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Jobs for chemical engineering majors: All your options

Discover where chemical engineering training can lead, and learn about the most common and best-paying chemical engineering degree jobs.
doug-wintemute
Written by Doug Wintemute on

Chemical engineers use their knowledge of chemicals to produce medicines, products, and safe manufacturing processes.

Chemical engineering graduates can access careers in many industries, including healthcare, life sciences, and manufacturing. 

Here, we look more closely at the chemical engineering degree jobs available to give you an idea of what to expect.

What's it like to work in chemical engineering?

Chemical engineering degree jobs look different depending on the role and industry. Students and professionals can work in a chemical engineering subfield, such as biological engineering. Chemical engineers work in the following subfields: 

  • Biochemical engineering
  • Environmental engineering
  • Materials engineering
  • Nanomaterials engineering
  • Nuclear engineering
  • Pharmaceutical engineering
  • Process engineering
  • Production engineering
  • Petroleum engineering
  • Plastics engineering

The American Chemical Society states that chemical engineers design and manage chemical processes for manufacturing products. Responsibilities vary among industries.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the leading industry employers of chemical engineers in 2020 were: 

  • Engineering services
  • Research and development in physical, engineering, and life sciences
  • Petroleum and coal products manufacturing
  • Wholesale trade
  • Pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing

In May 2020, chemical engineers earned median annual wages of $108,540, the BLS reported.

Chemical engineering allows for remote work, but you may also work in offices, laboratories, manufacturing plants, and refineries. Chemical engineers work with other engineers and manufacturing professionals. 

You can boost your career with advanced chemical engineering degrees, experience, and professional licensure

Careers for chemical engineering majors after graduation

The chemical engineering discipline contains many subfields and professions. Depending on the level and focus of your training, you may pursue the following chemical engineering degree jobs.

Chemical engineer

Minimum degree level required: Bachelor's degree
Salary expectations: $108,540 median annual salary
Alternate job titles: Process engineer, process development engineers biochemical engineer, pharmaceutical engineer

Important qualities: 

  • Analytical and investigative
  • Problem-solvers 
  • Observant and detail-oriented
  • Interested in math and science 
  • Creative and innovative

Chemical engineers design equipment and processes for the manufacturing and production industries. They ensure chemical handling and reactions are done safely and achieve the appropriate results. They also help develop new chemical products.

Chemical engineering professor

Minimum degree level required: Doctoral degree
Salary expectations: $103,600 median annual salary
Alternate job titles: Engineering teacher, chemical engineering faculty, chemical engineering researcher

Important qualities: 

  • Resourceful critical thinkers
  • Interpersonal and good communicators 
  • Open-minded and investigative
  • Well-rounded experience in chemical engineering

Chemical engineering professors teach aspiring chemical engineers in colleges and universities. They create lessons and curricula, assess student knowledge and progress, conduct research, and publish findings. 

Chemist

Minimum degree level required: Bachelor's degree
Salary expectations: $79,300 median annual wage 
Alternate job titles: Materials scientist, analytical chemist, medicinal chemist, physical chemist

Important qualities: 

  • Analytical problem-solvers
  • Interpersonal and good communicators
  • Math and science interests
  • Organized time managers

Chemists research and study chemicals, substances, and products. They test the safety of products, develop new products, and design processes and procedures for scientists and production professionals. Chemists can specialize in areas like green, forensic, organic, or inorganic chemistry. 

Development engineer

Minimum degree level required: Bachelor's degree
Salary expectations: $111,707
Alternate job titles: Research and development engineer, product and development engineer

Important qualities: 

  • Analytical and critical thinkers
  • Problem-solvers with attention to detail
  • Time management skills
  • Process-oriented leaders

These engineers research, design, develop, and test products for manufacturing. They resolve any product or process issues and help make improvements. They also lay out the proper procedures for the manufacturing processes. 

Engineering manager

Minimum degree level required: Bachelor's degree
Salary expectations: $149,530 median annual wage
Alternate job titles: Chief engineer, operations manager, product manager, engineering project manager

Important qualities: 

  • Leaders with strong communication skills
  • Analytical problem-solvers
  • Organized and detail-oriented
  • Interests and strengths in math and science 

Engineering managementinvolves overseeing a team of engineers and your employer's projects. These professionals manage budgets, staffing, policies, and processes. They also lead the research and development of new products and processes.

Environmental engineer

Minimum degree level required: Bachelor's degree
Salary expectations: $92,120 median annual salary
Alternate job titles: Environmental quality engineer, environmental consultant, green engineer

Important qualities: 

  • Imaginative problem-solvers 
  • Good communicators with interpersonal skills
  • Interested in environmental health
  • Proficient in math and science

Environmental engineers look for solutions to environmental issues, such as waste disposal, recycling, and pollution. They perform tests and quality checks for compliance and regulation adherence. They also develop processes and procedures for organizations that could impact the environment. 

Field service engineer

Minimum degree level required: Bachelor's degree
Salary expectations: $70,131 median annual wage
Alternate job titles: Field engineer, field application engineer

Important qualities:

  • Troubleshooting and maintenance
  • Strong communication and interpersonal skills
  • Analytical problem-solvers

Field service engineers work onsite and troubleshoot technical issues with equipment. They install and test new equipment, research issues, and perform maintenance on equipment. They also provide guidance and procedure information on new equipment and processes.

Materials scientist

Minimum degree level required: Bachelor's degree
Salary expectations: $99,460 median annual wage
Alternate job titles: Chemist, ceramic scientist, glass scientist, metal scientist, nanomaterials scientist

Important qualities: 

  • Analytical problem-solvers
  • Organized time managers
  • Interpersonal and strong communication
  • Math and science interests

Materials scientists study specific materials' properties and look for applications. They help develop products and identify new mixtures and processes using the materials. 

Process control engineer

Minimum degree level required: Bachelor's degree
Salary expectations: $108,540 median annual salary
Alternate job titles: Chemical engineer, process engineer, process development engineer

Important qualities:

  • Analytical and creative
  • Interpersonal with strong communication skills
  • Interested in mathematics and science
  • Ingenious problem-solvers

Process control engineers specialize in specific chemical processes, often in manufacturing. For example, they might work with oxidation or polymerization. They ensure chemical mixtures and reactions are controlled safely and productively. 

Project engineer

Minimum degree level required: Bachelor's degree
Salary expectations: $70,698 median annual salary
Alternate job titles: Engineering project manager, field engineer, lead project engineer

Important qualities: 

  • Analytical problem-solvers
  • Leaders with strong interpersonal and communication skills
  • Organized and detail-oriented
  • Motivated with decision-making skills

Project engineers oversee projects and their respective teams. They organize tasks, prepare and plan processes, and create schedules and budgets. Project engineers also monitor activities and ensure employees follow safety standards and guidelines. 

Refinery process engineer

Minimum degree level required: Bachelor's degree
Salary expectations: $137,330 median annual salary
Alternate job titles: Petroleum engineer, production engineer, completions engineer

Important qualities: 

  • Analytical and creative 
  • Problem-solvers
  • Interpersonal communicators and leaders 
  • Math and science interests 

These engineers develop new equipment and processes to refine oil and raw materials. They ensure the processes can be completed safely, effectively, and in line with public health standards and guidelines. 

Data is drawn from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics unless otherwise noted.

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