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Chemical Engineering: Chemical Engineering Career, Online Chemical Engineering Degree

Chemical engineering combines the study of science with manufacturing, and the principles used in the field are used to solve a variety of problems, conduct research, and develop products. Chemical engineering has grown considerably in the last decade with the increases in technology, and the demand for specializations within the field is very high. From designing equipment to testing and experiments, a chemical engineer is involved with a variety of manufacturing projects. The work of a chemical engineer often overlaps in the areas of physics, mathematics, statistics, and environmental work. Chemical process analysis and design are the foundation for a chemical engineering career, and a chemical engineering degree program can provide the training needed for a position within this industry.

What Is Chemical Engineering?

Chemical engineering deals with the application of mathematics, chemistry, and physics. A chemical engineer is usually involved with the design and maintenance of various chemical processes, and these can be applied in different economic. From the agricultural sector to the automotive industry, a chemical engineer is responsible for analyzing, testing, and approving a variety of experiments and processes. Designing systems and ensuring that they are economically viable is another part of the basic job description in the field. Modern chemical engineering careers specialize in products and services in a variety of fields, including:

  • Electronics

  • Biomedical

  • Environmental

  • Space and military applications

  • Pharmaceuticals

  • Automotive

  • Aerospace

Job Description and Responsibilities of a Chemical Engineer

A chemical engineer is primarily responsible for:

  • Designing systems that are focused on the conservation of energy
  • Specializing in oxidation or polymerization
  • Developing products such as fertilizer, automotive plastics, clothing, and pulp
  • Designing equipment for large-scale chemical manufacturing
  • Planning and testing manufacturing products
  • Supervising a team of chemical engineers during testing and product development stages

A chemical engineering degree provides the research, technical, and production skills needed to pursue a chemical engineering career. Manufacturing industries in particular need a skilled chemical engineer team to stay competitive within the growing industry.

Typical Chemical Engineering Careers

After graduation from a chemical engineering degree program, the most common types of chemical engineering careers available include positions in:

  • Chemical process modeling
  • Chemical technology
  • Biotechnology
  • Heat and mass transfer
  • Nanotechnology
  • Biochemical engineering
  • Fluid dynamics
  • Distillation design
  • Environmental engineering
  • Materials science
  • Thermodynamics

These are all branches of engineering, and can become highly specialized after training with a concentration in the field. For example, Chemical process modeling is a computer modeling technique that uses special software to generate a Process Flow diagram. Biochemical engineering is a branch of chemical engineering that involves the design and construction of biological organisms and molecules. Environmental engineering is an application of both science and engineering to provide healthy water, air, and land for the environment. Many skilled professionals in this area work with air and pollution control firms, as well as the waste management industry.

Chemical Engineering Degree Programs and Training

The focus of chemical engineering degree programs is to apply all aspects of chemical manufacturing to the environment and safety of workers and consumers. After completing a chemical engineering degree program, a chemical engineer can work in multiple industries for planning, development, and production. The healthcare, biotechnology, and services fields also require extensive training, and many offer internships and work study programs for those enrolled in their last year of a chemical engineering degree program. Learning how to create and develop processes is the critical to long-term success in the field of chemical engineering, and the most common areas of study include:

  • Electronic processing
  • Semi-conductor processing
  • Plastics and high performance materials
  • Biochemical and biomedical processes
  • Ceramics
  • Electrochemical processing

A chemical engineer is usually involved with a variety of processes such as:

  • Chemical synthesis

  • Chemical separation

  • Chemical reaction

  • Distillation

  • Filtration

  • Heat transfer operations

  • Energy balances

  • Thermodynamics

Students interested in pursuing chemical engineering careers need to have strong analytical and mathematical skills, and have a solid background in mathematics, physics, biology, and even general engineering. They will need to develop strong technical writing and reporting skills, and develop sustainable systems using a variety of modules and formulas.

Chemical Engineering Careers

A successful career in chemical engineering requires a bachelor's degree, and a master's degree in the field is also highly attractive to potential employers. Chemical engineering careers can branch out into various specializations, but many entry-level positions begin after an internship or work study program. Earning an online chemical engineering degree offers some flexibility with scheduling, and allows students to complete a chemical engineering education from a distance if they need it.

Chemical Engineering Degree Accreditation

All chemical engineering degree programs are accredited by the Accreditation Board for Education and Technology (ABET). This organization is also responsible for monitoring and certifying each branch of chemical engineering degree programs, and also accredits online chemical engineering degree programs.

Earning an Online Chemical Engineering Degree

An online chemical engineering degree can be a valuable way to earn college credit while working, and is also helpful for students who are interested in completing their education from a distance. An online chemical engineering degree is designed to train students in the areas of computer-aided process design and research, as well as in-depth training in the fundamentals of chemical processes, manufacturing, and product development.

Future Employment Prospects and Earning Potential for Chemical Engineering Careers

Even though employment in the chemical manufacturing industry is expected to decline, there will be a continuous demand for researching and developing new products and processes. Chemical engineering careers are expected to grow lower than the average through 2012, but the industries in manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, and the service sector look especially promising.

The median salary for a chemical engineer was $72,490 in 2002, and starting salaries for those with a bachelor's chemical engineering degree were $52,834 in 2003.


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