What does the work involve?
What sorts of companies employ chemical engineers?
What are the job prospects like?
What sort of jobs can I do with a chemical engineer degree?
What does a chemical engineer earn?
Can chemical engineers enter other fields?
Are there opportunities to work outside the UK?
What's the difference between chemistry and chemical engineering?
What's the difference between biochemical and chemical engineering?
What is process engineering?
Are there other routes into chemical engineering?
What if I don't have the right qualifications?
How do I found out what courses are available?
How do I choose a degree with a good reputation?
What goes 'accredited' mean?
What's the difference between a BEng and MEng degree?
Are all university programmes the same?
Are there any courses that include a year abroad or in industry?
Is work experience available and how do I find it?
Are there any bursaries, grants or sponsorships?
What help can IChemE offer?
Chemical engineers are trained to apply fundamental engineering principles to design, develop and manage processes while maximising economic returns and reducing environmental impact. Chemical engineers need to work as part of a team and develop good communication skills. Strong problem-solving and analytical skills are also a bonus.
Sectors chemical engineers work in include:
- oil and gas
- consumer products
- mining and minerals
- food and drink
- process and equipment
- business and finance
Browse IChemE's special interest groups to find out more about specific sectors/types of work, or visit our Accredited Company Training Scheme (ACTS) pages to see which companies employ chemical engineering graduates.
A chemical engineering degree equips you with easily transferable skills. Graduates usually take on considerable responsibility within a few years of graduation. For this reason, job prospects are excellent and often involve the chance to reach senior managerial positions at a young age.
The choice of work available is exceptionally wide. Chemical engineers work in large international companies, as well as smaller companies; in sectors as wide ranging as chemicals, oil & gas, pharmaceuticals, food and drink, biotechnology and water. They are also highly sought after in business and finance. See some example job roles here.
Chemical engineers are the best paid group of engineers. According to an annual salary survey of IChemE members, those under the age of 25 earn £30,000/y on average. More details about the salaries for chemical engineers can be found here.
Yes! Chemical engineering is a well-respected discipline that opens many career paths across industry, business and finance. Chemical engineering graduates are highly sought after as employers recognise that their analytical and problem-solving skills are highly transferable.
Yes – chemical engineering is a truly international profession providing many opportunities for worldwide travel.
Chemical engineers take chemists' laboratory discoveries and figure out how to use them to make a useful product both safely, and cost-effectively, on a large scale. For example, chemists might develop a new drug, but the chemical engineer is responsible for designing the process to make millions of tablets, all containing exactly the right amount of ingredients, to ensure safety. They also have to consider any implications relating to plant efficiency, profit margins, health and safety, industry regulations, waste reduction etc.
See our 10 differences between chemistry and chemical engineering factsheet for more information.
Chemical engineering is concerned with changing raw materials into useful products by designing processes which change their chemical or physical composition, structure or energy content.
Biochemical engineering is a branch of chemical engineering which is concerned with biological changes and is particularly important in the production of pharmaceuticals, foodstuffs and the treatment of waste.
Process engineering is essentially the application of chemical engineering principles to optimise the design, operation and control of chemical processes. Since this requires equipment design and selection, mechanical engineers may also be employed as process engineers.
The most straightforward entry route is via an undergraduate degree course. There are some HND and HNC courses available but these would usually lead to completing a chemical engineering degree.
Degree-level apprenticeships are becoming available in a range of industries and allow you to gain practical experience and earn a living while also studying towards a degree qualification.
Universities and industry are working to develop chemical engineering apprenticeships, but it may take some time to get these fully operational. In the meantime, use the government’s find an apprenticeship search tool. Keywords such as process, chemical, laboratory, science industry and plant may be useful.
There are a number of universities that offer foundation courses that cover the necessary background. However, these are usually designed for those without the correct subjects needed for entry, rather than for those who have the correct subjects but haven't met the level/grades required.
You could also consider an apprenticeship.
Browse the list of universities with an IChemE accredited course, or use the UCAS Course Search.
All accredited courses have a good reputation. Our strict accreditation procedures ensure universities maintain the highest standards. Find out which universities offer IChemE-accredited courses.
For an independent guide to the universities offering chemical engineering degrees, visit one or more of the following websites:
- The Complete University Guide
- The Guardian's University Guide
- The Times' Good University Guide (subscription may be required).
There are various levels of accreditation. If a degree programme is accredited by IChemE it means that the course meets (in full or in part) the academic standards necessary to apply for Chartered Chemical Engineer status (after gaining appropriate industrial experience). You can check the accreditation status of all engineering degree courses with the Engineering Council.
The MEng course lasts a year longer than the BEng course and provides a greater depth and breadth of study.
Apart from the compulsory ‘core’ subjects which are usually studied in the earlier years, there are a broad range of optional subjects. In addition to ‘straight’ chemical engineering or biochemical engineering there are some courses that combine both, and others which include elements of energy engineering, chemistry, nuclear engineering or biopharmaceutical engineering.
Other options such as study abroad or an industrial placement may also be available.
Most universities offer sandwich courses giving the opportunity to spend time in industry getting relevant work experience, or studying at a university abroad.
Many companies offer work experience placements - some as short as one week, others lasting 6 months or even a year. To find out more visit the website of the company you are interested in or write to them directly. Alternatively you can contact the Year in Industry who find paid, degree-relevant work experience for students in their year out before, or during, university.
A number of companies and organisations offer schemes to financially assist chemical engineering students, though demand is high so competition for places is fierce. Contact your university of choice to find out more as many companies have particular sponsorship opportunities linked to specific university departments. Alternatively check out www.thescholarshiphub.org.uk
IChemE offers a range of products and services to help its members maintain an awareness of developments in their field and support their professional development. Membership introduces students to the world of chemical engineering and provides networking opportunities in addition to other resources.
Students can join IChemE as soon as they start university (or have a firm acceptance to study chemical engineering). For more information about IChemE and the benefits of Student Membership visit our Student Member page.