Chemical engineers work to design products and materials, typically for large corporations. They must understand complex theoretical knowledge and use it to design better products. Typically they need at least a bachelor's degree in chemical engineering. Most chemical engineers stay in the profession instead of changing careers, which testifies to chemical engineers' high level of job satisfaction.
Nature of the Work
The work chemical engineers perform challenges them intellectually. The profession typically attracts people with inquisitive minds who enjoy this mental stimulation. They must continue to learn throughout their career through reading professional publications and attending seminars. Chemical engineers may also enjoy learning to work with new technologies that continually enable them to work more effectively.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts that overall job prospects in the chemical engineering field will decrease by 2 percent between 2008 and 2018. However, certain fields such as energy research, biotechnology and nanotechnology will experience growth. The fields of architecture and engineering, as well as research and development, employed the highest number of chemical engineers in 2010 -- 4,890 and 3,620 engineers, respectively. Engineers also find numerous job prospects in the chemical manufacturing and materials manufacturing fields.
Chemical engineers enjoy high salaries, averaging $94,590 in 2010, according to the BLS. The top 10 percent averaged $139,670, while the lowest 10 percent averaged $56,520. Industries paying the most included natural gas distribution, at $141,380; oil and gas extraction, at $114,450; and vehicle parts manufacturing, at $113,850. Top-paying states included Alaska, Wisconsin, Delaware, Montana and Wyoming. Pay ranged from $127,040 to $113,170 in these states.
Engineers find jobs across the country, with the highest numbers of jobs in Texas, California, Ohio, New Jersey and Illinois. If chemical engineers gain a master's or doctorate degree, they can move into a supervisory position or become a research director. They might also start their own product or materials design company or a consulting firm. If engineers wish to retire from their full-time job, becoming a part-time consultant lets them continue engaging in stimulating work with a flexible schedule.
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