Agriculture

Chemical engineer

Chemical engineers develop ways to turn raw materials into everyday products.

Annual Salary

£29,000 to £60,000

Average UK salary in 2018 was £29,588 (source Office for Statistics)

Working hours

40

3%
Future employment

There will be 3% more Chemical engineer jobs in 2024.
In your local area

What's it all about?

You’ll be involved in the design, manufacture and operation of processes that turn raw materials into domestic and industrial products.

You could work in a range of industries, like:

  • food and drink
  • pharmaceuticals
  • textiles
  • oil and gas
  • minerals
  • energy and water
  • biotechnology 

You may also research and develop new or improved products.

If you work in research and development, you’ll: 

  • test new ways to develop products in the lab
  • use computer models to work out the safest and most cost-effective production methods
  • plan how to move lab tests into a pilot production phase, then on to large-scale industrial processing
  • develop methods to deal with by-products and waste materials in a safe way 

In manufacturing, you’ll:

  • work with plant designers to create equipment and control instruments for the production process
  • help to oversee the day-to-day operation of the processing plant
  • monitor production and deal with problems
  • work closely with quality control and health and safety managers 

You could also work in biochemical engineering, developing anything from new medicines like vaccines and stem cell therapies, to sources of sustainable energy like biofuels.

University

You’ll normally need an Institution of Chemical Engineers (IChemE) or Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) accredited BEng degree in chemical, process or biochemical engineering.

You may be able to do a postgraduate conversion course if you have a degree in a related area like engineering, chemistry or polymer science.

Some universities offer a foundation year for people without qualifications in maths and science, which allows them to move onto the degree course afterwards.

A postgraduate master's qualification like an MEng can be studied at university. This course includes independent research and gives you a greater knowledge and understanding of chemical engineering science. It could also prepare you for further postgraduate study like a PhD.

You'll usually need:

  • 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C), including maths and a science
  • at least 2 or 3 A levels, including chemistry
  • a degree in a relevant subject for postgraduate study

Apprenticeship

You may be able to do a science industry process engineer degree apprenticeship.

You'll usually need:

  • 4 or 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C) and A levels, or equivalent qualifications, for a higher or a degree apprenticeship

£29,000 to £60,000

Starter salary: £29,000

Experienced salary: £55,000

These figures are a guide.

40

You’ll usually work 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday. You may need to work overtime to meet project deadlines. In processing and manufacturing, you might work shifts, including weekends, evenings and nights.

You could be based in a lab, an office or a processing plant. In some environments you may need to wear protective clothing or use equipment like safety glasses, ear protectors or a hard hat.

With experience, you could progress to senior process or design engineer, research and development manager. You could go on to be a plant manager, or overall operations manager.

You could also move into consultancy work.

You can find more details about careers and training in chemical engineering through the Institution of Chemical Engineers and Whynotchemeng.

Skills required and how your skills match up

What skills are required?

You’ll need: 

  • maths and science skills, particularly chemistry
  • good problem-solving and analytical skills
  • planning and organisational ability
  • excellent IT skills
  • the ability to manage projects, budgets and people
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