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Career profile: Chemical engineer

Career profile: Chemical engineerForget Harry Potter. The real magicians of the modern world are chemical engineers, who take materials from the natural world and help to turn them into all of the things we use everyday. We give you a lowdown on the job here.

A what?

Chemical engineers have a part to play in almost everything made by humans. Their job is to change raw materials into all the essential and luxury products we use. They work with all kinds of materials, in addition to chemicals, and they extract as many products as they can in a cost-effective and safe way.

On the job

Given the amount of different things chemical engineers help to produce, they can work in all sorts of settings from factories and processing plants to offices and laboratories. Some examples of the types of things chemical engineers help to make are:

  • paper
  • cosmetics and lotions
  • food and drink
  • drugs and medicines
  • textiles and clothes
  • fuel processing for petrol, oil and gas
  • metallurgy for vehicles and furniture

And the list doesn’t end there. Virtually anything you can think of that you use everyday will have been helped along by a chemical engineer.

At all types of the process from research through to production, chemical engineers have to work within a team, so as well as being flexible on where they work and having the skills needed to do the technical aspect of the job, they also need to be able to get on well with others.

Future prospects

Chemical engineers may be employed by large international companies, research organisations and smaller firms in many different industries. These include the oil and gas industry, chemical and allied products, food, energy, pharmaceuticals, utility companies, central government departments, government agencies and with engineering contract companies that design and construct production plant. So, if you get the right qualifications, then there are lots of good opportunities out there.

The salary can be anywhere between £20,000 to over £150,000 a year depending on who you work for and your level of experience.

How do I get there?

Most chemical engineers are graduates and have done a full-time degree course in chemical engineering. You usually need at least five GCSEs/S grades and three A-levels, including maths, chemistry and another science subject. Applicants without qualifications in maths and chemistry may be accepted onto a foundation year before the first year of a chemical engineering course.

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