Graduate Careers Advice

Graduate Chemical Engineering Careers

James Thornhill

Chemical engineering is a highly specialist area of work where you can combine a love of science with some of the highest salaries of all engineering fields.

Chemical engineering encompasses a wide range of careers, from research and development to managing the safety implications and environmental impact of certain activities.

Everything we use in everyday life has had a chemical engineering involved, as they are the people who turn raw materials into the usable materials that various industries use to create things.

Chemical engineers make sure these materials are being produced in an efficient and economic way that benefits the company and the environment as much as possible. Being in this position means they can come up with new materials or concepts that result in new fields of research, such as nanotechnology and fuel cells.

People across a lot of industries rely a great deal upon what chemical engineers can do, so you'll have a lot of fields to choose from – pharmaceutical, energy, biomedical, process plants, food and drink, and more. This means you'll have a lot of career possibilities after you get your degree.

Engineering jobs encompass many areas of science; so chemical engineers must keep their scientific skills up to date.

The Institution of Chemical Engineers are the professional organisation for the industry. Being chartered by them will put you in a strong position and also lead to a much higher salary. Having taken a degree accredited by them will allow you to step into the industry easily.

How much can I earn as a Chemical Engineer? 

Starting salaries for graduates start at around £28,000 while more experience engineers can earn around £53,000 or more.

Senior chartered engineers can earn over £60,000 a year.

What Qualifications do I Need to be a Chemical Engineer?

To work in chemical engineering you will usually need to acquire an accredited BEng degree in chemical or process engineering.


After a Bachelors Degree

Postgraduate study is not essential to enter into the chemical engineering industry but a masters qualification can help further your career, in particular, in the research areas of the industry or help you progress to higher positions.

There are many reputable universities who offer postgraduate courses in chemical engineering.

Integrated master’s qualifications such as MEng are available and incorporate more independent research and a better understanding of the science. They can prepare you for further postgraduate study such as a PhD and EngD.

Postgraduate study is a good way to help secure employment for people who have a degree in a different field of engineering, or a related subject like chemistry or polymer science.

Graduate training schemes are available with many employers straight after your bachelors degree.

For entry onto one of these schemes usually requires a degree at 2:2 class or above, in a relevant technical or scientific subject.

What Skills Do I Need to be a Chemical Engineer?

Many of the skills you gain will be related to the technical side of the job, so you should expect to learn about how to turn raw materials into useful products. Health and safety issues are also paramount in the industry, so you should receive some training in this.

Alongside the technical skills you gain, you will also develop soft skills that will be useful in any sector or type of job.

Some skills that would be useful for a graduate chemical engineering role include:

  • Communication skills
  • Problem solving
  • Specific technical knowledge
  • Project management
  • Teamworking
  • Analysis skills

Chemical engineers are constantly updating their skills to keep up-to-date with the latest production processes and techniques. Membership of the Institution of Chemical Engineers (the industry body) will allow you to get new qualifications and take new courses as they become available.

What Experience Do I Need to Get a Job in Chemical Engineering?

The necessary skills and experience to enter into the chemical engineering field comes through academic learning in the main, but it will not hurt your changes of gaining employment if you have a practical understanding of engineering workplaces.

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