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Chemical Engineers

At a Glance

  • Work for engineering firms and manufacturing companies
  • Often wear protective clothing
  • Have a bachelor's degree
  • Some have a master's degree or higher
  • May need a license

Career summary

Chemical engineers use principles of chemistry and engineering to solve problems in manufacturing.

#No additions from WOIS info

Chemical engineers look for ways to use chemicals in order to make better products. They test new production methods in laboratories and in manufacturing plants. After their research is complete they analyze data and write reports about their findings. Managers use the information to make decisions about adopting new production methods.

Chemical engineers also develop safety procedures for working with chemicals. They must ensure safety for workers and people who use their products. They also need to make sure that companies that use chemicals for production follow environmental regulations.

Chemical engineers work in many fields, including:

Research and development

Some chemical engineers work solely in research and development. They try to find new and better ways of making products through the use of chemistry. For example, they may study how temperature and pressure affect chemicals during the production process.

Design and construction

Chemical engineers who work in design and construction are called project engineers. They often work for construction or consulting firms that work with manufacturers. They look for the least expensive and most efficient way to make the best quality product.


Some chemical engineers manage manufacturing plants that use or manufacture chemicals. They look for ways to improve plant operations and lower production costs. They also create safety measures and train workers.

Waste management

Chemical engineers also work in waste management. They find new ways to reduce the pollution created in manufacturing. Some chemical engineers study how to store or treat dangerous waste. They may research new ways to use waste products.


Chemical engineers may also work for state and federal governments. They advise lawmakers about how chemicals can benefit or harm the natural world. They may help create laws to protect the public from unsafe chemicals.

Related careers

This career is part of the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics cluster of careers.

Related careers include:

Job duties

Task list

The following list of tasks is specific to chemical engineers.

Common work activities

Chemical engineers perform the following tasks. These tasks are common to many careers.

Work requirements

Working conditions

In a typical work setting, chemical engineers:

Interpersonal relationships

Physical work conditions

Work performance


Physical demands

Chemical engineers frequently:

It is important for chemical engineers to be able to:

It is not as important, but still necessary, for chemical engineers to be able to:

Skills and abilities

Chemical engineers need to:


Reason and problem solve

Use math and science

Manage oneself, people, time, and things

Work with people

Work with things

Perceive and visualize

Education and training

Educational programs

The programs of study listed below will help you prepare for the occupation or career cluster you are exploring.

Programs of study directly related to this occupation

Other programs of study to consider


To work as a chemical engineer, you typically need to:

Education after high school

Most students prepare for this field by earning a bachelor's degree in chemical engineering. Many four-year colleges and universities offer this program of study. You may need between four and five years to complete this program.

Some jobs require a master's or doctoral degree (PhD). For instance, if you are interested in teaching chemical engineering you need a PhD. Also, many chemical engineers go to graduate school to specialize in one area of chemical engineering. In general, a master's degree takes two years of study after you complete your bachelor's degree. A PhD will take several additional years.

Work experience

You should consider participating in an internship with an engineering firm while in college. An internship is usually part of a four-year degree program. It offers you a chance to apply what you have learned in the classroom to a work situation. An internship also allows you to build skills and make contacts with people in the field.

On-the-job training

New graduates work under the guidance of experienced engineers. In large companies, you may also receive formal classroom training. The length of on-the-job training varies by employer and your background. In general, beginning chemical engineers receive at least six months of training.

As you gain knowledge and experience, you receive greater independence and work on more difficult tasks.

Helpful high school courses

In high school, take classes that prepare you for college. A college preparatory curriculum (external link) may be different from your state's graduation requirements (external link). Engineers use math and science frequently. Try to take math classes through Trigonometry and science classes through Physics.

You should also consider taking some advanced courses in high school. This includes Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) courses if they are available in your school. If you do well in these courses, you may receive college credit for them. Advanced courses can also strengthen your college application.

