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

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