In Summary - Chemical Engineer
Chemical Engineers typically work in the following Career Sectors:
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The Work - Chemical Engineer
Chemical engineers change raw materials into valuable products that we all can use everyday. They help to create and develop the processes that are used to make a huge range of products, including artificial fibres, detergents, food and drink, fuels, household cleaners, paints, pharmaceuticals and plastics. They often lead teams of other professionals and are often involved in every stage of a project such as production, manufacturing, design and electronics.
When chemical engineers design a new process, they have to think carefully about its eventual cost, safety and any impact on the environment that it may have. To put a process plant into action involves the detailed design of the chemical reactors, heat exchangers, separation systems, storage vessels and all the other types of equipment that are used in the process plant.
Chemical engineers have to pay a great deal of attention to safety. This includes managing the control systems that are needed for safe and economic operation of the process. Once a plant has been commissioned, it is chemical engineers who are responsible for its management and operation, and for supervising plant operators and maintenance staff.
They also work on project design, for example, deciding whether a product should be made as a solid, a liquid or a spray. Design work will involve the use of computer-aided design (CAD) technology.
Chemical engineers work closely with other experts. For example, they may be involved with civil engineers to provide foundations, access roads and structures to support the various plant items. They work with mechanical engineers on the design of specialist equipment, and with electrical engineers on the supply of power, with scientists in process development, and accountants/marketing professionals to consider the commercial aspects of production.
Chemical engineers also have a vital role to play in protecting the environment. They work on ways to sustain natural resources, recycle materials and find new renewable resources. They aim to develop alternative technologies to solve problems such as the greenhouse effect and acid rain. Some chemical engineers are involved in groundbreaking research to solve these problems, while others hold management positions in areas where existing technology is used.
Most commonly reported Work Tasks
- Develop safety procedures to be employed by workers operating equipment or working in close proximity to on-going chemical reactions.
- Troubleshoot problems with chemical manufacturing processes.
- Evaluate chemical equipment and processes to identify ways to optimize performance or to ensure compliance with safety and environmental regulations.
- Conduct research to develop new and improved chemical manufacturing processes.
- Determine most effective arrangement of operations such as mixing, crushing, heat transfer, distillation, and drying.
- Perform tests and monitor performance of processes throughout stages of production to determine degree of control over variables such as temperature, density, specific gravity, and pressure.
- Design and plan layout of equipment.
- Prepare estimate of production costs and production progress reports for management.
- Design measurement and control systems for chemical plants based on data collected in laboratory experiments and in pilot plant operations.
- Develop processes to separate components of liquids or gases or generate electrical currents using controlled chemical processes.
Most commonly reported Work Activities
- Making Decisions and Solving Problems Analyzing information and evaluating results to choose the best solution and solve problems.
- Getting Information Observing, receiving, and otherwise obtaining information from all relevant sources.
- Analyzing Data or Information Identifying the underlying principles, reasons, or facts of information by breaking down information or data into separate parts.
- Interacting With Computers Using computers and computer systems (including hardware and software) to program, write software, set up functions, enter data, or process information.
- Communicating with Supervisors, Peers, or Subordinates Providing information to supervisors, co-workers, and subordinates by telephone, in written form, e-mail, or in person.
- Updating and Using Relevant Knowledge Keeping up-to-date technically and applying new knowledge to your job.
- Organizing, Planning, and Prioritizing Work Developing specific goals and plans to prioritize, organize, and accomplish your work.
- Processing Information Compiling, coding, categorizing, calculating, tabulating, auditing, or verifying information or data.
- Thinking Creatively Developing, designing, or creating new applications, ideas, relationships, systems, or products, including artistic contributions.
- Identifying Objects, Actions, and Events Identifying information by categorizing, estimating, recognizing differences or similarities, and detecting changes in circumstances or events.
Interests - Chemical Engineer
This occupation is typically suited for people with the following Career Interests:
The Investigative person will usually find a particular area of science to be of interest. They are inclined toward intellectual and analytical activities and enjoy observation and theory. They may prefer thought to action, and enjoy the challenge of solving problems with sophiscticated technology. These types prefer mentally stimulating environments and often pay close attention to developments in their chosen field.
Realists are usually interested in 'things' - such as buildings, mechanics, equipment, tools, electronics etc. Their primary focus is dealing with these - as in building, fixing, operating or designing them. Involvement in these areas leads to high manual skills, or a fine aptitude for practical design - as found in the various forms of engineering.
Realists like to find practical solutions to problems using tools, technology and skilled work. Realists usually prefer to be active in their work environment, often do most of their work alone, and enjoy taking decisive action with a minimum amount of discussion and paperwork.
Administrative people are interested in work that offers security and a sense of being part of a larger process. They may be at their most productive under supervisors who give clear guidelines and while performing routine tasks in a methodical and reliable way.
They tend to enjoy clerical and most forms of office work, where they perform essential administrative duties. They often form the backbone of large and small organisations alike. They may enjoy being in charge of office filing systems, and using computers and other office equipment to keep things running smoothly. They usually like routine work hours and prefer comfortable indoor workplaces.
Chemical engineers must enjoy solving problems and be committed to keeping up to date with advances in this fast changing area.
You must have strong communication and interpersonal skills to interact with engineers from other disciplines. You are also likely to need management skills, including the ability to lead and motivate others.
Chemical engineers should have an excellent grasp of modern technology, including the ability to use computers. For example, you may use computer-aided design technology in design and research work.
You are also likely to need a commitment to protecting the environment and knowledge of issues like acid rain, lead pollution and the greenhouse effect.
Entry Requirements - Chemical Engineer
Entrants to this career must successfully complete a relevant BSc in chemistry or chemical engineering. Programmes are available in several of the Colleges and IOTs.
Management positions in chemical engineering typically require 3-5 years relevant experience.
Most large employers in this field operate a graduate training programme of Initial Professional Development (IPD) to assist graduates achieve Chartered Engineer status. This usually takes about four years. Once you have attained Chartered Engineer status you are expected to maintain your skills by a programme of Continuing Professional Development (CPD). See Engineers Ireland for details of professional engineering status.
Last Updated: October, 2014
Pay & Salary - Chemical Engineer
Salary Range (thousands per year)* 25k - 90k
Sigmar / CPL
Last Updated: February, 2017
* The lower figures typically reflect starting salaries. Higher salaries are awarded to those with greater experience and responsibility. Positions in Dublin sometimes command higher salaries.
Labour Market Updates - Chemical Engineer
Employment growth in this occupational group, which includes mechanical, electrical and electronic engineers, was above average. Employers are frequently citing these occupations as difficult to fill although the demand is likely to be small in number given the size of the employment stock. While the supply from the education system appears to be growing, demand is mostly for roles requiring sector-specific experience (e.g. medium-high, high-tech and food/beverage manufacturing).
National Skills Bulletin 2018