Chemical Engineer

Chemical engineering is in many ways the archetypal science job, right down to the traditional white lab coat. It is also a very stimulating field of work; writing in the Guardian, Samantha Tyson of the Institution of Chemical Engineers (IChemE) described chemical engineering 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 found that starting wages average somewhere in the region of £29,500 per year. More experienced chartered chemical engineers can expect to earn as much as £70,000, or even higher in certain industries (such as oil and contracting).

But how does one 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, strong mathematical abilities are just as important as a firm grasp of chemistry. According to Tyson, maths, physics and chemistry are the most common A-levels taken by chemical engineering students.

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

Graduates seeking chemical engineering 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 won't normally be able to secure a role as a chemical engineer 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 A*-C GCSEs, as well as two A-levels (including maths and at least one 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 master's 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 career prospects.

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. According to the National Careers Service, these include becoming a senior process or design engineer; progressing into a 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. Click through to learn more about our in-depth expertise in this area.

biochemistry

So you've got a biochemistry degree - what's next?

You will have acquired / developed a wide range of specialised skills and invaluable experience as part of your degree, including the ability to understand complex biological processes. Your course will also have sharpened many of your more general skills, like numeracy and communication. But what happens once you've graduated and it's time to head into the wider science jobs market?

In truth, you may not feel ready to apply for science roles straight away. Indeed, many of those wishing to pursue bioscience careers undertake further studies first (a PhD, for example, is essential for academic research). Alternatively, you may decide to enter the general graduate jobs market or look to gain professional qualifications in a non-science field like teaching, law or finance.

However, for the purposes of this guide, we're going to assume that you want to turn your biochemistry degree into a scientific career right away.

Becoming a biochemist

As with other science jobs, work experience can play a big role in helping you to secure your dream biochem job. Having successfully completed a biochemistry degree, you will have already developed practical and technical skills through laboratory-based work and your final year research project, but you may further boost your marketability to employers by acquiring relevant work experience, such as in a research lab as part of a summer internship.

As one of the most respected science recruitment agencies in the UK, Hyper Recruitment Solutions is here to provide you with all the assistance that you require to secure a rewarding role in biochemistry after you graduate. When you're ready to start applying for jobs, we can provide CV and interview advice in addition to helping you find attractive biochemistry vacancies.

Developing your biochemistry career

Once you have secured a biochemistry role, you will develop your skills on the job, possibly as part of a structured graduate training programme provided by your employer. You may also seek to reinforce your professional scientist status and keep your biochemistry knowledge up to date through membership of a professional body, such as the Society of Biology or the Biochemical Society.

Your work as a biochemist will mainly take place in a laboratory, working from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday. Some jobs may require you to work shifts, as well as for longer hours during busy periods. Many biochemists also work on a part-time basis.

How much do biochemists earn?

As detailed by the National Careers Service, trainee clinical biochemists on the NHS Scientist Training Programme can expect to earn a salary of around £25,000 a year, from which point the NHS's Agenda for Change (AfC) pay structure applies. Qualified clinical biochemists in the NHS, for example, start in Band 6, earning between £26,302 and £35,225. With experience, you will have the option of applying for Band 7 jobs commanding salaries of up to £41,373.

Postdoctoral researchers and research fellows, meanwhile, can command salaries of £29,000 to £36,000 a year, and for research scientists in industry, the guideline wage is between £23,000 and £42,000 a year.

With biochemistry graduates employed by a wide range of public sector organisations (such as the Environment Agency and various government departments), as well as across a wide range of companies in such industries as biotechnology, agriculture, food and water, there's no question that a biochemistry degree will stand you in extremely good stead as you look to climb the career ladder.

Talk to the experts here at Hyper Recruitment Solutions about the best next steps to take after graduation.

On Wednesday 10th October at 10:00 Hyper Recruitment Solutions (HRS) are participating in an online chemical sciences event run by the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) - Chem Careers 2012. This is an event focused on showing people the different career options on offer regardless of what stage in your career you are at. Ricky Martin (Managing Director of HRS) will be available from 10:00 during the RSC's live chat session where three employers are asked the question by participants of the event - How do I get in the door?

As somebody who is a member of the RSC, experience in recruiting across this field for many years and now a business owner himself, Ricky is the ideal person from HRS to do so. Interesting he also exhibited at 3 of the live Chem Careers events at Birmingham's NEC from 2006 - 2009. So he knows the event well and the topic of conversation in detail.

So whether you are interested in finding our how to stand out, where to go to find your perfect job in science or what applications a scientist can look at with their career. This is a perfect chance to ask somebody who knows the field well and is fully behind supporting scientists in their career options.

For more information on advice on CVs, interviews and working with a recruitment agency please do visit the Hyper Recruitment Solutions Website at www.hyperec.com

For more information on the Chem Careers event please visit http://my.rsc.org/chemcareers

HRS are supporting the science community to offer a highly compliant and specialist recruitment service to any jobs sectors. We offer science jobs at scientific companies and alos science positions for non science companies. Whatever your ideal career options would be HRS are well connected across the industry.

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