There was a time when chemical engineering referred to and was limited only to the production of chemicals. However, since then the field has evolved and merged with biology to expand its horizon to just about everything from plastics, consumer products, food, fuel, and medicines among others. In the 21st century, chemical engineering is a critical part of nearly every industry, helping produce products that improve quality of life from raw materials.
According to a report, for every 5 chemical engineers, there’s one job opportunity as there’s a shortage of chemical engineers in the US. Astonishingly, chemical engineering is one of the few jobs that offer a median pay of over $100,000 annually in the US.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment in chemical engineering is projected to grow 9 percent between 2020 and 2030 with around 1,800 openings projected every year on an average.
You can tell by now that there’s a lot of scope in the field of chemical engineering. By pursuing a career in the chemical industry, you’ll not only gain a wide variety of skills but also be highly employable and have long-term financial security. To become a chemical engineer, you should gear up as early as high school. Here’s a short guide on how to become a chemical engineer.
Take up Physics, Chemistry, and Math in High School
Since the field of chemical engineering is extremely lucrative, the competition is usually quite stiff. This means if you aspire to become one, you should start prepping early and build a foundation by taking up classes in subjects like Chemistry, Biology, Physics, Mathematics, and maybe calculus.
These subjects may look difficult in high school and put you off but in the 21st century, you have the vast expanse of the internet to help you prepare better. There are online resources like homework help, guides, courses, and expert assistance, to help you grasp these subjects easily. From complex chemistry answers to crash courses in calculus, you’ll find online resources quite helpful. You can visit sites like Sweetstudy.com for help with other language subjects like English as well.
Start prepping for chemical engineering college by taking college preparatory courses in this area. Undertaking specific coursework in calculus, trigonometry, and algebra will also increase your chances to get accepted at the desired university or college.
Pursue a Bachelor’s Degree in Chemical Engineering
Speaking of college, to become a chemical engineer, you’ll need a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering. However, don’t just pick any college as per convenience or the first college that accepts you. Do a little due diligence and a college program accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET).
This is important because the accreditation is proof that you have undergone a rigorous education in this field to meet the high standards demanded by this field. This will help your career prospects and let employers know that you are fit for the role. Bachelor’s program in chemical engineering is usually a 4-year long course and requires 120-130 credits.
The program teaches aspirants analyzing and inventing chemical products as well as processes through field studies, laboratory, and classroom education. Many courses also teach how to design equipment and manufacturing processes. Based on their area of interest, students can pick from streams like nuclear engineering, biochemical engineering, petroleum and gas, and more.
Done With Bachelors? Consider Master’s
Don’t worry, even with a bachelor’s degree in the chemical engineering field one can have a very rewarding career as a chemical engineer. However, an advanced degree like a master’s in the same field will not only open up more job opportunities in this field but also make students eligible for managerial positions in the chemical industry.
Apart from the obvious reason stated above, with a master’s degree students get a deeper understanding of advanced laboratory skills, research methods, and chemical reactions. Moreover, if you are looking for a career in research or academics in this field, a master’s degree is a must. Look for colleges that offer combined bachelor’s and master’s degree chemical engineering programs within five years.
Don’t Overlook Practical Experience
Whether you’re in a bachelor’s or master’s program, don’t miss out on internship and cooperative education opportunities offered by the school. These programs help students gain practical knowledge through several months of field experience, which is valued by employers in the chemical industry.
Most freshers’ jobs in the industry offer on-site training where new joiners work under an experienced chemical engineer and receive additional training through workshops and seminars. With more experience, you unlock your chances to find better job responsibilities and independence.
Get State License
Chemical engineering is one field that doesn’t require a license to hold a position, unlike other engineering disciplines. Most chemical engineers don’t bother getting a license in their entire career even. However, if you’re aiming for management roles in this field or aspiring to start your private practice, you will need a professional engineer license.
Know that obtaining the PE license is not a cakewalk and requires significant time as well as commitment. However, while not required, the license will set you apart from other chemical engineers and increase your prospects. The license makes you eligible to supervise other engineers, sign off projects, and prepare engineering plans to be submitted to a public authority.
To summarize, the path to becoming a chemical engineer is long and hard. However, lucrative job opportunities, good pay scale, and shortage of chemical engineers in the US is a big draw. This is one career path that’s just up for taking and offers a rewarding, financially stable lifestyle.