Chemical engineering is in many ways the archetypal science job, even involving the traditional white coat and laboratory work. However, it is also a very stimulating field in general, Samantha Tyson of the Institution of Chemical Engineers (IChemE) having described it in The Guardian as “all about turning raw materials into useful, everyday products.”

Qualified chemical engineers can also look forward to decent remuneration – a recent IChemE salary survey having found that starting wages are in the region of £29,500.

More experienced chartered chemical engineers can expect to earn as much as £70,000, with work in certain industries such as oil and contracting potentially commanding even higher amounts. But how can you become a chemical engineer in the first place?

As with other science jobs, you need the right characteristics

Don’t be fooled too much by the ‘chemical’ bit of this particular job title – if you wish to become a chemical engineer, you will need to have strong mathematical ability. Maths, physics and chemistry are the most common A-levels taken by chemical engineering students, according to Tyson.  

But you will also need many other, often more general skills and attributes to secure a chemical engineering job. These range from project and resource management skills and oral and written communication skills to analytical and problem-solving ability and the ability to work as part of a team.

Graduates seeking these particular science jobs will also be expected to possess strong IT skills, commercial and business awareness and the capacity to motivate and lead a team.

What qualifications will you require? 

You shouldn’t normally be able to secure a chemical engineer role unless you have a BEng degree or a BTEC HNC or HND in chemical or process engineering. Admission to a chemical engineering degree course generally depends on you having at least five GCSEs graded between A and C, as well as two A-levels including maths and a science subject.

If you lack maths and science qualifications, some universities offer a foundation year to help get you up to speed. As always, you should double-check the exact entry requirements with individual colleges.

It can be advantageous for those wishing to build an especially lucrative career in chemical engineering to also possess a Masters degree (MEng) in addition to a first degree in chemical engineering. Those with a degree in a different branch of engineering or a related subject such as chemistry or polymer science may opt to take an MSc postgraduate degree in chemical or process engineering to boost their chances.  

Chemical engineering is an extremely diverse field of work

It’s difficult to sum up everything that chemical engineers do in just a few lines. Depending on the exact role and sector in which you work, you may find yourself designing plant and equipment configuration, setting up scale-up and scale-down processes, assessing options for plant expansion, applying new technologies and researching new products, among an incredibly wide range of other potential duties.

There are plenty of opportunities for progression too, which according to the National Careers Service, include progressing to a senior process or design engineer, research and development manager role or becoming a plant manager or overall operations manager. Consultancy work is another option.

Remember that Hyper Recruitment Solutions is a leading science recruitment agency serving those on the lookout for all manner of engineering roles, including process or chemical engineering. Simply click through to learn more about our in-depth expertise in this area

Relationships - both personal and professional - are a fact of life, and if you wish to make the swiftest progress up the science career ladder, you will almost certainly need to cultivate harmonious relationships with those of relevance to your chosen sector. 

Of course, we serve those seeking roles in any of a broad range of science sectors here at Hyper Recruitment Solutions, from biotechnology and pharmacology to energy and medical devices.

But in a world in which - according to one study shared on LinkedIn - as many as 85% of jobs are filled via networking, there are undoubted benefits to expanding your range of science-related contacts beyond simply signing up with a leading recruitment agency.

Here are some tips on how to do it.

Focus on quality, not just quantity

It's easy for many people attracted to the mystique of networking to think it's about little more than building a long list of contacts. However, what really matters is the quality of those contacts and how well connected you are to them. 

The best contacts aren't just those who have heard a rumour about a job opening at X company or Y company, or any other random person. Instead, they're the people who can give you useful and current information and additional relevant contacts. They are likely to be able to give you informed advice, in addition to meaningful assistance with your applications for science jobs.

But think, too, about how tight and personal the bond is with the most potentially useful contacts you already have. Do you know their name, job title and specific areas of interest? What about their educational history or family?

If you can get in phone contact with that contact and receive a positive, receptive response to whatever you ask them, they are a useful contact. Otherwise, they are simply one more name in your database.

Treat contacts with respect

Do you treat your contacts as potential allies - people who you listen to and who you can help with their own pain points, rather than merely people who can give you what they want? Your message to your contacts should be that you value them highly and - ideally - want to support and help them.

After all, showing respect to your contacts will maximise the likelihood that they respond in kind.

Part of this process should be being clear about what you want from that contact before approaching them, so that you do not waste their - or your - time. What kind of science job are you looking for, and what kind of boss are you seeking? Is this a person who is likely to help you, given your answers to the aforementioned questions?

Be patient and appreciative

Cultivating a contacts list that will actually help you to secure that longed-for science job will require a lot of patience and appreciation. Make sure you express your gratitude by personally thanking those who give you any form of help with your job search, and don't forget to 'check in' periodically and attempt to reciprocate with your own assistance, if you can.

According to one recent survey of US adults by Pew Research Center, 66% used connections with close friends or family in their most recent job search, while 63% used professional or work connections and 55% used acquaintances or friends of friends.

Clearly, then, networking looks unlikely to become any less important in the job search process any time soon. So, why not create what may prove to be one of your most crucial contacts of all, by making use of our considerable expertise in any of a vast range of science industries here at Hyper Recruitment Solutions?

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