Chemical Engineering is the profession in which knowledge of mathematics, chemistry, and the other natural sciences gained by study, experience, and practice is applied with judgment to develop economic ways of using materials and energy for the benefit of mankind.
Chemical Engineers design chemical plant equipment and devise processes for manufacturing chemicals and products, such as gasoline, synthetic rubber, plastics, detergents, cement, paper, pharmaceutical products, and electronic materials. A background in chemical engineering offers a number of career options:
Petroleum, chemical, and pharmaceutical companies have been the traditional employers of chemical engineers. However, increasing numbers of chemical engineers are currently being hired by food, electronics, textile, pulp and paper, rubber, metal, cement, plastic, and biotech industries.
What about graduate school options?
The chemical industry employs a large number of chemical engineers with masters and doctoral degrees for jobs that involve a research component. A doctoral degree is required for an academic position. Graduate research can open the door to a life of enquiry that is intellectually challenging and professionally satisfying.
A chemical engineering undergraduate degree is also a viable "pre-med" option since all the courses required to take the medical entrance (MCAT) are part of a standard chemical engineering bachelors curriculum. About 5-10% of an entering medical school class consists of chemical engineers.
An undergraduate degree in chemical engineering coupled with some industrial experience can be leveraged to attend management school. An MBA can significantly enhance one's chances of career advancement in the chemical industry.
Some chemical engineering majors also choose to go to law school, typically to specialize in patent law. This is a particularly lucrative field in today's technologically advanced society.
NACE Spring 2011 Salary Survey for average starting salaries at the B.S. level:
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