Chemical engineers develop ways to turn raw materials into everyday products.
Salary range: £29,000 to £60,000
How to become a chemical engineer
You can get into this job through:
- a university course
- an apprenticeship
- working towards this role
You’ll normally need a degree or postgraduate qualification in:
- chemical engineering
- process engineering
- 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:
- 4 or 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C), or equivalent, including English, maths and science
- 2 or 3 A levels, or equivalent, including chemistry
- a degree in a relevant subject for postgraduate study
- equivalent entry requirements
- student finance for fees and living costs
- university courses and entry requirements
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, for a higher or degree apprenticeship
You could start as a chemical engineering technician and do training on the job to qualify as an engineer.
Professional and industry bodies
You can join the Institution of Chemical Engineers for professional development opportunities.
What it takes
Skills and knowledge
- maths knowledge
- knowledge of engineering science and technology
- knowledge of chemistry including the safe use and disposal of chemicals
- design skills and knowledge
- knowledge of physics
- analytical thinking skills
- science skills
- to be thorough and pay attention to detail
- to be able to use a computer and the main software packages competently
What you’ll do
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 work in a laboratory, in an office or at a manufacturing plant.
Your working environment may be outdoors some of the time.
You may need to wear protective clothing.
Career path and progression
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.