Chemical Engineer Job Description: Top Duties and Qualifications

Last updated: June 22, 2022

Chemical Engineers, or Process Engineers, oversee the process of converting raw materials into new products in fields such as environmental conservation, pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, energy and consumer manufacturing. Their duties include designing procedures to isolate different chemical elements and reconfigure them, testing the resulting products and designing equipment setups for optimal safety and efficiency.

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Chemical Engineer duties and responsibilities

Chemical Engineers perform many scientific and technical related to the process of manufacturing products. Some of their typical duties and responsibilities include:

  • Developing manufacturing processes that minimize waste and increase the quality of finished products
  • Monitoring and testing processes and products found in all phases of production
  • Developing and implementing safety procedures for staff working with hazardous materials
  • Designing, planning and implementing the layout of manufacturing equipment to optimize production and decrease costs
  • Staying up to date with new and emerging manufacturing processes
  • Creating and presenting cost analysis reports to upper management
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What does a Chemical Engineer do?

Chemical Engineers are often employed in a laboratory environment to improve and refine chemical manufacturing methods. Chemical Engineers implement safety procedures to limit risk when working with volatile chemicals and heavy machinery, creating and testing new tools for properly developing a medication, household product or tech device. Their role is to apply biology and chemistry concepts to a manufacturing or processing environment within the scope of safety regulations. Chemical Engineers travel to different work sites to instruct and train manufacturers, collect samples to study, update processes and troubleshoot problems at production facilities.

Chemical Engineer skills and qualifications

Chemical Engineers must use many technical skills and transferable soft skills to make the best possible products at competitive prices and in the most responsible ways, including:

  • Ability to apply chemical principles in new and creative ways
  • Expert knowledge of chemical components, solutions and mixtures
  • Understanding of safe handling procedures of all chemicals, including hazardous materials
  • Excellent analytical and problem-solving skills
  • Superior math skills, including physical and chemical math equations and theories
  • Good interpersonal and communication skills
  • Ability to work effectively as a team with other staff members

Chemical Engineer salary expectations

A Chemincal Engineer makes an average of $89,324 per year. Salary may depend on level of education, experience and geographical location.

Chemical Engineer education and training requirements

Entry-level Chemical Engineers have at least a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering or another relevant field from an accredited program. Entry-level Chemical Engineers must pass the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam and attain their Professional Engineering (PE) License after working for four years. For higher-level positions or those with more complex responsibilities, experienced candidates with a PE license may be preferred. For managerial roles or those in research may be required to have a master’s degree in chemical engineering.

Chemical Engineer experience requirements

For roles with fewer complex responsibilities, entry-level Chemical Engineer candidates with internship experience may be qualified to complete on-the-job training under the supervision of more senior Chemical Engineers. Roles with complex responsibilities, research tasks or leadership opportunities, years of previous professional experience as a Chemical Engineer and a PE license may be required.

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Frequently asked questions about Chemical Engineers


What is the difference between a Chemical Engineer and a Chemist?

Chemists and Chemical Engineers both use scientific study and knowledge of a substance’s properties to complete their goals, but Chemists develop and test various theories while Chemical Engineers tend to apply existing concepts into useful products. Chemical Engineering is an interdisciplinary field that applies physics, math and industry knowledge to a chemistry background. Chemists work on a small scale to perform research and development while Chemical Engineers apply substances to a large production do deliver new substances to the user. Although Chemical Engineers can work in a lab environment occasionally, they generally work at an industrial plant.


What are the different types of Chemical Engineers?

Chemical Engineers generally work as pharmaceutical manufacturers, academics, petroleum processors or product manufacturers. Other types of Chemical Engineers include Electroplating Engineers, Principal Scientists, Product Engineers and Chemical Process Maintainers. Chemical Engineers can also specialize in a particular type of chemical or solution, such as lubricants, glidants, plastics, fibers, pesticides and fertilizers. All types of Chemical Engineers study the effects of the chemicals they work with on the people who use resulting products, ensuring that different combinations of chemicals are safe in the short-term and the long-term before, during and after production.


What are the qualities of a good Chemical Engineer?

Good Chemical Engineers are highly creative problem-solvers who can use their advanced education to find new uses for the natural and manmade substances on the planet. They are confident leaders and can direct a team, resolving issues on their behalf. Successful Chemical Engineers can look at all of the different elements of a situation and create a product that fills a specific need. A good Chemical Engineer enjoys analyzing processes to improve their organization and efficiency, and also has the interpersonal communication skills to explain new systems to others.


What should you look for on a Chemical Engineer resume?

A Chemical Engineer’s resume should highlight their education, including key coursework and research studies they participated in. On the experience section of their resume, look for job duties that involved working with specialized chemical engineering equipment such as spectrophometers, chromagraphs and infrared light instruments. Experience in a product-oriented manufacturing environment also indicates the ability to be successful as a Chemical Engineer.

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