Chemical engineering is one of several problem-solving fields that you can work in with a bachelor's degree and the right mix of skills. Chemical engineers specifically use equipment and production processes and chemicals to create products. Common products designed and developed through chemical engineering include various plastics, detergents, paper and cement. Relative to other fields, chemical engineering comes with certain strengths and weaknesses.
Engineering on the whole is a high-paying profession. Chemical engineers are among the most well-paid engineers. The average annual income as of May 2012 was $102,270, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Even greater earning potential is possible in some top industries and companies. The BLS reported that 10 percent of chemical engineers made at or above $154,840 per year.
Chemical engineers work in a host of fields, including architecture, pharmaceuticals, product manufacturing, science and research. Some jobs offer travel opportunities if that is something you like to do. Additionally, people who choose a career in chemical engineering often get to combine their passions for math, chemistry and even physics into their job. Many fields involve significant studies and product testing, which enables engineers to play on their creative and innovative qualities.
Chemical engineers get the best of both worlds. They get to put chemistry into practice, but they also get into the engineering profession with the broadest scope, according to the American Chemical Society (ACS) website. The ACS points out that of all the engineering fields, chemical is the only one that incorporates all three of the foundations of engineering -- math, physics and chemistry. Most involve just math and physics.
Some chemical engineers are so enthralled with chemistry that they don't mind the working conditions of the profession, which are sometimes limiting or uninspiring. The typical chemical engineer spends much of the work day in a lab setting or office. Some may work at plants or refineries to deal with particular job tasks or problems. Travel to distant locations around the globe may deter some people from the job -- and entice others.
Slow Job Growth
The BLS projected only a 6 percent increase in chemical engineering jobs from 2010 to 2020. This is well below average for all professions and among the lowest for engineers. Steady growth in manufacturing of chemical-based products and their evolution into new areas of technology will contribute to growth. However, the BLS doesn't cite any major catalysts that would drive job increases like those that exist in other fields.