Career Profile: Chemical Engineer
Suppose that one day you write on a piece of paper, use hand lotion on your dry skin, take some medication for your cold, put on a nylon jacket, and sit on a chair with metal legs. Do you know what all of those activities have in common? In all of them, you used products developed by chemical engineers. These scientists help turn raw materials like wood or flowers into products that people use every day. If you enjoy math, chemistry and other sciences and have the ability to solve problems, the job of chemical engineer might be right for you.
Chemical engineers are involved in making many of the products that people use every day. Normally, their work is in developing processes for other workers to use in making products for customers to buy. For example, chemical engineers might experiment to find the right combination of plants and chemicals to produce a certain colour for dying cloth. Some chemical engineers work to make products better for the environment and some have even found a way to turn used chewing gum into other substances like plastic. That way, they turn what is normally garbage into something useful.
Inventing ways to solve problems or to help make life easier for people is what chemical engineers do. Normally, a Bachelor’s degree in engineering with an emphasis on chemical engineering is the minimum requirement for working in this field. About twenty universities in Canada offer this kind of training. High school courses in mathematics, physics, and chemistry are good preparation for studies in chemical engineering, and reading magazines about the profession is also a good idea.
In many cases, a Master’s or a Ph.D. degree is required for finding work as a chemical engineer, although a Bachelor’s degree is enough in some cases. Bachelor’s degrees normally take three or four years and Master’s degrees take another year or two after that. Getting a Ph.D. usually involves writing a book-length paper called a dissertation, which can also take a few years to finish. If you decide to become a chemical engineer, you will need to spend some time at a university.
People with degrees in chemical engineering work wherever their knowledge is needed. They might help deal with problems in processing plants or do experiments in university laboratories. Some of them might work for cosmetic companies or help produce medications. Depending on their level of experience and where they work, chemical engineers make between about $50,000 and $70,000 per year in Canada, although salaries can also be higher. Job prospects in Canada are fairly good, but declining work in areas like construction has changed employment for engineers. However, jobs should still be available for new graduates.
Do you enjoy combining different substances together to see what happens? Why don’t you see if chemical engineering is right for you?