Chemical engineering (ChE) is a core engineering discipline with myriad applications across industries. Chemical engineers apply advanced knowledge of chemistry, among other sciences, to problems of mass manufacturing and distribution, as well as emerging issues like energy development, pollution control, and nanoscale drug delivery.
Chemical engineering is technology-intensive. It begins in the lab and ends with large-scale process implementation, from production for markets to public health projects. Jobs are commonly in settings like laboratories, factories, offices, and sometimes at field work sites.
Wherever the synthesis or processing of chemical materials is a concern, chemical engineers are needed to ensure sound science, productive viability, and safety. This is the case in diverse industries, from pharmaceuticals and biotechnology to environmental health, food processing, energy, medical devices, synthetics, and more.
Chemical engineers must be educated at least to the bachelor's level, preferably with a degree in chemical engineering. Programs should be approved by the Engineering Accreditation Commission of the ABET, or Accreditation Board of Engineering and Technology.
Chemical engineering requires relatively less education than other engineering disciplines; a bachelor's degree is sufficient professional qualification. More than 70 percent of chemical engineers have only a bachelor's qualification, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
While chemical engineering students are especially focused on chemistry, they also take classes in physics, biology, materials science, and applied mathematics, as well as communications and economics. They must also develop strong computer literacy skills, including in Computer-Aided Design.
Bachelors planning to go directly to a doctoral ChE program need to identify the necessary prerequisites defined by their desired program as early as possible. Some bachelors pursue a double major with an area like chemistry or materials science to enhance their competitive edge in grad school admissions.
Bachelor-level ChE classes include:
ChE bachelors can immediately enter the workforce as a:
About one-quarter of chemical engineers have a master's in the field, according to the U.S. BLS. Master chemical engineers tend to work in the private sector. The Bureau says that a master's in chemical engineering initially enhances job opportunities over a bachelor's degree, but over time, bachelor degree-holders' industry experience can neutralize these gains.
There are terminal Master of Science programs for ChE majors, many of which are coursework-only, requiring neither a thesis nor research. These are designed principally for those headed to the private sector, especially in manufacturing and professional-technical services.
It is possible to get into a master's level ChE program without having a bachelor's degree in chemical engineering, although having a coursework or experiential foundation in a core engineering discipline is highly recommended. Students don't need to have chosen an area of specialization coming into graduate school. They should let their interests and skills guide a choice of specialization at this level.
Some students earn a master's in chemical engineering as part of a co-terminal track alongside a professional degree in medicine, law, education, or business. This would be a useful pathway for the executive of a bioscience startup, for example, or a ChE innovator working in cancer biotechnology.
The best chemical engineering schools have both interdisciplinary breadth and elective depth for purposes of specialization. There should be a strong research component for students who intend to apply to doctoral programs. Master-level coursework in Chemical Engineering might include:
What kinds of jobs are available to master degree-holders?
Less than 5 percent of chemical engineers have a Ph.D., according to the U.S. BLS. For those who plan to teach or conduct independent research, a doctorate is in order. Many chemical engineering Ph.D.s go on to postdoctoral research positions to further deepen their area of specialization.
Some Ph.D. admission committees allow a bachelor's in a discipline other than chemical engineering, preferably a related science or engineering discipline such as chemistry, mechanical engineering, or physics. Other bachelors may be accepted but they may be required to complete compensatory coursework, lengthening the time it takes to finish school.
The top chemical engineering schools are looking for candidates with a solid grasp of college-level mathematics, such as linear algebra and partial differential equations, and introductory engineering studies, covering subjects like thermodynamics, fluid mechanics, and reaction kinetics.
In most cases, candidates need to complete a research dissertation to earn the Ph.D. credential. Dissertations in chemical engineering might focus on:
A Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering may lead to a career as a:
We found 163 schools offering chemical engineering degree programs in the U.S.