Helpful electives to take in high school that prepare you for this career include:

The courses listed above are meant to help you create your high school plan. If you have not already done so, talk to a school counselor or parent about the courses you are considering taking.

You should also check with a teacher or counselor to see if work-based learning opportunities are available in your school and community. These might include field trips, job shadowing, internships, and actual work experience. The goal of these activities is to help you connect your school experiences with real-life work.

Join some groups, try some hobbies, or volunteer with an organization that interests you. By participating in activities you can have fun, make new friends, and learn about yourself. Maybe one of them will help direct you to a future career. Here are examples of activities and groups (PDF file) that may be available in your high school or community.

Things to know

For entry-level jobs, most employers prefer to hire applicants who have a bachelor's degree in chemical engineering. In a few cases, employers may hire engineers who have been trained in other areas. For some positions, employers may hire college graduates with degrees in chemistry or mathematics.

Employers may require a master's degree or higher for research, consulting, and managerial jobs.

Employers prefer to hire chemical engineers who are creative and curious. They also look for people who are detail-oriented and analytical. Oral and written communication skills are also important. Employers look for people who can work on a team. Chemical engineers may work with people from different cultures or countries.

Some employers seek applicants who also have keyboarding skills and knowledge of spreadsheet and database applications.

Job openings are found through professional journals, recruiters, Internet sites, and membership in professional associations or attendance at trade conferences.


Course work in computer programming is highly recommended. An internship or summer work in the industry is helpful. Graduate training is increasingly emphasized for some positions. Overseas experience (such as traveling, education, etc.) should be useful as more US businesses expand overseas.

#Added comment about typing & spreadsheets and databases from 3/15/06 Seattle Times ad for entry level chemical engineer in the printed circuit board industry in Redmond, CJ.

Costs to workers

Some workers may wish to join a professional association, which may have annual dues.


Engineers employed in responsible positions in government or in firms offering services to the public, or who stamp their work as being done by an engineer, must be licensed by the Washington State Department of Licensing.

Getting a license as an engineer-in-training requires:

Professional engineer licensing requirements include:

Engineers who want to be licensed must pay an exam fee to the National Council of Examiners for Engineers and Surveyors and a $65 fee for the initial state exam application. After licensing, a renewal fee of $116 is due every two years. Not all engineers in Washington must be licensed.

For information on testing, contact:

National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (external link)
PO Box 1686
Clemson, SC 29633-1686

For licensing information, contact:

Washington State Department of Licensing
Board of Registration for Professional Engineers and
Land Surveyors Licensing Program (external link)

PO Box 9025
Olympia, WA 98507-9025

#standardized 1/23/20

Job listings

Listed below are links to job categories from the National Labor Exchange that relate to this career. Once you get a list of jobs, you can view information about individual jobs and find out how to apply. If your job search finds too many openings, or if you wish to search for jobs outside of Washington, you will need to refine your search.

To get a listing of current jobs from the WorkSource system, go to the WorkSource website (external link).


Chemical engineers (SOC 17-2041)

Pay Period
Washington Hourly $30.09 $37.85 $48.29 $60.49 $74.14
Monthly $5,215 $6,559 $8,369 $10,483 $12,848
Yearly $62,600 $78,720 $100,450 $125,830 $154,200
    Kennewick-Richland Hourly $33.39 $39.88 $49.59 $65.84 $79.55
Monthly $5,786 $6,911 $8,594 $11,410 $13,786
Yearly $69,451 $82,962 $103,138 $136,935 $165,468
    Longview Hourly $35.64 $41.24 $45.55 $49.86 $60.34
Monthly $6,176 $7,147 $7,894 $8,641 $10,457
Yearly $74,123 $85,767 $94,737 $103,711 $125,506
    Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue Hourly $22.68 $28.30 $40.14 $52.31 $59.72
Monthly $3,930 $4,904 $6,956 $9,065 $10,349
Yearly $47,168 $58,868 $83,480 $108,786 $124,220
    Vancouver Hourly $31.96 $36.88 $47.13 $59.96 $70.97
Monthly $5,539 $6,391 $8,168 $10,391 $12,299
Yearly $66,474 $76,722 $98,017 $124,705 $147,630
United States Hourly $31.20 $39.37 $50.44 $64.10 $81.62
Monthly $5,407 $6,823 $8,741 $11,109 $14,145
Yearly $64,890 $81,900 $104,910 $133,320 $169,770

