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Oswego Career Ladders - Chemical Engineer

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Chemical Engineer

Industry: Energy
Area: Fossil Fuel

Chemical engineers apply the principles of chemistry, math, and physics to the design and operation of large-scale chemical manufacturing processes. They translate processes developed in the lab into practical applications for the production of products such as plastics, medicines, detergents, and fuels; design plants to maximize productivity and minimize costs; and evaluate plant operations for performance and product quality. Chemical engineers are employed by almost all companies in the chemical process industry. Their work also extends to processes in nuclear energy, materials science, food production, the development of new sources of energy, and even medicine. In addition to process and product development and design, chemical engineers work in areas such as production, research, environmental studies, market analysis, data processing, sales, and management. They affect or control at some stage the materials or production of almost every article manufactured on an industrial scale.

Work Settings

Chemical engineers typically work in manufacturing plants, research laboratories, or pilot plant facilities. They work around large-scale production equipment that is housed both indoors and outdoors.


To enter the field, professionals must have at least a four-year bachelor's degree in chemical engineering that includes course work in physics, math (through differential equations), and computers. A chemical engineer's curriculum is similar to that of a chemist, but also includes course work in engineering-related areas.

Job Outlook

Chemical engineering research jobs are increasing in importance with the development and large-scale implementation of new energy sources designed as substitutes for the world's diminishing supplies of petroleum and natural gas.


In 1996, the median starting salary for chemical engineers with a bachelor's degree was $42,000 per year; $45,000 per year for those with a master's degree; and $59,500 per year for chemical engineers with a Ph.D.

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