There are a number of different statistics and estimates for the projected annual salary of someone employed as a chemical engineer in the United States. According to statistics provided by the Bureau of Labor, there are approximately 29,000 chemical engineers working in the country, and the mean annual wage is $91,670. The middle 50 percent of people employed as chemical engineers obtain an annual wage of $88,280 with an hourly wage of $42.44. The lowest 10 percent obtain an annual wage of $56,090 with an hourly wage of $26.97, while the highest 10 percent obtain an annual wage of $132,980 with an hourly wage of $63.93. The industries with the highest employment rates in chemical engineering are architectural engineering, basic chemical manufacturing, and scientific research and development areas. The highest paying industries for chemical engineering involve oil and gas extraction, management, technical, and scientific consulting, and motor vehicle part manufacturing.*
*According to the BLS, http://www.bls.gov/oco/
Job Description and Outlook
The job of a chemical engineer is to use different principles, concepts, and theories related to chemistry and engineering to solve novel problems that involve how chemicals may be produced or used or combined with other products. Chemical engineers may be involved in a number of processes in chemical manufacturing, such as designing equipment and procedures, or planning and testing methods involved in products and byproducts. They are also likely to be involved in supervising the production of items manufactured through the manipulations of chemicals and plastics. Chemical engineers may also work in a number of industries related to manufacturing besides chemical manufacturing, such as industries involved in the production of electronics, energy (in particular, oil and gas), food, paper, and clothing. Chemical engineers can also find employment in health care, education, and bio technology.
The outlook for chemical engineering as a profession in the United States is healthy; the profession is projected to grow on a rate comparable to the average growth rate of most professions; however, the specific growth rate will vary by the specialty of chemical engineering an individual works in. Chemical engineers involved in the chemical manufacturing industry may actually face a slight decline in employment opportunities over the coming decade, although there will continue to be a number of chemical companies that employ chemical engineers for research and development purposes. Chemical engineers will continue to be in demand in applications and industries involving energy, particularly the industries involved with extraction and refinement of oil and natural gas from the world’s oceans. There will also be a need for engineers versed in safety practices to reduce the likelihood of disasters occurring from industrial incidents, such as oil spills and chemical fires and explosions. There is also expected to be employment growth for chemical engineers who participate in industries related to the provision of services, such as technical services, scientific services, and professional services. The fields of nano technology and bio technology are in rapid development, and chemical engineers will likely be able to seek employment in these fields due to their credentials in engineering and expertise in the manipulation of chemicals and related products.*
*According to the BLS, http://www.bls.gov/oco/
Training and Education Requirements
The typical terminal requirement in most areas of employment for a potential chemical engineer is a doctoral degree. There are some areas and fields where it may be possible to find employment without a terminal degree, such as in the Federal Government, but the default expectation is for candidates to have completed their education with a Ph.D., and in certain sub industries, having real life work experience is also desirable.
It is possible in many cases to work with a bachelor’s degree in supportive roles as a chemical engineer, depending on the setting and the needs of the employer. In fact, chemical engineers earn among the highest starting salaries of any workers with bachelor’s degrees, and chemical engineers who obtain experience in petroleum engineering may be able to negotiate higher salaries and more opportunities without much trouble. Many employers will pay their employees to further their education.
It is usually not necessary to obtain certification to begin working as a chemical engineer. However, there can be benefits to seeking voluntary certification from different professional organizations, such as higher salaries within current locations of employment and access to more lucrative employment opportunities. There are a number of professional associations and organizations from which certification as a chemical engineer may be obtained. The specific requirements for obtaining certification as a chemical engineer will vary from one association to the next. Many organizations request a particular amount of formalized education and post doctorate work, while others are more interested in years of work experience. Still others may ask for a combination of work experience and degrees accumulated through formal education and schooling.
There are a number of organizations and associations in the chemical engineering industry that offer certification to chemical engineers.
- The American Chemical Society
- The American Institute of Chemical Engineers
- The Electrochemical Society
- The National Organization for the Professional Advancement of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers
- The American Hydrogen Association
- The Association of Energy Engineers
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