|Arizona State University at the Tempe Campus||Tempe||AZ||44126|
|Auburn University Main Campus||Auburn University||AL||21860|
|Brigham Young University||Provo||UT||32554|
|Brigham Young University - Idaho||Rexburg||ID||8949|
|California Institute of Technology||Pasadena||CA||1968|
|California State Polytechnic University - Pomona||Pomona||CA||18424|
|California State University - Long Beach||Long Beach||CA||30918|
|Carnegie Mellon University||Pittsburgh||PA||8514|
|Case Western Reserve University||Cleveland||OH||9304|
|Christian Brothers University||Memphis||TN||2167|
|Cleveland State University||Cleveland||OH||15294|
|College of Southern Idaho||Twin Falls||ID||5452|
|Colorado School of Mines||Golden||CO||3738|
|Colorado State University||Fort Collins||CO||26807|
|Columbia University in the City of New York||New York||NY||19639|
|Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art||New York||NY||906|
|Cuny City College||New York||NY||11055|
|Cuny Graduate School and University Center||New York||NY||3567|
|Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University||Tallahassee||FL||12126|
|Florida Institute of Technology - Melbourne||Melbourne||FL||4248|
|Florida International University||Miami||FL||31945|
|Florida State University||Tallahassee||FL||33971|
|Geneva College||Beaver Falls||PA||2297|
|Georgia Institute of Technology - Main Campus||Atlanta||GA||14805|
|Illinois Institute of Technology||Chicago||IL||6003|
|Iowa State University||Ames||IA||26845|
|Johns Hopkins University||Baltimore||MD||17774|
|Kansas State University||Manhattan||KS||21929|
|Louisiana State University and Agricultural & Mechanical College||Baton Rouge||LA||31527|
|Louisiana Tech University||Ruston||LA||10363|
|Massachusetts Institute of Technology||Cambridge||MA||10090|
|Michigan State University||East Lansing||MI||43366|
|Michigan Technological University||Houghton||MI||6336|
|Mississippi State University||Mississippi State||MS||16561|
|New Jersey Institute of Technology||Newark||NJ||8820|
|New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology||Socorro||NM||1549|
|New Mexico State University - Main Campus||Las Cruces||NM||14958|
|North Carolina A & T State University||Greensboro||NC||7748|
|North Carolina State University at Raleigh||Raleigh||NC||28619|
|Ohio State University - Main Campus||Columbus||OH||47952|
|Ohio University - Main Campus||Athens||OH||19920|
|Oklahoma State University - Main Campus||Stillwater||OK||18676|
|Oregon State University||Corvallis||OR||16758|
|Pennsylvania State University - Main Campus||University Park||PA||40571|
|Prairie View A & M University||Prairie View||TX||6609|
|Purdue University - Main Campus||West Lafayette||IN||39667|
|Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute||Troy||NY||8022|
|Rose - Hulman Institute of Technology||Terre Haute||IN||1725|
|Rutgers University - New Brunswick/piscataway||New Brunswick||NJ||35236|
|San Jose State University||San Jose||CA||26698|
|South Dakota School of Mines and Technology||Rapid City||SD||2307|
|Southern Utah University||Cedar City||UT||5963|
|Stevens Institute of Technology||Hoboken||NJ||4121|
|Suny at Buffalo||Buffalo||NY||24830|
|Tennessee Technological University||Cookeville||TN||8410|
|Texas A & M University||College Station||TX||44026|
|Texas A & M University - Kingsville||Kingsville||TX||5948|
|Texas Tech University||Lubbock||TX||24558|
|The University of Alabama||Tuscaloosa||AL||19277|
|The University of Tennessee||Knoxville||TN||25890|
|The University of Texas at Austin||Austin||TX||49996|
|Tri - State University||Angola||IN||1267|
|Tulane University of Louisiana||New Orleans||LA||11652|
|University of Akron Main Campus||Akron||OH||21363|
|University of Alabama in Huntsville||Huntsville||AL||6563|
|University of Arizona||Tucson||AZ||34488|
|University of Arkansas Main Campus||Fayetteville||AR||15346|
|University of California - Berkeley||Berkeley||CA||31277|
|University of California - Davis||Davis||CA||26094|
|University of California - Irvine||Irvine||CA||20211|
|University of California - Los Angeles||Los Angeles||CA||36890|
|University of California - Riverside||Riverside||CA||13015|
|University of California - San Diego||La Jolla||CA||20197|
|University of California - Santa Barbara||Santa Barbara||CA||19962|
|University of Cincinnati - Main Campus||Cincinnati||OH||27327|
|University of Colorado at Boulder||Boulder||CO||29352|
|University of Connecticut||Storrs||CT||19393|
|University of Dayton||Dayton||OH||10318|