Pay varies by the amount of education chemical engineers hold. Those with doctoral (PhD) degrees earn more than those with a master's or bachelor's degree.

Most full-time chemical engineers receive benefits. Benefits usually include health insurance, paid vacation, and a retirement plan. Some companies pay for additional training. Others may give their employees stock or the opportunity to buy it from the company.

Employment and outlook

Washington outlook


The table below provides information about the number of workers in this career in various regions. It also provides information about the expected growth rate and future job openings.

Chemical Engineers (SOC 17-2041)

Location Current employment Growth over 10 years Annual openings
Washington 655 10.7% 16.1% 58
    Benton and Franklin Counties 250 3.6% 15.0% 18
    Clallam, Jefferson, and Kitsap Counties 13 0.0% 11.9% 1
    Clark, Cowlitz, and Wahkiakum Counties 79 3.8% 15.2% 5
    Island, San Juan, Skagit, and Whatcom Counties 154 20.1% 14.6% 16
    King County 67 20.9% 19.6% 7
    Snohomish County 14 14.3% 12.4% 1
United States 33,900 6.2% 5.2% 2,400

National employment

Major employers:

National outlook

The demand for chemical engineers who work in research and development is growing. Medical drug research will be the fastest growing industry for chemical engineers. There will also be job opportunities in biotechnology and nanotechnology research.

Other resources

American Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) (external link)
(This website provides a list of engineering-related programs accredited by ABET)
415 North Charles Street
Baltimore, MD 21201
American Chemical Society (external link)
1155 Sixteenth Street NW
Washington, DC 20036
American Chemistry Council (external link)
700 Second Street NE
Washington, DC 20002
American Coatings Association (external link)
1500 Rhode Island Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20005
American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers (external link)
1800 M Street, NW Suite 900 North
Washington, DC 20036
American Institute of Chemical Engineers (external link)
120 Wall Street, Floor 23
New York, NY 10005
American Oil Chemists Society (external link)
PO Box 17190
Urbana, IL 61803-7190
Chemistry Careers (external link)
Discover Engineering (external link)
eGFI - Dream Up the Future (external link)
Engineer Girl! (external link)
National Academy of Engineering
Engineering Your Future (external link)
Institute of Makers of Explosives (external link)
1120 - 19th Street NW, Suite 310
Washington, DC 20036
National Academy of Engineering (external link)
500 Fifth Street NW
Washington, DC 20001
National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering (external link)
National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (external link)
280 Seneca Creek Road
Seneca, SC 29678
National Science Foundation (external link)
2415 Eisenhower Avenue
Alexandria, Virginia 2231
National Society of Professional Engineers (external link)
1420 King Street
Alexandria, VA 22314
Society of Plastics Engineers (external link)
100 Reserve Rd, Suite B310
Danbury, CT 06810
Society of Women Engineers (external link)
130 East Randolph Street, Suite 3500
Chicago, IL 60601
Technical Association of the Pulp and Paper Industry (TAPPI) (external link)
15 Technology Parkway South, Suite 115
Peachtree Corners, GA 30092
Technology Student Association (external link)
1904 Association Drive
Reston, VA 20191-1540
Washington State Science & Engineering Fair (external link)


Career cluster

Career path

O*Net (external link) occupation

O*Net job zone (external link)

DOT occupations

Strong Interest Inventory

Holland occupational cluster