a chemical engineer wearing blue gloves deposits a sample into a microscope slide

What Can You Do With A Chemical Engineering Degree

Chemical engineers design and implement some of the key solutions to industrial challenges, enabling the wider world of modern manufacture to improve and flourish. With the potential to work across a variety of industries, if you’ve recently graduated, or looking for degree options, you may be asking yourself exactly what you can do with a chemical engineering degree. 

In this article, we’ll explore this question further, as we discuss:

  • What jobs you can do with a chemical engineering degree
  • How much chemical engineers make
  • What industries are the most profitable to work in

 

What jobs you can do with a chemical engineering degree

The job you choose as a chemical engineer will often depend on the industry you go decide to go into, which can wildly differ. From working as a process engineer in the pharmaceutical industry, to a process engineer in chemical refining, the specific responsibilities and title of your job will depend on the industry’s own demands. 

It’s important to note that the fundamental teachings of your chemical engineering degree should provide a solid foundation for all related industries; despite how varied the roles and responsibilities between jobs can seem - Chemical engineers enjoy a high employability rate in the UK, with 81% of graduates attaining a high-skilled job post-graduation. 

Some of the job titles chemical engineering graduates can apply for include:

  • Chemical Engineer
  • Design Engineer
  • Petroleum Engineer
  • Plastics Engineer
  • Process Engineer
  • Process Safety Engineer
  • Manufacturing Engineer
  • Continuous Improvement Engineer
  • Nuclear Engineer
  • Safety Engineer

 

How much chemical engineers make

On average, chemical engineers in the UK starting out in the industry make around £32,000.

Reports from the Institution of Chemical Engineers show that the median starting salary for a graduate in chemical engineering is around £28,600. It’s important to note that location can influence salary range – chemical engineers in London reported the highest median salaries (£70,100 per annum), followed by the South East (£65,700 per annum), and the West Midlands (£56,000 per annum). 

As you gain more experience in the field, salaries can rise by £30,000 to £60,000 depending on the specific industry, and your level of expertise. Chemical engineers enjoy high skills transferability, and as such can progress in specialist senior roles across areas including business development, business strategy and risk management. According to the UK government’s national career service, career progression pathways can also include roles such as: senior process engineer, senior design engineer, research and development manager, plant manager, operations manager, or consultancy work.

What industries are most profitable to work in

Chemical engineers have the potential to work across a huge array of industries including, but not limited to:

  • Chemical Production
  • Manufacturing
  • Automotives/Transport
  • Biochemical Engineering
  • Consultancy
  • Fast Moving Consumer Goods
  • Education
  • Energy
  • Finance, Insurance and Risk
  • Food and Drink
  • Fuel Technology and Storage
  • Health, Safety and Environment
  • Industrial Gas
  • Iron, Steel and other Metals
  • Liquid and Natural Gas Classification
  • Medicine and Medical Technology
  • Mining and Minerals
  • Nuclear Power
  • Oil and Gas Production and Refining
  • Paper and Packaging
  • Petrochemicals
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Plastics
  • Surface Chemistry, Paint and Adhesives
  • Waste Management
  • Water

But which life science industries from the above are the most profitable?

According to an analysis from IChemE, the top 3 most profitable life science industries for chemical engineering  professionals are: 

1. Health, Safety and Environment – Salary Average: £57.9k

Chemical engineers play an important role across health, safety and environmental preservation. Aided with a technical understanding behind the nature of different chemical processes, chemical engineers help to preserve the environment and ensure that production processes, or wider industrialisation projects abide by health and safety standards.

2. Chemicals and Allied Products  – Salary Average: £55.9k 

Chemical engineers working within chemicals and allied products work to develop, design and improve the production processes behind manufacture as well as research and development, while ensuring product safety.

 

3. Pharmaceuticals and Personal Care Products – Salary Average: £45.5k

In the pharmaceutical and personal care industries, chemical engineers are often hired to support research and development alongside manufacture as process engineers to help improve and optimise current processes and allow for scaling without compromising health, safety or environmental risk.

Ready to explore roles in Chemical Engineering?

At SRG, our connections across the breadth of STEM from FMCG to MedTech, Life Sciences and Chemicals, enables us to connect chemical engineers with rewarding careers across the full span of the STEM industries. Activate your potential with the help of our supportive talent consultants.

                                                                      Click here to explore our roles in chemical engineering

About the author: Faye Allison specialises in finding scientists and technical talent for the chemical and materials industries, from purely R&D to analytical testing to manufacturing. 
Supporting start-ups and spin-outs as well as SMEs and multinational business, typical roles Faye recruits for include: Development Chemists, Synthetic Chemists, Material Scientists, Research Scientists, Analytical and QC Chemists, Laboratory Technicians, Microbiologists, Technical Leaders/Managers and other similar technical or laboratory associated roles.

Click here to connect with Faye on Linkedin
 

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