team of technicians and engineers. Some may develop into engineering and architectural managers. Getting ready for management positions often requires working within the guidance of a chemical engineer with more experience.

Having an engineering background allows chemical engineers to assist in product use and planning while discussing the technical aspects that comprise a product.