Information for parents
Making a choice on which career to pursue is a huge responsibility for school students. We realise that as a parent your questions and concerns may be different to those of your child, but you should find all of the information you need within our website. Firstly though, here are some of the more common questions we hear from parents:
Which are the best universities for chemical engineering?
It's vital that the content of a chemical engineering programme is fit for purpose. Have a look at our Chemical engineering course guide to see what’s available, and check the accreditation status of individual courses with the Engineering Council.
IChemE accredits many courses across the UK and worldwide. We accredit the course - rather than the university - to ensure that it meets the high standards needed to prepare chemical engineering students for a career within the process industries.
Annual university league tables are published by The Times, The Guardian, and The Complete University Guide and are searchable by subject if you have questions about student satisfaction, entry standards, research quality etc.
What if the course isn’t accredited?
If your child is interested in studying a course that isn’t accredited it may be because the course is new (we’re unable to accredit a course until evidence of the learning outcomes for the first cohort of graduating students are assessed), or because the university hasn’t invited us to assess the course for accreditation. If in doubt please contact IChemE's accreditation team.
Studying a course that isn’t accredited doesn’t necessarily mean that the course isn’t credible. Nor does it mean that your child will not be able to become a Chartered Chemical Engineer later in their career – it may just take a bit longer and they might need to submit additional evidence of their technical knowledge.
Bachelor's (BEng) or master's (MEng)?
Master's programmes generally take a year longer as they offer a higher level of learning, however the extra year might put off some students who are keen to get into the workforce as soon as possible. Here are a couple of things to consider:
- one of the requirements for Chartered Chemical Engineer is for the applicant to be educated to master's level. This can be achieved by:
- studying a fully-accredited MEng course
- studying a BEng course that is accredited to master's level (check the accreditation status of courses with the Engineering Council)
- studying an accredited BEng course followed by an accredited MSc (which may appeal to students who want to specialise in a particular area such as renewable energy, project management, biopharmaceutical engineering, sustainability etc)
- alternatively, further learning to master's level may also be achieved via the workplace
- The HESA Destination of Leavers from Higher Education data examines UK-domiciled graduates six months after graduation. Data suggests that students choosing MEng courses are slightly less likely to be unemployed after six months than those choosing the BEng option.
University is expensive. Any other options?
The cost of attending university can be a worry for many people, but chemical engineering is a graduate-level career which means that university is certainly the quickest option.
Chemical engineering is the best paid engineering discipline, and one of the best paid graduate careers overall, which may help reassure you that the investment in a university degree is worth it.
Apprenticeships are becoming increasingly popular with students these days as the benefit of getting paid to learn is always tempting, even if it takes longer. However, there isn’t an apprenticeship specifically designed for chemical engineering at the moment so you’d need to contact companies within the relevant industries to see whether they can help, and if they have/can develop a training route from apprentice to process engineer.
What if my child isn’t studying the right subjects for entry?
Entry requirements vary by university, but they generally require very good A-level passes (or Advanced Highers/Irish Leaving Certificate/Baccalaureate etc) in maths, chemistry and another relevant subject.
Some universities offer foundation degree courses for students without the required entry subjects. If students successfully complete the foundation year they usually move directly onto the undergraduate degree course, but this is not an option for students with the correct subjects at the wrong grades.
Have a look at our Chemical engineering course guide for details of entry requirements at individual universities in the UK and Ireland.
Where can we find work experience?
Securing work experience is always a tricky business as companies have very strict health and safety/legal issues to comply with, leaving work experience for the under-18s difficult to find.
Having said that, you should contact local companies to see if they can help. Flexibility on your part will help your case – the company may not have the staff available to oversee a two-week work experience student, but may be able to manage a few days of work shadowing instead. Other options to consider:
- The Year in Industry finds high-quality, paid placements for students in their gap year before or during their degree course
- Industrial Cadets gives students aged 11-19 a chance to take part in an accredited work experience scheme.
What about a gap year?
Some universities offer courses with a year out to study at a university abroad, or to undertake a year-long work placement – usually after the second or third year. You can find out which universities offer these options in our course guide.
Even if the course isn’t advertised as containing an overseas study exchange or integral work placement, most universities are happy for students to take a year out if it’s for something that will enhance their learning or employability. They also tend to have good links with local industry and may be able to help secure a placement. Take the time to speak to university admissions staff and attend open days in order to ask questions.
Are the career prospects any good?
Traditionally, chemical engineers have been employed in the oil & gas and petrochemicals industries, but career choices today are becoming extremely diverse in areas such as pharmaceuticals, food & drink, biotechnology, renewable energy, nuclear and water.
According to a 2017 report published by the Royal Academy of Engineering, The UK STEM Education Landscape: “The UK is facing a well-documented engineering skills crisis. An aging workforce means that hundreds of thousands of skilled technician and professional engineering roles will need replacing in the next ten years.” So the jobs market within the process industries will remain buoyant for years to come.
Don’t just take our word for it - have a look at The Complete University Guide’s seven reasons to study a chemical engineering degree.