Chemical engineers design manufacturing concepts to produce different types of chemicals. This includes a variety products such as food, pharmaceuticals and fuel. Out of all the engineering disciplines, chemical engineers earn some of the highest average salaries. Becoming a chemical engineer generally requires a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering, which takes about four years to complete. Additional education, training and licenses can increase employment opportunities.
You can prepare yourself for chemical engineering studies by taking classes related to science and advanced mathematics. This prepares you for undergraduate studies. Include classes in subjects such as chemistry, advanced algebra, physics, calculus, biology and trigonometry. For those interested in changing careers and becoming a chemical engineer without taking on additional classes, elect these types of classes during your first year of undergraduate studies to prepare for advanced chemical engineering classes later on.
Before applying for any chemical engineering jobs, you must complete undergraduate studies, leading to a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering. Some educational programs offer a bachelor’s degree in chemical and bimolecular engineering. As of 2013, the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology has 160 accredited undergraduate programs nationwide in chemical engineering. Graduating from an accredited education program also allows you to become licensed as a professional engineer later in your career.
Although undergraduate studies take about four years to complete, employment opportunities can increase for those who pursue a professional engineer license. To obtain a professional engineer license, start by taking the Fundamentals of Engineering exam during your last year of education. The exam is administered by the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying. After graduation and about four years of professional experience, you can take and pass the Principles and Practice of Engineering exam to become licensed.
Careers and Salary
The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects only 6 percent growth for chemical engineers between 2010 and 2020. Although slow growth is expected, the continuing advancement in technologies will help grow employment in fields such as alternative energy and biotechnology. Chemical engineers who stay abreast of new technologies and manufacturing methods will find the best opportunities. In 2011, the BLS estimated an average salary of $99,440 per year.
2016 Salary Information for Chemical Engineers
Chemical engineers earned a median annual salary of $98,340 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, chemical engineers earned a 25th percentile salary of $76,390, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $126,050, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 32,700 people were employed in the U.S. as chemical engineers.