How to Become a

Chemical Engineer

The complete career guide to be a Chemical Engineer: salary, job growth, employers, best schools, and education you may need to get started.

Why We Love It

  • $103,960
    Potential Avg. Salary
  • 1.7%
    Job Growth Rate
  • Growing Demand
    Job Outlook
  • Don't Take Work Home
    Career Attribute

Chemical engineers are specialized chemists that use their knowledge to develop safe systems and processes for manufacturing companies. The may develop systems for more efficient or safer manufacturing, or they may work directly with chemicals to develop new products and methods.

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What is a Chemical Engineer?

The following job responsibilities are common for individuals in chemical engineer roles:

  • Conduct lab experiments to research and develop new chemical materials
  • Develop plans for implementing new products or processes
  • Create layouts for large manufacturing processes
  • Investigate ways to make products safer and processes quicker or more efficient

A Day in the Life

Chemical engineering is a broad role that encompasses many types of roles and responsibilities. Chemical engineers work in a variety of fields, performing specific industry-influenced responsibilities. They may work in pharmaceuticals where they research and develop new medicines. They may work in manufacturing where they develop new products, optimize the development of existing products, and ensure a safe workspace for production facilities. They may also work in product development where they develop new types of clothing, food, personal care items, or a number of other products.

While the term chemical has a negative connotation, not all chemicals are bad. In fact, products made from chemicals can be found all over a household; deodorant, over-the-counter medications, artificial sweeteners, and even clothing are all created using chemical processes designed by chemical engineers. Chemical engineers develop the chemical processes used to create these items, ensure that the result of the chemical process is safe for use, and refine chemical processes over time to improve products.

While some chemical engineers work in product development, others oversee major manufacturing facilities where chemicals are used or combined. They may develop the layout of facilities or equipment, formulate processes and workflows for manufacturing products, or develop safe handling procedures for facility employees. Because chemical engineers are experts in chemistry, they utilize their expertise to ensure safe working conditions for manufacturing plants that use chemicals and compounds.

Typical Work Schedule

Most chemical engineering jobs are full-time roles. Overtime is uncommon, but may be required occasionally to meet deadlines. The specific shifts worked by a chemical engineer may depend on employer, but the majority of chemical engineers conduct their work during normal business hours.

Typical Employers

Chemical engineers are employed by a number of industries. Some of the largest employing industries include manufacturing, healthcare, pharmaceuticals, environmental health and safety, and food processing.

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How To Become a Chemical Engineer

The first step in becoming a chemical engineer is earning a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from a program that’s accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET). Unlike a general engineering degree, chemical engineering programs focus on providing an education in both chemistry and engineering to prepare aspiring chemical engineers for the work they’ll be required to do after entering the field professionally.

After earning a bachelor’s degree, you’ll be able to qualify for open chemical engineer positions. Most new graduates find entry-level positions in the manufacturing or pharmaceutical industries, serving as technicians or assistants to more experienced chemical engineers. Over time and after gaining experience, these individuals are able to move into higher-ranking—and higher-paid—chemical engineering roles.

For chemical engineers interested in working in research and development positions, a master’s degree is generally required. The most common degree pursued by chemical engineers interested in research and development is a master of engineering with a focus on chemical engineering. Both a graduate degree and professional work experience are usually required to find work in research and development, so this is often a path individuals pursue after years of working in other positions.

Chemical Engineer Salary Data

We’ve provided you the following to learn more about this career. The salary and growth data on this page comes from recently published Bureau of Labor Statistics data while the recommendations and editorial content are based on our research.

National Anual Salary

Low Range




High Range


National Hourly Wage

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High Range


How do Chemical Engineer salaries stack up to other jobs across the country? Based on the latest jobs data nationwide, Chemical Engineer's can make an average annual salary of $103,960, or $50 per hour. On the lower end, they can make $75,600 or $36 per hour, perhaps when just starting out or based on the state you live in.

Salary Rankings And Facts

  • #57 Nationally for All Careers

  • Above Average Salary Nationally

Programs and Degrees

Here are the most common degrees for becoming a Chemical Engineer. a is usually recommended and specifically a degree or coursework that prepares you for the particular field, see below.

Highest Education Among Chemical Engineers

  • 7.4%   Doctorate
  • 20.7%   Masters
  • 58.8%   Bachelors
  • 4.1%   Associates
  • 5%   College
  • 3.8%   High School
  • 0.2%   Less than High School

Job Growth Projections and Forecast

2014 Total Jobs


2024 Est. Jobs


Job Growth Rate


Est. New Jobs


How does Chemical Engineer job growth stack up to other jobs across the country? By 2024, there will be a change of 600 jobs for a total of 34,900 people employed in the career nationwide. This is a 1.7% change in growth over the next ten years, giving the career a growth rate nationwide of Above Average.

Growth Rankings And Facts

  • #559 Nationally for All Careers

  • Above Avg. Growth Nationally

What Companies Employ The Most Chemical Engineers

Industry Current Jobs New Jobs Needed % Increase
Engineering services 5,600 600 1%
Basic chemical manufacturing 4,700 -500 -1%
Research and development in the physical, engineering, and life sciences 3,300 600 1%

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