When you decide to pursue a career in chemical engineering, you are making a major decision that will greatly impact your future professional opportunities and your earning potential. Over a lifetime of work, engineers can earn as much as $3.5 million even without holding an advanced degree. To accomplish your dream of becoming a chemical engineer, though, you will have to first prepare for the career by earning a college degree, passing multiple examinations, getting professional work experience and obtaining a license.
A Chemical Engineering Education
To become a chemical engineer, you must first earn a college degree in this discipline of engineering specifically. The curriculum of an accredited chemical engineering degree program will cover material such as engineering design and analysis as well as the processes at work in chemistry, physics and biology, according to ABET, the body that accredits 160 undergraduate chemical engineering degree programs. Lectures, laboratory work and cooperative opportunities will teach students both the theory and application of how to incorporate these important engineering concepts and strategies into chemistry and biology to create new processes and chemical materials.
Advanced educational opportunities exist in chemical engineering and can open new doors for ambitious students. Some students choose to earn a master’s degree or even a Ph.D. to prepare themselves for job opportunities in research and development. Students who know that they want to earn a graduate-level degree may wish to enroll in a five-year degree program that combines both undergraduate and graduate studies to award both a bachelor’s and master’s degree upon completion, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
Licensing and Training
After completing a formal college education in chemical engineering, your next step will be to take the Fundamentals of Engineering examination. Completing this test will qualify you as an engineer-in-training or official engineer intern. You can then begin working under the supervision of a licensed and experienced engineer. Hands-on experience is very important in chemical engineering. You might expect to undergo additional formal training as well, particularly if you begin your professional work with a large company or organization that employs many entry-level engineers. To become a full-fledged engineer, you must gain the required amount of work experience necessary in your state and then pass another test, the Professional Engineering exam. Then you can finally get your license and realize your dream of being a chemical engineer.
A job as a chemical engineer is rewarding on many levels. Financially, you, like other engineering professionals, can expect to earn a profitable salary. In fact, chemical engineers earn a median annual salary of $94,350, even higher than the $86,200 annual salary that engineers generally earn, according to the BLS. Working as a chemical engineer is also fulfilling in other ways. They solve numerous problems and have the opportunity to create new or more efficient processes for answering social needs, like creating new fuels, forms of energy, medicines, food products and even electronics.