chemical engineer careers

Chemical Engineer Jobs

Did you know?

Chemical engineers are sometimes known as ‘universal engineers’ because they know a broad range of stuff and have their fingers in all kinds of career pies. For example, the Nike sportswear development department is full of chemical engineers helping to create space-age fabrics. Chemical engineers research and design the machines, chemicals and activities which help create stuff from raw materials.

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Real-life stories

Cool chemical engineering careers… Chris designs ice-creams in Italy!

Chemical engineer job trends

How much money can you make as a chemical engineer?

£29,000 – £60,000 (UK average)

Recent labour market information says you can earn £29,000 – £60,000 a year on average as a chemical engineer in the UK.

Your starting salary can vary because of factors like level of experience, training, or location. Your salary will increase over time as you build skills, knowledge and experience.

What entry qualifications and training do you need?

School, college and training

Many engineering jobs require some knowledge of science and being comfortable around maths.

In your GCSEs or the equivalent, aim to get passing grades of 9-4 (A*-C) in maths and at least one science.

You can then go on to take at least one A-level or further education qualification in a topic related to science or maths.

This will give you a good foundation education in the engineering principles you might need to know. It will also help you to apply for further education such as a degree.

Degrees and University

Many chemical engineers enter the profession as graduates.

You’ll normally need an Institution of Chemical Engineers (IChemE) or Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) accredited BEng degree in chemical, process or biochemical engineering.

If you don’t have the qualifications you need in maths or science, some universities can offer you a foundation year.

Useful organisations to find out more:

Apprenticeships

With an apprenticeship (or advanced apprenticeship) you’ll have a paid job with an employer that includes structured training and learning. This training leads to an official qualification that’s recognised by employers as an industry standard.

Chemical engineering apprenticeships are available in the UK. They can sometimes be competitive to get into. You can also look for process operations and production technician apprenticeships which lead to a chemical engineering qualification.

You can seek out engineering apprenticeships with organisations like Find an Apprenticeship.

Career progression

With time and experience you could become a senior process engineer or design engineer using computer-aided design to dream up new products and equipment. If you have leadership qualities, you could also become a research and development manager, or a plant manager overseeing operations.

You could also become self-employed and move into consultancy work – but you’ll need a few years and some big successes under your belt first.

What experience do you need for chemical engineer jobs?

Work experience

It can help you decide if this is the right career for you if you have previously done work experience in a science or engineering environment.

Any work experience where you have demonstrated your engineering skills can help your application.

Examples of relevant work experience include:

  • Work shadowing (even if it’s just for a day)
  • Work placements in a company
  • Work placements on a degree course
  • Year in Industry work experience programme for pre-university/undergraduates

Volunteering and extra-curricular activities

Volunteering is an excellent way to build up your skills and CV while making connections with people and organisations who could help you in the future.

If you’re 11-19 years old, you could build work experience relevant to chemical engineering by becoming an Industrial Cadet. You’ll join other students from local schools to take part in industry-based activities with a local employer. Visit www.industrialcadets.org.uk for more info.

If you’re a Year 12 student, you can apply for a Nuffield Research Placement. Over 1,000 students a year get the chance to work with scientists, mathematicians and engineers from all kinds of universities and organisations.

If you’re still at school, you can work on your engineering skills outside of lessons to build your first CV. One way is to join a school STEM club.

What skills do you need for chemical engineer jobs?

What life and work skills do you need to be a great chemical engineer?

Useful skills to highlight and develop in this career include:

  • Self-belief skills – it takes determination to get hold of salon managers and owners as they are always so busy. You will also have sales targets to reach. But you have confidence in yourself and your company’s products and you never give up!
  • Good communication skills and teamworking skills – you may be leading a team of junior sales and marketing staff, and your communication and negotiation skills have to be tip-top to create new sales.
  • Good problem solving skills – you will need to do strategic thinking to help beauty products get sold in more places. Can you think outside the box and see opportunities where other people see problems?
  • Good organisation skills – you always need to be organised if you’re leading a team or creating a business strategy. Your work can involve travel and meetings, so make sure your diary planner is up to date and you’re never late for anything!
  • Presentations skills – you will have to present beauty products to potential customers like salon owners or beauty buyers for department stores in a very professional and polished way. When you are pitching the products, you are an ambassador for the brand!
  • Self-management skills – many chemical engineers are freelance and/or self-employed. You have to be able to manage yourself to score gigs, build clients and develop your portfolio.

Vocational qualifications and work experience will help you build these skills over time.

Start building these skills right now – sign up for free Young Professional training.

What does a chemical engineer do?

Knowing a little more about chemical engineering will help you show employers that you understand what this job is about. It can also help you decide if it’s right for you.

You’ll usually work in one of two main areas: research (study) or manufacturing (making).

As a chemical engineer you’ll be helping to turn raw materials into everyday and industrial products.

Your skills could be useful in all kinds of industries, including:

  • Food and drink
  • pharmaceuticals
  • textiles
  • oil and gas
  • minerals
  • energy and water
  • biotechnology (e.g. antiobiotics)

Typical research and development activities:

  • Working in a lab and with computers
  • Testing new ways to make and improve products
  • Using computer models to work out better, safer and cheaper ways to make things
  • Planning how to get production from experimenting in a lab to testing prototypes then making the final products on a much bigger scale
  • Keeping the chemical side of things safe by thinking about how to safely deal with any waste.

Typical manufacturing activities:

  • Helping plant designer to make new equipment used in the production of desired products
  • Helping to check things are running smoothly at the processing plant
  • Keeping an eye on how production is going, and deal with any problems that crop up
  • Making sure everything is fit for use by working with health and safety managers as well as quality control. The products made must be safe – and so must the people making them.

Your first steps into chemical engineer jobs

Chemical engineer jobs are advertised under different job titles. To find jobs for young people in this role, search on job boards for opportunities with these words in the title:

  • Chemical engineering apprenticeship
  • Chemical engineering technician
  • Graduate chemical engineer
  • Chemical engineering graduate

Engineering/Manufacturing jobs you might like...

View job descriptions with average UK salary, useful qualifications and a variety of routes into this career. Or see our full list of careers in engineering and manufacturing!


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