Chemical Engineer

Job Description:

Chemical engineers develop ways to turn raw materials into everyday products.

Job Category:

What you will do:

You’ll be involved in the design, manufacture and operation of processes that turn raw materials into domestic and industrial products.

You could work in a range of industries, like:

  • food and drink
  • pharmaceuticals
  • textiles
  • oil and gas
  • minerals
  • energy and water
  • biotechnology

You may also research and develop new or improved products.

If you work in research and development, you’ll: 

  • test new ways to develop products in the lab
  • use computer models to work out the safest and most cost-effective production methods
  • plan how to move lab tests into a pilot production phase, then on to large-scale industrial processing
  • develop methods to deal with by-products and waste materials in a safe way

In manufacturing, you’ll:

  • work with plant designers to create equipment and control instruments for the production process
  • help to oversee the day-to-day operation of the processing plant
  • monitor production and deal with problems
  • work closely with quality control and health and safety managers

You could also work in biochemical engineering, developing anything from new medicines like vaccines and stem cell therapies, to sources of sustainable energy like biofuels.


You’ll need:

  • maths knowledge
  • knowledge of engineering science and technology
  • knowledge of chemistry including the safe use and disposal of chemicals
  • design skills and knowledge
  • knowledge of physics
  • to be able to use a computer and the main software packages competently

As well as:

  • analytical thinking skills
  • science skills
  • to be thorough and pay attention to detail
  • ambition & drive
Illustration of employee looking at workspace

Entry Requirements:

This may vary from country to country. However, in the UK, you’ll normally need an Institution of Chemical Engineers (IChemE) or Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) accredited BEng degree in chemical, process or biochemical engineering.

If you have a degree in a different branch of engineering, or a related subject like chemistry or polymer science, a postgraduate qualification in chemical or process engineering may increase your chances of finding work.

You could also take an integrated master’s qualification, like an MEng, to prepare you for further postgraduate study like a PhD or EngD.

Some universities offer a foundation year for people without qualifications in maths and science.

Working Hours and Environment:

You’ll usually work 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday. You may need to work overtime to meet project deadlines. In processing and manufacturing, you might work shifts, including weekends, evenings and nights.

You could be based in a lab, an office or a processing plant. In some environments, you may need to wear protective clothing or use equipment like safety glasses, ear protectors or a hard hat.

Career Path & Progression:

With experience, you could progress to senior process or design engineer, research and development manager. You could go on to be a plant manager, or overall operations manager.

You could also move into consultancy work.